Did you ever wonder if it’s actually possible to earn some money by selling your poetry?
I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely possible and easier than you think. With the growth of online platforms, social media channels, and fantastic poem writing apps you can inspire poetry readers from all around the world and earn money from your passion.
Of course, it all depends on the quality of your work and your willingness to do whatever it takes to monetize your creative hobby.
Believe me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with earning money from your artistic endeavors. You should actually be proud of it.
I’m sure you already have a pile of unpublished poems sitting on your desk or your computer, waiting to get shared.
Try out some of the tips from this article and hammer at them until you’re able to generate a decent income on a regular basis. Additionally, you may get some insights from a book like “Selling Your Poetry Book: Marketing Tips For Published Poets” by James Wagner.
12 Ideas On How To Sell Your Poems
1. Self-publish your poetry in the form of an eBook with the Kindle Store other online publishers
The internet cut out the middleman (i.e. book publishers and literary agents). Now you can self-publish your collection of poems without getting permission or approval from a gatekeeper.
The only people you have to satisfy are your loyal readers.
So one of the best and most straightforward ways to earn some money with your poems is to sell them through online eBook platforms.
The most popular and widely used are:
- Amazon Kindle Store – royalties – 70% per sale
- Kobo Books – royalties – 70% per sale – great for international audiences
- Nook (from Barnes and Noble) – royalties – 60% per sale
- Books Author (from Apple) – royalties – 70% per sale
You should start with the Kindle Store because right now it’s responsible for around 80% of eBook sales across the English language speaking countries. People are also used to buying stuff from Amazon and they will be able to grab your collection of poems with a single click.
Amazon will pay you a royalty of 70% on all titles price between $2.99 and $9.99. Additionally, by being a Kindle Publisher you will get access to their whole Kindle Library which is quite cool.
Some authors are making a killing with their poetry books. Here are some of the most popular poetry titles getting tons of downloads on Kindle:
- Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
- For The Broken by Shanaia Lucas
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Of course, before earning any money from your book you will have to learn the ins and outs of online publishing. If you need some information on that you can check out this guide to Kindle Direct Publishing.
You can sell your book in a variety of different formats.
2. Sell your poems to literary magazines
Self-publishing is great, but you can still leverage the power and circulation of established literary magazines that periodically accept poetry submissions from new writers.
There are a couple of ways in which you can get paid by these literary institutions:
- Per line (from $0.50 to $10)
- Per poem (usually from $15 to $300)
- Per word (from $0.03 to $0.1)
You can try to submit your poems to big publishers like “The Sun”, “Poetry Foundation”, “The New Yorker”, “Three Penny Review”, “Epoch”, and “Grain Magazine”. For example, “The Sun” will pay $100 to $200 for each accepted poem.
The poems are also accepted by academic groups, online poetry groups, and niche online literary magazines. You can simply go to their websites and check the submission guidelines to find out how to get paid.
Here are two helpful lists to get you started with magazine submissions:
- Top 44 Places That Pay Cash to Write Poetry Online
- 25 Literary magazines you can submit to without a reading fee
Of course, you will only receive a payment if your work is accepted. Most of the time you will vie for the approval of the editors along with many other contestants. So you better be good.
Note that some of these magazines have a so-called “reading fee”. It’s a submission or service fee, which you have to pay for the journal to get considered for publication.
Publishers ask for the fee because they are inundated with submissions and manuscripts and want to attract only serious authors. These fees range from around $2 to a maximum of $20 (but around $3 is the norm).
3. Submit your work to poetry anthology publishers
If you’re trying to break into the market and get your name known (while earning some extra cash on the side), you can consider submitting your work for a poetry anthology book.
Many established publishers are periodically open for poetry submissions around a common theme (love, death, friendship, travel, etc.). After going through a pile of manuscripts (which can be delivered either electronically or as a hard copy), they select the best ones and put them in the anthology.
Here you can find an amazing list of publications regularly open for anthology submissions. Please note that you have to submit your work before the deadline.
