Question: I am completing a poetry book and wonder which is the best publisher for spiritual poetry, and, is an audiobook or podcast a better format than a book?


Poetry is its own genre in the publishing world because of its artistic characteristics and elements.Answer:

In the publishing world, poetry is categorized as its own genre due to the characteristics and elements that are unique to this artistic style of writing. One of the main differences between prose and poetry is that poetry often uses metrical patterns and rhyme schemes, along with imagery and figurative language to create a sense of atmosphere. It tends to be more condensed and focused than other forms of literature, using fewer words to convey a powerful message or emotion.

Because poetry is typically more complex than prose, it is less widely consumed by the general reading population, meaning it’s more important than ever to understand your target audience and how to reach them with your work.

When it comes to publishing any type of writing, the path that is best for one writer may not be the right path for another. Ultimately, the best publishing option is determined by a writer’s goals, budget, desired time frame, and publishing experience.

Publishing Options for Poetry

Poetry books are published in three main forms: chapbooks, collections, and anthologies. Chapbooks are shorter in length, usually thirty pages or less. Poetry collections are longer books, typically around sixty pages. Poetry anthologies are collections of works from multiple poets, unified by theme or subject matter.

Publishing a poetry collection book can be a great way for poets to share their work.

There are four primary publishing paths that poetry writers can explore for their books:

Do-it-Yourself (DIY) publishing – the writer uses a book uploading service to publish online, such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, IngramSpark, or Lulu. Typically, no other services are provided and the writer is responsible for all tasks.

General contractor publishing – the writer hires independent service providers such as an editor, book cover designer, publicist, etc. and coordinates these activities for every aspect of the process. As with DIY publishing, the writer is responsible for all tasks.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the 4 paths to publishing a book.Supported self-publishing – the writer works with a company that offers packages of professional services to choose from including editing, design, and marketing. There are imprints such as WestBow Press that specialize in publishing books of faith and spirituality. This can be a good option for writers that want or need assistance with the process.

Traditional publishing – the writer is typically required to find an agent that will represent the book and pitch it to traditional publishing houses that publish poetry books. There is no guarantee a publisher will pick it up. It’s important to note that finding agent representation for poetry is challenging. Literary agents rarely represent poets because they get paid on commission, and there generally is not a lot of money in poetry. When agents do represent a poet, it's usually because he/she is award-winning and well-known in the industry, or also writes fiction or nonfiction books.

You can find directories of literary agents and traditional publishing houses through resources such as Publisher’s Marketplace, Manuscript Wish List, and Writer’s Market. Smaller, traditional presses don’t always require agent representation and often specialize in specific genres. Websites such as The Milk House, Reedsy, and Poets & Writers provide directories of small presses that publish poetry. Most of the directories will allow you to filter by genre so that you can narrow down the best fit for submitting your work.

When determining which publishing path is right for you and your book, it’s important to know your desired level of creative control, budget, long-term goals, and how much time and effort you can contribute to the process. These four paths can differ greatly in upfront costs, time line for publication, and the amount of work and knowledge required by the writer.

Literary Magazines, Journals, and Contests – Additional Publishing Options for Poets

Before publishing a collection of poetry as a book, writers can build their credibility and readership in the industry by submitting individual poems to reputable literary magazines or journals, or by entering contests.

Literary Magazines and Journals

Literary magazines and journals focus on publishing short form creative writing such as short fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews, and sometimes art and photography. Some even specialize only in poetry such as Poetry Magazine and The American Poetry Review, and others specialize in spiritual or religious content. While some publications will offer a small payment when your poetry is accepted for an issue, most cannot afford to compensate writers, so they offer free copies of the publication as payment.

Literary magazines and journals can be a great avenue for getting poetry published.Here are some helpful directories to search for publications:

Poets & Writers – One of the largest nonprofit literary organizations in the United States serving poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers, with a large database of literary magazines open to submissions.
New Pages – A guide to literary magazines, indie publishing, university presses, creative writing programs, writing and literary events, writing contests, calls for submissions, and more.
Duotrope – A paid service offering a database of literary markets, as well as other helpful features like a submission tracker and deadline calendar. You can complete a free trial to try out its features before committing to a subscription.

If a publication charges a “reading fee” to submit your poetry for review, do your research to ensure they are legitimate and that they have a substantial readership. You want to make sure any upfront fees are worth the investment.

Poetry Contests and Competitions

It’s always nice to have someone acknowledge your hard work, and it’s especially encouraging to be recognized with an award or honorable mention. Receiving this recognition can be a great boost to your writing career (and confidence!). There are many types of writing contests, some more prestigious than others, so it’s important to understand what each can offer. While most writing contests won’t directly lead to a major publishing deal, being a finalist or winner can definitely help your writing get noticed.

Not all writing contests are created equal, so it’s important to do your research. Here are some things to consider when reviewing a contest opportunity:

•  Who is sponsoring the contest?
•  Are you familiar with the organization or group?
•  Is there an entry fee, and if so, does it seem reasonable?
•  Who is judging the contest?
•  What is the prize structure?
•  How long has this contest been running, and who are the past winners?

The ALC’s Writing Resources page includes a list of websites where you can finding contest directories and see if there are any that are a good fit for your work.

Performing poetry or using an audio or visual medium can expand your audience.Publishing Formats for Poetry

While physical books continue to be the top selling format for books, it’s no secret that eBooks and audiobooks continue to grow in popularity year after year. Publishing an eBook or audiobook version of your poetry is an excellent way to expand your distribution, reach new readers, and improve your online discoverability. Some forms of poetry have even more impact when spoken or performed, making an audiobook or visual medium a smart investment.

If you are comfortable with online platforms and technology, creating an eBook can cost you little to nothing up front. Platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and IngramSpark are among the most popular DIY digital publishing options.

Audiobooks require a little more effort and upfront money because of the production that is involved with creating high quality audio files. You can record the audio yourself, or hire voiceover talent to record the audio for you. Authors can choose between several online platforms for assistance with the production and distribution of an audiobook. Here are the two most popular:

ACX (Audible) - ACX is the leading audiobook platform where authors, literary agents, publishers, and other rights holders can connect with narrators, engineers, recording studios, and others capable of producing a finished audiobook. It is a part of Audible, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.

Findaway Voices - If you want to distribute your audiobook outside of Amazon, the Findaway Voices platform might be a good fit for you. With over 40 distribution partners, Findaway can broaden your reach. They also offer production assistance and have a large directory of professional narrators.

Outside of the standard publishing formats, poets can also share their work through social media channels like YouTube or Instagram, a blog, vlog, or podcast, or a content subscription platform like Substack. Building a following through these other channels can boost your credibility and increase your chances of getting your work agented and traditionally published, if that’s your ultimate goal.

When it comes time to get the word out about your published poetry, be sure to review the Marketing section of the ALC, where you can find loads of tips on how to create awareness for your work and build a readership over time.

Photo credit: ThoughtCatalog via Pixabay
Photo credit: EvgeniyShkolenko via Getty Images