Making Money Writing Poetry
While it’s true that there are many numbers of venues through which a poet can release verse into the world, it’s also true that far fewer attract readers’ attention, and fewer still attract attention in a way that helps a poet pay the bills. Yes, there are online patronage options, but those tend not to offer much in the way of a pay-out, and they still suffer from issues of getting a reader’s attention. Bringing in funds to help support a poet’s work remains a concern, even now.
There are some ways to address it. A number of groups host poetry contests, inviting submissions (and sometimes requiring fees) from poets and offering critique, as well as the possibilities of publication and prize money. For the poems that place well in such contests, things are pretty good; guaranteed readership is always helpful, and getting the poems out where broader audiences can have a good look at them is never bad. Prize money, when it’s available, helps, too. But contests tend to be subject to the whims of a select few readers, and when one person’s taste and preference, idiosyncratic as it must necessarily be, can make or break a submission, that’s not always a helpful thing.
Another option, self-publishing, has long been a go-to for aspiring poets. Many release chapbooks in limited runs, working slowly to build up their names and renown, as well as to practice writing for an audience. The problem with chapbooks is in their limitations; they tend to be small-scale productions, and even if they are lovingly crafted, they can only go so far. Local booksellers and other vendors might carry them for a time, but most markets can only support so many at a time, and only to a certain extent. Economies of scale present difficulties here.
Addressing those difficulties is where agencies like Gatekeeper Press come into play. Yes, they do charge a fee for the services they provide, but a one-time fee that reflects the amount of work put into a project is a small price against bringing in 100% of the royalties a collection of poems offers and access to all the benefits of formal publication: distribution through national and international booksellers; eBook publication; copyright registration and protection; and availability not to a few select judges who may or may not pass it on, or to local readers who may or may not be able or willing to put their money down for a chapbook, but to a potential readership that spans the globe.
A poet might well write to make art but to make that art pay takes more than fine writing alone.