By Allison VanNest of Grammarly.com
Poets, you’ve probably been told your whole lives that there’s no money in poetry. (Robert Graves, the English author of I, Claudius, famously quipped that there’s no poetry in money, either.) But if your brain is hardwired for verse, there’s hope.
You can, in fact, earn money writing poetry.Here are seven ways to turn your talent into cold, hard cash.
Write Greeting Cards
Let’s start with the obvious one. Greeting cards may not be Pulitzer-level poetry, but companies do pay money for the heartwarming sentiments. For tips on how to get started, check out this Q & A on Writers Relief. If you’re artistically minded—or know someone who is—you might consider creating your own line of greeting cards to sell on a craft marketplace like Etsy, which often favors quirky and offbeat goods.
Sell to Paying Markets
There are still paying markets for poetry, but you may be disappointed by the money involved. Grab a copy of Writers Market for a list of publications and contests (see below), choose the ones that seem most in line with your work, and start submitting. Make sure you follow each publication’s guidelines to the letter, however.
Winning or even placing in a contest can be a great way to raise your profile and earn a little money for your work. Many reputable publications, university presses, and foundations offer poetry prizes, but be skeptical of those that charge steep reading fees. Absolute Write has a good rundown of warning signs to watch out for.
Self-Publish Digital Chapbooks
Long gone are the days when publishing a chapbook meant ordering a costly print run or finding a small press willing to take you on. Thanks to eBook and print-on-demand technology, you can publish your own work and keep the lion’s share of royalties. Head over to Amazon KDP to find out how easy it is to self-publish. The more titles you have, the more likely it is for readers to find you, so this approach favors the more prolific among us.
Compose Special Occasion Poems
If you love verse for its own sake and don’t mind giving up credit for your work, consider offering your service as a ghostwriter. Put out your shingle as a writer of custom poetry for wedding toasts,, memorials, holiday greetings, or even tongue-tied lovers.
Pitch on Freelance Sites
Though many freelance gigs are geared toward non-fiction and advertising copy, you can still find work writing and editing poetry on freelance clearinghouse sites like Elance or oDesk. However, competition is often fierce, so be prepared to sink some time into building up a good reputation as a freelance provider. Also, make sure that you don’t sell yourself short in an effort to underbid on jobs!
Start a Business
Improbably, a company called The Haiku Guys makes upwards of $200 per hour writing poetry. The trio of writers from—where else?—Brooklyn rent themselves out for parties, galas, fundraisers, and other high-profile events. Armed with a typewriter, they compose haiku on demand for party-goers. You never know what people will pay money for, so put yourself out there and give it a shot.
Poetry is harder to proofread than prose, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever okay to send out anything less than your very best. Make sure that your work is free of typos and spelling errors before you pitch it to a client or publish it yourself.
You may not ever be able to quit your day job—in fact, many famous poets such as TS Eliot and William Carlos Williams maintained separate careers throughout their lives. But we hope that the tips above will help you create a second stream of income from your poetry passion. Please stop by the comments with further tips and success stories!
About the Author: A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and more than ONE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
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