21 Ways to Make Money from Poetry and Avoid Destitution

It’s a sad fact that artists never make money until they are dead. At least that was the case in pre-Internet days. The problem was to get the word out there about your work; it used to take decades for your reputation to spread. Has the Internet changed the financial fortunes of artists?

In our connected world reputations are lost in a few minutes after 1 inadvertent Twitter post by a disgruntled customer or employee. It takes longer to build your reputation than that, but a few years in Internet time is equivalent to millennia pre-1980.

How to Make Money from Your Poetry

  1.   Sell Songs, Not Poetry

Songs are poetry set to music and songs are more commercial. This requires some expenses; you will need at least an amateur recording studio set up. You will also need a singer, who you will either have to pay up-front or pay a percentage; which will depend on the singer’s optimism regarding your proposal.

You could turn poems into raps with embedded viral GIFs on YouTube and make money from the embedded ads: Even if rapping on YouTube is not quite your scene you could read your poetry on there and still make money from the ads.

  1.   Bind Your Poems into Books

Poetry is intensely personal. Have your poems printed and bound in cardstock using one of the many Print on Demand (PoD )services  such as Amazon’s CreateSpace. Take your poetry books to events where there is a crowd. Sell them there. That gives the poet a chance to connect with people. If the book is priced low enough, most people will buy (and even ask for an autograph). You could approach a local pub about a regular poets evening; poets could all bring bound copies of their poems to sell. This is a win-win proposition; poets make sales and the pub sells more beer and wine.

  1.   Sell Poems to Magazines

There are journals and magazines that buy poetry; not many but they exist: Check out Poetry Review, Poetry London and PN Review in the UK for current lists of magazines you might pitch to. If you are in the USA then Poetry and the American Poetry Review are the places to start.

Some magazines are online, others are print magazines, but all will need your submission to be unique, so send each piece to one magazine only, do not put it onto your own site, on Facebook or anywhere, either online or in your own print materials.

  1.   Attend Poetry Slams

Watch out for poetry slams and open mic events in your area. Bring your books of poetry that you have had printed on CreateSpace or wherever. Read a few poems and let the crowd know you have books for sale.

Poetry slams are not for everyone. Many poets would rather burn their work than read it at a highly competitive slam, but everyone’s a winner if you can bring yourself to do it. Your readers get to know you, you get to sell a few books and talk to your fans.

  1.   Print Poems on Boxes

Use the visual concept of poetry; print poems on cups, notebooks and boxes (storage boxes of all shapes and sizes are huge this season). Sell them on Etsy or similar platforms.

  1.   Print Poems on Tee-Shirts

Put your poems onto Zazzle products such as tee-shirts and mugs – You could become a cult figure if your poems appeal to a large number of people.

  1.   Turn Poems into Cross-Stitch Patterns

You can buy software that will take the hard work out of generating cross-stitch patterns. Cross-stitching is a growing hobby amongst women of all ages in many countries.

  1.   Print Poems and Frame Them

Print out some of your poems onto fancy paper and frame them, show photos of the results on your website, in Facebook posts etc. You can buy frames cheaply enough that you can sell the framed poetry very reasonably and still make a profit.

  1.   Write Personalized Poetry

Write a poem for someone’s birthday or anniversary then use those as driving factors to persuade people to go to your site (make sure you optimise for phrases like “inspiring poems for graduation” etc.), then you can sell downloads of your poetry.

You might want to target people looking for anniversary gifts and create an ad that promises to write an original romantic poem for their significant other for $20. If this works there are many niches you can go into, eg:

– Birthday poems

– Wedding poems (or vows)

– Funeral poems

  1.  Sell a Poetry Collection as an Ebook

Ebooks have very low production costs and you can sell them on multiple platforms, including some that get you onto sites you could not otherwise reach. Build your audience by writing a series of ebooks and giving away the first in the series.

  1.  Sell Poetry Readings as Audio Books

The secret of successful audio sales is to find someone with an appropriate reading voice. You do not have to read them yourself, and in many cases you should not even dream of doing so. Think about your friends and relations and which of them have voices that you love to listen to. Ask them to read a few as a test and see how the sales go then move on from there.

  1.  Start a Podcast

You could start a regular podcast, read both your own and guest poets’ work, perhaps invite someone to read their own work or to discuss poems by third parties. When the site is famous enough, have people sponsor it through Patreon.

  1.  Poetry Contests

There are two ways to approach this idea; as a poet who competes and as a contest organiser. The contest organiser is the only sure-fire way to win financially however. Poetry contests are everywhere: The pattern is a simple one; the aspiring poet pays a few dollars in the hopes that his poetry will get published, the publisher selects the winner and the winner takes a portion of the earnings.

