So, you love writing poems and you have written a number of them. And maybe you have even been lucky enough to get some of them published in literary journals, magazines, and websites. Now you may wonder: What’s the next step?
Well, you could gather your individual poems into a chapbook or poetry collection and get your poetry book published. Here’s all about writing a poetry book.
Choose your poems. Not every poem you have ever written will feature in your collection. You may be a great poet and maybe you also have the ability to write different forms of poetry. But it’s best if your chosen poems tie into a single narrative. The more closely related your poems are, the more likely it is that the emotions of your readers will carry over from one poem to another. A book of poems isn’t all of your poetry writing sandwiched under one book cover. The best books of poetry contain poems that are in conversation with one another, unified by theme, style, or choice of poetic form, and placed in a meticulous and deliberate order. Most poetry books contain between 30 and 100 poems, so it’s important to constantly be doing writing exercises and writing poems.
Organize your poems for the manuscript. A poetry collection or anthology should function like a novel. It should progress naturally, moving between themes and ideas. You should not just assemble your poems haphazardly. Your poetry book should have a flow to it, just as a poem progresses logically based on theme and meter. Try to find a rhythm that works for you. You can have shorter poems come first, with longer ones in the middle, and finishing with shorter ones again. Or you can move from a short poem to a long one. See if you notice any relationships between poems. Do certain poems speak to one another? A poem about life, for example, may pair well with a poem about death and rebirth. You could try pairing these poems together in your manuscript.
Consider dividing your manuscript into separate sections. Most poetry books are arranged by theme. Linda Pastan’s The Five Stages of Grief, for example, is organized by themes like anger, denial, bargaining, and so forth. Check if your poems have different themes throughout. If your poems seem to be easily divided based on a theme, consider dividing your poetry book into different sections. Think of each section as a separate poem, and try to arrange sections based on rhythm, meaning, and poems that speak to each other. Different forms of poetry need different arrangement and treatment. Make sure your work is free of typos.
Read through your manuscript. Once you’ve assembled your manuscript, give it a thorough read. Make sure it flows together nicely. You should be able to feel a certain rhythm in your manuscript and trace a logical trajectory of ideas and themes. It may be helpful to print your manuscript out for this process. If you dislike the organization in one section, you can easily switch a few poems around and reread. See if you like the new section better. If you find any weak poems, simply remove them, especially if they are unnecessary to the thematic progression of your work. You want your manuscript to reflect the best version of yourself and your poetry. There is no room for weak work. Some of your poems may not fit the theme you’ve selected, and others won’t be up to the standard of the rest of your collection-in-progress.
Review, revise, and proofread your poems. Before submitting your poetry to a publisher, revise it carefully. You do not want to send in a manuscript that has typos or other errors. You should also revise poems for content. You want your poems to be of as high quality as possible before sending them into the world. Comb over your manuscript and scrutinize each poem. Does it convey what you’re trying to convey? Is the language effective? Does it help you adequately express your central theme or idea? Watch out for typos and basic errors. You should only send out a manuscript that has been thoroughly proofread. Also, format the manuscript to make it one complete collection. Read over your poetry collection and try to be honest with yourself. Is this work ready for publication? Would you be happy putting this work out into the world? Seek input from others. Have trusted friends, or any colleagues read through your collection. Ask them if they think it’s polished and professional, and whether they would pay for a book like this. If you get lukewarm feedback, then you may want to reconsider self-publishing. Try to work on your poetry for a few more months before publishing your book. It may also be worth your time to hire a proof-reader. Self-published books do not go through as strict an editorial process, and many writers find it difficult to catch their own errors. Careful proofreading is important, as work with grammatical errors can reflect poorly on you as a writer.
Getting your poetry collection published After you have made all the important selections, properly arranged your poems, and carefully handled the proofing and formatting, your poetry collection manuscript is ready to be published! While you could go after literary agents or submit your poetry manuscript to contests or small publishers — self-publishing is often the best choice for poetry books. Most literary agents aren’t interested in representing poetry collections because of market limitations. A lot of famous poets, such as Walt Whitman, initially published themselves. This can be a great outlet for you if you are unsure if you want to go through a traditional publishing route. Though self-publishing poetry may lack the prestige of going through traditional publishing houses, it provides the author with complete creative and financial autonomy. The author decides everything from the layout of the pages to the cover design and cover art. Then, you can choose whether to release your collection exclusively through digital booksellers or to use a print-on-demand service. Print-on-demand allows you to print the specific number of books ordered by customers. Self-publishing services will also print however many copies of your book you want for a fee.
Many publishers allow writers to self-publish their works. Besides browsing the costs from various companies, consider other costs. Marketing your poetry book may cost money.
Once you send in your material, you should receive a copy of your poetry book within a certain timeframe outlined by the publisher. Once you receive your book, you will have a book of poetry to share with your friends and loved ones. So go ahead write that poetry book.