And what about the money?
This all depends on the company you submit to. For example, you might get paid $40 to $150 per poem or you might receive a certain percentage of the royalties from the book sales.
Just make sure you read the rules carefully because some publishers will actually want YOU to pay to appear in their anthology. This is completely unfair and you shouldn’t do it.
Please note that a submission fee of around $3 may apply (per 3-6 poems).
4. Win a poetry competition and get the prize money
Joining a poetry contest is another great way you can try to monetize your creativity.
It’s true that sometimes to compete you’ll have to pay an entry fee, which usually hovers around $25.
But there are also many free contests where you don’t have to pay anything to try your luck. Here’s a great list you can check out to learn more about getting cash with literary contests: 31 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions With Cash Prizes
The contest is run on an annual or quarterly basis. The prizes differ a lot from one organization to the other.
Here are some examples of how much cash can you expect if you win one of the contests:
- Inkitt – $300 cash prize, as well as eligibility for future publishing deals.
- Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award – $500 prize (you need to submit 60 – 90 pages worth of poems)
- James Laughlin Award – $5000 prize, as well as printing and distribution of your book
- African Poetry Book Fund Prizes – $5000 for a book of African Poetry
- Tufts Poetry Awards – $10,000 prize
Sounds good right? But you should watch out for the entry fees and know that you will be competing against hundreds of other poets. But winning a contest is not only about the money, but also about the recognition and taking your literary career to the next level.
5. Self-publish your poetry book
This option is only irrelevant if you already have a loyal audience (on your blog or social media) that will readily buy your book. Some book marketing expertise would also come in handy as it’s not easy to break through to readers in today’s crowded market.
But self-publishing can be very lucrative if you’re willing to put on your marketer’s hat and go out to meet your audience. Adam Croft, who self-published 9 mystery novels on Amazon over the course of a few years earned $1,4 million in 2016.
We already talked about publishing ebooks but if you would like to have a print book, Amazon has you covered as well. They have a print on demand feature available through the Kindle Direct publishing program.
It will enable you to print your own paperbacks, but your royalties will go down from 70% to 60%. And you will also have to subtract the cost of printing (which can be substantial).
The best way to go is to take it step by step, start with the poetry ebooks, and once they get popular, you can print and sell them as well. According to the Guardian, an average self-published author makes around $1,000 per year, which is definitely not huge.
Moreover, most of the authors make less than $500 a year and 90% of books sell less than 100 copies. On the other hand, there are others who make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year with their self-published books. It all depends on your skills and luck.
6. Sell a book of poetry through an established publisher
You can also try going the traditional route and submit your poetry manuscript to one of the established publishers in your country.
These publishers, however, receive hundreds of submissions every month, so usually, you will have to wait at least 3 to 6 months to get a response (which may be negative by the way).
It’s great if you already won some sort of poetry contest or made your name known in some other way. This will increase the likelihood that you will get picked and secure a book deal.
But, you will hardly make any money when working with a publisher. Your royalties will be minuscule because of the costs of printing, distribution, and marketing.
If you’re a first-time author and you get a book deal, you can expect to receive $2k-4k as an advance, 6-10% royalties on book sales, and 20-30% of ebook sales. You do the math.
YouTube is growing at an astonishing rate and you can use it to spread your poetry and gain a loyal audience. The key to making your work more popular is knowing on which platform your audience is hanging out and meeting them by providing amazing content.
Believe it or not, but poetry is huge on YouTube. And you can earn money from your YouTube channel in multiple ways:
- Through ads (on average, you can make $7,6 per 1000 views – this depends on a couple of factors)
- Through sponsorships
- By doing branding deals
- By promoting your own book of poetry
- With affiliate marketing (for example, selling stationery or gifts related to poetry)
If you feel like you could do a video of poetry readings, poetry classes, or any other content related to your passion on a regular basis, with the time you can start earning quite a lot.
