The biggest challenge most poets face is how to make money from what they love doing – poetry. You can ask any poet you know if they ever considered making a living from their writing poems. You’ll likely get a sarcastic reply or a doubtful laugh in response.
The reason is not far fetched. Most poets—especially the ones who have tried to do it—understand that the prospect of making a career out of their poetry is very slim.
Not to worry, in this read I’m going to show you how to make money writing and selling poetry. Stay with me!
Poetry is all-encompassing; it evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm. It can be beautiful, funny, and powerful, carrying the impact of 100,000-word tomes in just a few precisely chosen and placed words.
The problem with being a poet is that it’s not exactly a lucrative full-time profession. In reality, financially successful poets are few and far between, and making a living as a poet is close to impossible.
However, while you may not be able to make a full living writing poetry, you can make some more money by selling your poems, and through other activities, we’ll call “poetry adjacent.”
Here is a table of these untapped ways to expect:
10 Untapped Ways To Make Money From Poetry In 2021
There are many ways for you to make money from your poetry both online and offline which are yet to be tapped into by you. From self-publishing to submitting your work to poetry publishers that pay, to utilizing online platforms…a lot of ways.
Here are some of the ways of making money from poetry:
#1 Poetry Readings
Most poets make money through poetry reading. A poetry reading is a public oral recitation or performance of poetry; it is a bodily creation that thrives in live connection. The voice is the mechanism by which a “poet’s voice” comes alive.
There are several places you can read your poetry – at bars, schools, tea houses, community centers, libraries, bookstores, open mic poetry events (still popular in many cities), something you arrange on your own, and so on.
In fact, wherever you can get a booking, just stand up and say your words. The idea here is to read publicly, then sell the books you’ve self-published. Don’t start doing this until you have books to sell.
#2 Spoken Word
Many poets are now tapping into spoken word art. The spoken word is a broad designation for poetry intended for performance. It’s quite similar to poetry readings in the sense that they are both performed poetry. However, spoken word poetry is more encompassing.
Spoken word is an oral poetic performance art that is based mainly on the poetic as well as the performer’s aesthetic qualities. It is a “catchall” term that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including poetry readings, poetry slams, jazz poetry, and hip hop music, and can include comedy routines and prose monologues.
As a spoken word artist, you’ll be making cool cash. You can create a YouTube channel for your spoken word poetry, place adverts on your video contents, and earn money from them.
You can also perform at paid events or collaborate with brands that include poems in their adverts (to not only advertise their works to their audiences but also to speak volumes to them through such short presentations as well as grow the culture of poetry).
#3 Self-Published Books
Most people who ask if you can make a living through writing poems also want to know if you can make money getting published as a poet.
Here is the thing…
Book sales can bring in some really cool amount of money, but you’ll have to work for it. For poetry books, traditional publishing deals are pretty rare. Reason being that publishers are very unlikely to accept poetry books into their arsenal compared to other options, but you can always write and self-publish/e-publish several collections of your poetry on platforms like Amazon.
By “several” I mean “not less than ten” so you can benefit from some of the ways Amazon recommends and rates books. This, however, takes effort, and some out-of-pocket cost for layout and editing, but can reliably trickle in some payments.
#4 Teach Poetry
If you love language and literature—and you have the advantage of being a people person—you just might find your calling in teaching.
Teaching gigs can be a great way for poets to make money. Many community programs and schools like to offer poetry classes, and qualified poets are kind of thin on the ground. So, you can teach poetry at the high school or college level and beyond. These might not be full-time teaching jobs with benefits and enough salary to live on, but they can produce a nice paycheck for engaging, rewarding work. Or you can teach just for fun on your own.
In addition, you can also make money from teaching poetry online. As a skilled and knowledgeable poet, you can teach those interested and willing to pay for such classes in various formats, through video tutorials, pdf formats or just text – your choice.
#5 Speaking Engagements
A speaking engagement is like a combination of public readings and teaching jobs. So, if you enjoy reading your poems or teaching poetry, you’ll definitely enjoy speaking engagements.
Here, you can get one-off assignments to address a classroom, or work at a conference, or lead a panel at a literary event. Most speaking engagements usually pay some cash to you, plus you’ve an opportunity to promote and sell your books if any). Although these opportunities can be hard to break into, but once you book one or two you’ll find offers for others start pouring in.
