With the rise in poetry communities across platforms like Instagram, Goodreads, and Tumblr, self-published collections have helped poets everywhere land the book deal of their dreams. Rupi Kaur, perhaps the most popular example, was in school to be a lawyer when she compiled her poems into the collection we all know and love.
“I was broke. I was a student and I published Milk and Honey with like zero dollars because I was able to design, write and edit all of it. This is what I did when I was supposed to be studying for all of my exams,” said Rupi Kaur, in an interview with Jimmy Fallon.
As more and more poets are receiving exposure and recognition through social media, the time is now to get your poetry into the hands of your readers. Here are some tips and tricks on how to self-publish your poetry collection and have your voice heard.
Build your Empire
Having a website and social media presence is essential to success in self-publishing. You want to have an audience who trusts you and is interested in your work as they will be your primary buyers at first.
Instagram is the current most popular platform for sharing poetry and building a following and has fueled the success of Rupi Kaur, Nayyirah Waheed, Lang Leav, and Nikita Gill. However, there are other social sites that can help you as well. Amanda Lovelace, who self-published her collection The Princess Saves Herself in This One before landing a book deal with Andrew McMeel, gained her devoted audience through Tumblr.
“In my opinion, Tumblr is extremely underutilized by the publishing world. It’s taken much less seriously than sites like Instagram and YouTube, which is mind-boggling. I don’t think the publishing world realizes that the book community on Tumblr is massive. Because Tumblr offers so many different posting options (text, photo, video, quote, etc), it exists as a mixed bag where there’s always something for everyone’s different tastes,” said Lovelace in an interview with Jane Friedman.
Use multiple websites and post to all of them to try which one fits your style the best. As Lovelace said in the same interview: “The communities we become integral parts of genuinely want to see us succeed. In that way, community is much more powerful than any paid ad you can ever run.”
Write and Choose Wisely
The average poetry collection is between 30 and 100 different poems, so you are going to need a big body of work to choose from. Choose the poems you want to showcase by selecting an idea, style, or subject that will unify your work or join a conversation. What themes connect your poetry? What story are you seeking to tell?
Organize and Format
In the case of poetry collections, nothing could be more important than how you arrange your poems on the page. Especially in the case of short poems, each word you put on paper needs to make a powerful impact emotionally, with room to breathe and space to absorb your words. Font and text size are important to think of as well. Are your poems going to be accompanied by sketches, photos or paintings? Will there be large amounts of white space? Design each page as if it’s the only page your readers will see.
If you don’t consider yourself an illustrator, collaborating with an artist is a great way to create your book cover design. Sites like Upwork, Guru, and Freelanced can help you hire an illustrator, or you can ask around social media by looking through hashtags like #illustrator or #bookcoverdesigner.
Now you have to decide on how to sell your collection. Subscription-based programs like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd offer a chance for your readers to sample your work before committing to purchasing the whole collection. This will give them a chance to get to know you and your style.
Amazon offers a self-publishing program as well as Blurb that assists with design and distribution. Publishdrive is another option for publishing and distribution, with access to over 400 online stores, including Amazon, Google Play Books, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and more. Do your research and see where you feel the most comfortable. Good luck!