10 things you need to know about being a published poet.
So far unpublished? Just starting out on the publishing path? Being a published poet can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever achieve — but there are also a few things you might need to bear in mind…
1: You will experience rejection.
Even the Poet Laureate still gets rejected sometimes. When it comes to rejection, the quality of your work is not the only deciding factor, so don’t go assuming that being rejected means your work is no good. Because everyone goes through it, it’s something you should learn to accept and embrace early on, so it doesn’t hold you back.
2: People will be mean about you.
It’s sad but true — if you want to put something you’ve created into the public domain, you need to be ready for the fact that people will have opinions on it, and they may not always be nice. Whether it’s an unfavourable review or just someone expressing their distaste in an online forum, you need to learn to let the negativity slide off you and move on. After all, readers of your work will all be different, and you can’t please everyone.
3: You have to work hard.
Being a talented poet undoubtedly opens doors for you, but to get “ahead” in the poetry world, you also need to work hard. You need to write a lot, even when you don’t feel like it, and challenge yourself to be flexible and experiment — you also need to read heaps of published poetry. Depending on how “noticed” you want to be, you also need to be thinking about sending out submissions regularly, entering contests and performing at poetry readings. There’s also the constant editing process: poetry is no walk in the park.
4: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Sadly, a lot of people succeed in the world of poetry because they rub shoulders with the right kinds of people — and, while this technically shouldn’t affect how well you and your work do, it always will to some extent. So you can either sit around moaning about it (as I am wont to do from time to time!) or you can take the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” route, get out there and make friends and influence people!
5: Opportunity doesn’t knock.
Well, OK… sometimes it does, but usually you need to hunt it down. No one is going to tell you who’s who in the poetry world, when the deadlines for contests are or how you go about getting a gig for your work — you need to find out this stuff by yourself. It doesn’t take much — attend a local workshop every so often, sign up to the odd email newsletter and keep an eye on a few literary blogs. It might seem like a pain but it could bring awesome things your way.
6: Editors are not always nice.
It’s Read This‘ policy to be as friendly as possible at all times, and to provide individual feedback on any submission if it’s requested. Unfortunately, this is more the exception than the rule, so be prepared for the fact that some editors are not even unfriendly… they can be downright nasty. For some reason, some people think that the title of editor entitles them to be unpleasant or snobby… this isn’t true. If they think this is OK, they’re a bad editor, pure and simple… but unfortunately these people are out there and at some point, you’ll probably have to deal with them!
7: You won’t make any money.
Annoyingly, poetry is not lucrative at all — so don’t go into it expecting to make millions. You might make the odd tenner or so from winning contests or getting paid magazine gigs, but mostly, you do it for the love of it. If you’re doing it for any other reason, you might be better off not doing it at all!
8: People will take the mick out of you.
Some people find it hard to understand the mentality of those of us who choose to spend our time writing poems. Although creative writing is a legitimate hobby like any other, the (albeit fairly mild) stigma against it means that at some point you probably will encounter teasing about your “gay” or “emo” activities. For all that this is total garbage, when you’re a young poet and unsure of your abilities, it can really sting. Ignore it, please! Writing poetry is a noble pursuit, no matter what those who’ve never tried it think!
9: You need to know the rules.
You know that old adage “you have to know the rules before you can break them”? That most definitely applies to poetry, like it or not. You can try to sit down and write a poem without ever having read any poems and with no prior knowlede of poetry, but if you reckon you can do this, you might find that you don’t get too far. If you want to write good poetry, you need to read good poetry… end of story! Learn what poetry’s all about… then you can subvert everything if you still want to rebel!
10: Your career options are limited.
If you want a career that directly involves your poetry, you need to look forward to a bleak struggle — there just aren’t all that many “poetry jobs” out there. Many writers do go into literary jobs, but often they end up teaching, working in publishing or doing something that doesn’t actually directly involve their own creative works. Don’t get me wrong, there are options — there just aren’t too many!
Questions? Suggestions? Drop me a line to email@example.com!