Advice for Poets

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inkpenhand 300x224 photoFor all of the poets out there, you may be wondering if you have any chance in hell to make some money with your writing.

Or maybe you’ve given up on that idea already, dismissed it as a pipe dream and moved on.

It’s no secret that making a living as a poet is next to impossible, even for the most talented writers out there.

So while this is probably not something that you can pull off, I wanted to share some of my own advice for poets and share something that you likely can pull off. 

This Task Takes Talent

I won’t lie to you. The most important aspect of this strategy is talent. Without that, you won’t succeed and this will be pointless. Of course, it’s not easy to determine whether your writing is worth reading or if it actually sucks ass. There is someone who knows though and can give you the answer. Want to know who it is?

Everyone but you. That’s right. If you throw something out into the world and you hear at least some praise thrown back at you from the mostly booing crowd, then you’re set. That’s all you will need.

I did a post a while back on some more general writing advice and in it I challenged my readers to find a single author from the past who was without any critics. I doubt that you can find one if you look.

So the bottom line here is that you MUST have things to write that are worth being read. This is crucial.

Some Poetic Problems

Okay, so since you can now self-publish your own books with about as much effort as you put into ordering a pizza, you may be wondering why not just throw up a poetry anthology of your best work and sell it on Amazon?

The short answer is that very few people read poetry and even fewer buy it. Especially from authors they have never heard of.

In fact, I would be willing to bet that you’d have just as much difficulty if you tried to give it away for free to people. For whatever reason, people are leery of unknown poets and free or not, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

Taking a New Approach

So how do you overcome the obstacle of potential readers who have never heard of you? Quite simply, you make sure they have heard of you before you even put your poetry out there.

I’m going to tell you how to do that in a moment, but there are two parts to this new approach so let’s go over the second part before we delve into the details.

The other thing we are going to do is repackage our poetry into something far more modern and way more popular than poetry. We’re going to dissect it and bend it into new shapes that people are more familiar with and in a way that it will spread like wildfire with little or no effort on your part once you’ve set things up.

While most people are not into poetry, they LOVE short quotes about virtually anything. Just check out how many sites there are devoted to collecting famous quotes from authors, celebrities and other important people. 

While probably more than half of the most quoted people are far past their expiration dates, this is an excellent opportunity to use quotes as a platform to gain some attention for yourself before you have checked out.

How to Turn Your Poetry Into Quotes

This isn’t the first time I’ve suggested using quotes to help market yourself as an author. Today I hope to offer some practical advice on how you can actually take your poems and turn them into quotes that people will love instead.

Okay, so there are two ways I have gone about this and they both seem to work pretty well. While this may be trickier for poems that are very abstract, it works remarkably well for more realistic themes or poetry that could be described as more concrete. 

Start a List

original keep calm and write a list moleskine notebook 300x300 photoThis method is fairly easy to start and assuming you can find the right words for what you think, then it’s pretty doable. The premise is simple: sit down and start writing a list of all the things you believe. Observations you’ve made about all areas of life. The most meaningful things you have discovered.

However you want to slice it, it’s basically all the same.

The secret to making this work is finding the right words to express the realizations and thoughts you have taken note of, obviously. To get the thoughts on paper is the first step, so don’t worry too much about the wording at this point.

You’ll come back to it later and transform it, for now just write them down as they come to you. This list should be an ongoing project.

Borrow Your Best Lines

This method requires very little work. Just go through your old poems and choose a handful that you think are the best. Now, read through each one and pick out the absolute best line or two from each one that makes sense without the rest of the poem. 

This doesn’t mean it has to be literal or completely clear. Sometimes sounding good is half of the equation and can make up for a lack of context.

Each couple lines from these poems can be used as a quote as well.

How to Spread Your Words

In general, for your quotes to gain traction they need to meet a couple of basic requirements:

  • Most need to be relatively short, as in two or three lines at most. Yes, you can also use longer ones too. Just use them less frequently and never use any that are longer than a paragraph.
  • Leave out inside jokes, personal references or anything else that will keep people from relating to the message.

Once you’ve checked each one for these things, head over to GoodReads and start adding them with your name as the author. It’s important to have some sort of author platform already in place, so that people can discover more about you when they read one of your quotes and enjoy what you have to say.

Leave the rest of the work to other people, because if you have good stuff to share then they will be more than willing to do it for you. I now have dedicated author pages on several quote websites, like this one for example. I had nothing to do with this whatsoever. 

And guess what? I haven’t published my collection of poetry as an eBook in the Kindle store yet, but yet some of my quotes are available there already. How did they get there? They were included in eBooks by other authors who published collections of quotes, believe it or not. One example can be found here. They included several of my quotes, not just one. 

So go out and experiment with this process and see what kind of following you can amass before you try to sell your poetry. You just might find that you have a list of fans by the time you publish.

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