Occasionally, writers who submit their work for Review Board consideration request that we help them get a literary agent to represent their collection of poems. Certainly, there are famous poets who have literary agents.
But until you’ve reached the level of “rock star” poet, seeking a literary agent to represent your writing might be something of a waste of time—for you and for agents. Here’s why.
Reasons Poets Tend Not To Get Literary Agents
Money Talks. Literary agents are paid on commission (usually 15%). So the only kinds of books that pay for the food on their table or the gin in their martinis are books that make money. Poetry books, for the most part, tend not to be giant moneymakers for the corporations that are today’s Big 5 Publishing Houses.
That said, we don’t want to decry literary agents as money-hungry salespeople who’ll do anything for a buck. Good literary agents have to love the projects they represent. Many literary agents will represent academic literary fiction even though such novels don’t always sell in quite the same numbers as commercial fiction.
But in general, reputable agents aren’t interested in representing books of poems. It’s not about a lack of interest, necessarily. It’s about being practical.
Independent Presses Rule. Many of the best poems today are being published by independent presses. And if you want your book of poems published, an indie publisher may be your best bet. Independent publishers work from various models: Some pay a traditional advance, others absorb the cost of production but pay some royalties, and others split the cost of publication and share the profits too.
Many independent presses are highly regarded for publishing quality work, and some poets do very well with them. But a poet doesn’t necessarily need a literary agent to represent their work with indie publishers. Poets can submit their work for consideration without a literary agent, and a lawyer can review contract language to ensure the writer is protected.
Learn more: How To Submit To Independent Presses
Self-publishing. The great news for poets is that self-publishing is more accessible (and possibly more affordable) than it’s ever been before. Whether you want to publish in print or online, there’s a self-publishing company that can help.
Writers who self-publish their poetry collection can benefit from keeping more of their own royalties. So if you’re giving readings and talks, you can hold on to more of the proceeds from your sales.
**If you’re ready to self-publish, take a look at Self-Publishing Relief. The Preferred Publishing Package (includes print and electronic versions of your collection) starts at $799!
Let’s Dream Of A Future…
We at Writer’s Relief like to imagine the day when poets (and books of poems) are in such high demand that agents clamor to represent them and offer poets big, fat book deals.
But until that day comes, remember that being knowledgeable about the poetry publication process, asking a lot of questions, and engaging a lawyer might be as much help as you need.
Photo by: brewbooks.
QUESTION: Do you have enough poems to prepare a collection? What is your favorite book of poems?