Being a poet sometimes feels like running a manufacturing business. In last month’s Part One, I highlighted the necessity of building contacts and promoting yourself. In this section, I’ll look at some practicalities.
To help raise your profile, establish your reputation, and sell copies of your poems, you may need materials or marketing collateral to support this.
You’ll need an “elevator speech” that states who you are as a poet in a very short paragraph, say, in 50 words. If you are selling a pamphlet or collection, you will equally need a short summary of what that book is about, think of the blurb you see on the rear cover of books.
Some sort of web presence is worthwhile, e.g., Facebook or WordPress. This website is just such as example. This was very useful at book signings. But as for the use of social media in general, I cannot comment on that side of things.
Chief amongst marketing collateral needed for your publications is a marketing plan. For example, for my collection The Thin Veneer. I listed on one page all the tasks I was going to undertake under the following headings. I’ve included a few examples of entries under each heading:
The Thin Veneer – Marketing Plan
Target: x copies sold in first six months.
Launches / Events
- Publisher’s launch by Zoom – Done
- Waterstones book signing – Done
- Local spoken word group, Live – Done
Sale or Return at Bookshops
- Bookshop A on sale/return basis – Done
- Bookshop B, sold to be held in stock at 50% discount – Done
Promotion through URL Links
- Publisher’s Author web page – Done
- My blog website – with links to Amazon and Dempsey & Windle sites – Done
- Poetry Society – Done
- Stanza Group newsletter – Done
- Orbis Journal – Done
- Indigo Dreams – Reach Poetry – Done
- Friends and family mail-outs –
- Review copies sent out to journals and magazines, e.g. The Cannons Mouth –
Last updated: Clifford Liles, dd/mm/yyyy
You can be as elaborate or sketchy as you wish. But it is a good idea to think about the purpose of your publication, who your readership is and how many copies you might sell.
You should consider preparing other marketing collateral to support sales events. For example, I had an A3 posterboard made showing my book’s cover, for use at events, and bought a plastic stand to display copies on tables at readings.
It may be possible to sell a copy or two through a bookshop, but poetry volumes are rarely bestsellers, to say the least. Some bookshops may hold one or two copies on your behalf. When cold-calling bookshops, the quality of book’s production will be important. If they agree to take copies, it will be either on a sale or return basis or they may purchase a copy at a discount rate.
I also maintain a spreadsheet of submissions, readings, sales, and workshop entries to help me manage all of this across the more than a hundred or poems I have written.
With all this work, over the years, you should feel you are improving both your work and your reputation. Much better than letting your writings lay unseen in a drawer. Good luck with your own marketing and sales.