Poetry Publishing And Editing
Poetry Publishing And Editing
Michael Rosen (Poet and Children's Laureate) gives expert video advice on: How hard is it to become a published poet?; Does a professional poet need an agent?; How do you self publish poetry? and more...
How hard is it to become a published poet?
In one way it's tremendously easy to become a published poet. All you've got to do is type something on your computer, print it out two times and keep one copy and hand the other one to someone else, and then you have published that poem. You can expand that by putting twenty poems together and making it into a little book, and handing it around to relatives and friends so you then become more of a published poet. You can send your poems off to magazines, to newspapers, locally or nationally, and if you get one of those published that's quite hard. I'd say it's very hard. I don't think I've ever succeeded and I have tried often enough. Getting a book of poems published is usually very hard, getting it published by somebody else other than yourself. A great place to start is publishing poems yourself, because you know that you can turn them out and get them around to friends and relations and you'll hear what they think of it and what they make of it. That's a great teacher.
Does a professional poet need an agent?
I don't think any writer has to have an agent. Agents are very good at looking over contracts and they're quite good at putting your stuff around, but you can do that yourself. It's said that some publishers won't look at a writer's work unless they have an agent, but you can make a name for yourself in other ways; through performance, or through appearing in small magazines. This is work that an agent can do, and there's no reason you can't do that for you. So, no, I don't think you need to have an agent.
What are poetry publishers looking for?
To get published by a publishing house is pretty difficult. They've got to be convinced that your book will sell probably more than a thousand copies. So, that's a pretty hard thing to do. So, ideally, you'll have been quite successful with individual poems that have got into anthologies. They've got into newspapers. They've got into small magazines. You've got a pile of maybe fifty or sixty. The publishers need to say "there's something here". I think this is going to convince people.
Do I have to write every day?
I don't think you have to write every day to be a poet, but probably if you really are serious about wanting to write poetry, there probably needs to be a time every day where you put yourself in a poetic frame of mind. By that, I mean that you start wondering or thinking about something that might one day be a poem. So, whether that involves actually writing or whether it involves staring out the window of a bus and thinking "why don't I think about shoes," and start playing with it. So I would say every day do something to do with poetry, yes.
What is an 'anthology', a 'collection' and a 'selection'?
There are several quite technical words that have to do with poetry. We've got anthology, collection and selection. So an anthology traditionally means a collection of poems by a variety of poets. A collection of poems usually means one poet and that poet's collection of poems, just for that year or that 10 years. A selection of poems usually means that you've published several collections, and you've selected from the collections.
Can I make a living as a poet?
I think if you want to make a living as a poet, almost certainly you will have to do something other than write poems. That's to say you might have to perform. You might have to teach. You might have to work in publishing in some way or another to do with poetry. So you can carry on in this sort of poetry world but it probably you won't be able to make a living writing poems and selling them.
How many poems do I need to write to warrant my own book?
If you're not self-publishing but you want to send off a pile of poems to a publisher, the publisher will want to know, most certainly, that you have written at least 50 good poems
Do poems need to be edited?
When you send your poems to a well known publishing house, there are poetry editors there and they have quite strong ideas of what makes a good poem. And if they think that mostly your poems are pretty good, but they think that one or two can be improved, they will tell you. They will say "that isn't very good," or, "the first half was interesting and the second half was rubbish." They will be quite explicit and quite tough with you.
Can I edit my poems myself?
I think it's very hard to edit your own poems in a vacuum. You can only really edit your poems if you're having some kind of conversation with people that you respect - possibly admire - people who have got some experience of either editing or of writing very good poems. It's pretty hard to do just purely in a vacuum.