For your reference, here are the most popular poetry-related channels on YouTube:
- Button Poetry – 1+ million subscribers
- UnErase Poetry – 500k+ subscribers
- Write About Now Poetry – 56k subscribers
- Spilling Poetry – 500k+ subscribers
- Speakeasynync – 139k subscribers
8. Create an online course about poetry writing
There has been a proliferation of online courses over the last couple of years. The market is growing at an astounding rate.
So if you feel you have a teacher in you, you can create and upload a course to a platform like Udemy, Skillshare, Creative Live or Teachable and host your very own poetry class. As an inspiration, you can check out this writing course from Creative Live.
The royalties on these courses are really high (70%+) and you can price your course anywhere between $20 and $300. Most of the platforms will lend some of their marketing capacity and help you to distribute your course. But of course, it’s always best if you also have your own communication channels like a blog or a social media account.
9. Use online freelancing sites to offer your poetry writing services
Believe it or not, but there are many people out there who could use your poetic talents and pay you on a per-poem basis.
I have been using online freelancing platforms like UpWork quite a lot. I was just checking in to see if they have any gigs related to poetry, and they do.
For example, someone can pay you to write Valentine’s poem for them. There are also more permanent positions like an editor for an online literary magazine, poem writer for thank you books, etc.
I even found one job where you need to write a poem for someone else’s granny as a token of appreciation. This job is priced at $100. Can you dig it?
Check out this cute poetry-related gig on UpWork.
All you have to do is to go on one of these platforms, set up your account. Then you’re ready to apply to literature-related projects and get paid through PayPal or direct deposit.
Poetry escaped the world of literary salons a long time ago. Now millennials play leading roles in the democratization of literature and are not afraid to make money with it.
Instagram is one of the best creative outlets for poets. Rupi Kaur, a popular poet has 3,4 million followers on Insta. Along with other social media activities, this helped her to sell millions of dollars worth of her poems. Other examples of Insta-famous poets are R.M. Drake, Charly Cox, and Yrsa Daley Ward.
These people attract hundreds of thousands of followers with their work. And as you can imagine this helps them to drive book sales, get paid for speaking gigs, and secure publishing deals.
Rupi Kaur is killing it on Instagram with her short poems.
Since you’re already a writer, maybe you should start blogging about poetry. You would create lists of the best poets from different countries around the world, your favorite poetry books, or even teach readers how to proceed with rhymes, synonyms, and metaphors.
It takes around 1 year of hard work for your blog to finally take off. But if you share enough knowledge and beautiful poetry, you can soon gather a substantial following and maybe even make some money.
You can monetize a blog by placing ads on it, recommending your favorite books, selling your own book, or participating in affiliate programs where you recommend your favorite products and earn a small commission on each assisted sale. That’s exactly what I’m doing with my blog.
Eat This Poem is a popular poetry (and food) blog.
12. Sell unique items with your poems printed on them
This last strategy ties in really well with the blogging and social media parts. Once you have enough people following you and your poetry, you can create a few products that will help to fund your future creativity.
For example, with a website like Zazzle, you can print T-shirts and produce mugs with your verses on them, and then promote them online.
If you’re a craftsman (or if you know a craftsman), you can also create pins, poetry-related gifts, mugs, posters, and other things, and then sell them on Etsy.
Of course, it all depends on your marketing skills, but this is a cool way to earn a few bucks with literature-related items.
There are tons of poetry-related items on Etsy.
Are you ready to earn a living as a poet?
Getting paid as a poet is a complicated affair. But fortunately, by using the above tips you can finally stop being a starving artist, and actually, earn some living by doing what you love.
With the power of the internet, it’s more possible than ever to write your own ticket and become independent.
But this is far from easy. Sure, if you want to earn a couple hundred bucks a month from your hobby, this is more than possible. But if you want to go full time with your writing gig, you need to prepare to work harder than anyone else and sacrifice your leisure time to evolve your online presence.
I wish you all the best on your journey. You can actually become free through your creative efforts!