  1.  Collaborate on Themed Bundles

Collaborate with other bloggers to put together a themed bundle (not necessarily poetry only). You will then earn affiliate commission for promoting the bundle and you will put your poetry in front of people who otherwise wouldn’t think to look for it.

You could cooperate with parenting bloggers to produce a motherhood/parenting bundle where one of the bundled ebooks was a poetry collection. This puts your poetry in front of people who would not buy poetry books alone, it gives you a great chance of converting readers into fans who will buy other poetry collections you write.

  1.  Teach Poetry Writing Courses

Now, I know teaching is not for everyone, but if it is your thing then this is a great way to earn a bit of money. Courses can be online or real-world, and in many respects the real world course is better in that it allows greater interaction between participants.

  1.  Infographics

Be creative turn your poem into an “infographic” format or add various graphic design features to give poems a visual aspect, then sell the infographics as limited edition prints.

  1.  Sell Your Mother Instead

If you write poetry for pleasure and the thought of selling your beauties is just too much then you will have to sell something else to keep the roof over your head . . . maybe your Mother?

Danny Garcia one of my MyBlogU.com friends told me this story:

A man once enthralled me with a tale of art for art’s sake. He told me of a man who brilliantly made masterpieces on a busy street somewhere in New York City. He did not mind the people who were walking past him because he was just savoring, capturing and encapsulating the moment that he wanted.

He was a daily fixture on that busy street. And some gossip that he was a dropout from one of the prestigious art schools in New York. People began to notice and one day a guy in a dapper suit approached him and asked whether one of his works was for sale. The man, caught up in his work merely said “No” without looking up.  The man in the suit behind him looked on.

Determined to convince the artist that his desire was genuine, he offered $10,000 right there, on that spot for the painting.

The man stopped painting, looked up to the heavens as if calling for divine intervention, got a lighter, walked up to the painting that the man in the suit wanted and burned it.  Aghast, the man in the suit walked away speechless. The artist stomped on the ashes of the painting to keep the fire from spreading and proceeded to continue as the winds gave the ashes wings.

Putting it all Together

The main point is this: make the way you need to present your poetry as remarkable and new. People no longer search for poems very often so you are going to have to resurrect the passion for poetry in ways people have not experienced before.

How to Make Money from Your Poetry Site

  1.   Open Your Site to Others

It will require a large volume of work for advertising to generate a decent income. Unless you have enough of your own, you would need to have guest poets.

You will need guidelines – Suggestions For Guest Poets

  •        Set up protocols for submission standards – You need to weed out sub-par work because lack-lustre efforts will damage your site’s search engine rankings.
  •        Require all submissions to be in the same font type and style-this will make additions easy and not waste your time
  •        Require people to only use properly documented photos and images
  •        Require poets to fill certain page parameters (character/word count)-some poems are short and will not fill a page-without this you’re stuck with layout and grouping issues
  •        In cases of poems being together on a page, require them to all be of the same poetry style and subject matter-again, this alleviates any extra problems
  1.   Sell Ads

Once your site has decent traffic you can sell ads, not Google Adsense ads, which make too little to make them worthwhile. Sell ads for other poets’ collections, for poetry slams, review services and for others for whom poets are their chosen market.

  1.   Memes

Put quotes or short poems on an image and then share on social media especially on Pinterest which is where you will get a lot of traffic/publicity. Sell larger printable versions on your site.

  1.   Membership Site

If people value the service you provide then think about a paid membership site. You could add review services, joint venture opportunities and other incentives if necessary to make the idea work.

  1.   Amazon Links

The key is to write outstanding content. If you offer to review poetry books then poets will send you free poetry books in the mail (mostly from self-published poets, but also from a few established poets and poetry publishing houses). Write your reviews (always honest) and link to where the books could be bought (most of them were available at Amazon).

Which Method Will Work for You?

How or even whether you choose to try to make money from your poetry or poetry website is a personal decision. There are no rights or wrongs, so just try whichever of these methods that seems most appropriate for you.

Some of these ideas are my own, others have come by way of a brainstorm request at MyBlogU.com and I would like to thank my friends there for their valuable contributions:

Mark W Kuglin, Allen Taylor, Tat Apostolova, Anna Fox, Danny Garcia,  Alicia Lawrence , Don Sturgill and Yoav Ezer.

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About Phil Turner

I have been writing since the dawn of the Internet from my home near Cork, Ireland. I write because I have things to say. I write to pass on my knowledge to others because what good will my learning do unless I pass it on? My writing has brought me a lot of good things in life, including happiness and a rewarding career, but most importantly, it has brought me friends. I live and work by the 5 Currency principles, which I have written about on my blog, Time Money Problem. To learn more about me, please read my personal story.