#6 Magazines and Anthologies
This is one of the untapped ways you can make money as a poet – other kinds of writers make a lot of their money here. Literary magazines are good for building up your portfolio as a poet.
So, what are you waiting for?
There are several poetry magazines, literary journals, paying websites, and anthologies welcoming poetry. Firstly, you’ll have to submit regularly, but expect to sell only occasionally. Most reputable ones will pay up to $50 per submission or more.
Also, on a per-word basis, poetry pays pretty well, but the market is small, and pretty saturated. However, if you get a large enough list and are a really skilled poet, this can easily net you around $500 per year or more.
That being said, it’s not enough to make a living alone but, you can use this option as something to supplement your current income.
#7 Grants and Fellowships
Poetry is a form of art . This means that grants and fellowships for poets are easier to get, and often more generous, than similar programs for other kinds of writing. To get them, you’ll have to learn how to write effective applications, but it’s worth the time.
#8 Sell Poems to Greeting Card Companies
Surprised? It actually very real!
The amazing thing here is that you can earn a pretty decent amount of money doing this. According to vocal.media, a lady earned $50,000 in one year selling things to greeting card companies.
Yes, you read rightly!
The truth is that every greeting card you read was written by a real-life human—not some impersonal poetry-generating robot. In fact, some greeting card writers even become relatively popular, having their bylines written in the cards they pen.
There is a problem though. Not all greeting card companies want poems or already have in-house writers like Hallmark.
Notwithstanding, if you choose to make a living through poetry going this route, you might need to be flexible in what you write. Also, if you have a good portfolio of poetry and greeting card submissions, there’s a chance they may hire you. However, it’s not an easy field to break into.
#9 Create a Website For Your Poems
Having your own website of poetry is another way of making money as a poet online. You can average about $75-$100/month from people reading a couple of your poems and clicking on advertisements.
Although this may seem little, it can really add up over time – especially as you build up traffic to your website and create a following.
Once you gain enough traffic to your website, you can start exploring different advertising partners who can help you get paid as much as $10-$15 for every 1,000 visitors you have at your website.
Cool, right? But, there will be a little learning to be done from your end.
You’ve to learn how to set up a website and how to get traffic and advertisers, but this is a very viable option to do something you love while earning some side cash. You can use free blogging software like WordPress as it’s a great way to get started with creating an affordable website.
#10 Freelancing and Self-Employment
There’s also a growing market for being self-employed or freelance for gigs like poetry. Freelancing sites like Fiverr.com give you a place where you can sell an on-demand poem for a few dollars, while platforms like Zazzle and TeeSpring let you put your words on things like t-shirts and coffee mugs.
Additional Tips On How To Sell Your Poems For Money
Here are some tips to help you as a poet who wants to make money from poetry.
Do Not Rely on One Source of Income
The truth is that no single one of the ways above is likely to make a significant amount of money for all but the most talented and fortunate poets. However, by systematically and aggressively pursuing a good number of them, you can put together a decent secondary income. So, I strongly recommend that you combine them.
This advice applies to all kinds of writers but is especially important for poets because money from selling poetry can be hard to get. So, don’t just settle for one source of income as a poet. Rather, run them all and watch them build each other up.
Work to Build a Core Audience Via Social Media
Many of the people who are making money with their poetry do so because they managed to cultivate an audience for their poetry through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or similar social media platforms. If you have enough people who love your poetry work, you’ll be able to make money when you sell books and merchandise.
Here are some words of advice for you while building your audience:
Understanding Your Audience
Who will read your poem? What do they need? What are their reasons for wanting poetry?
The biggest factor in understanding how well poetry can sell in today’s world is the audience. Once you know and understand your audience, then, you are ready to start exploring all the many different ways you can share your poetry with the world and get paid for it.
This may sound too good to be true, but this the secret to succeeding in any business. For you to think of making money from poetry that means there is a demand for it, and once you know this, you can find the right angle to approach selling and sharing your work.
Here are a few examples of the types of target audiences who might be willing to pay for poetry:
Of course, even if you do all the things I mentioned in this article, I can’t promise you’ll ever be able to quit your day job, but I can promise you’ll be able to afford a little extra beer or to take a nicer vacation than you would without it.
Besides, you’ll be writing poetry. And that’s a pretty nifty accomplishment all of its own.