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I want to publish a poery collection. Feedback via Facebook, from people who know me and some that don't say the work is good. Can I go straight to a publisher with samples of the work and hope to be published if they like it? I have not submitted work for publication before. I'd like to send 20 or so poems in the first instance, as samples. Thanks for reading... mandy

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Poetry publishing is especially difficult because there is so little money in it. Even famous poets have modest sales, and almost no-one buys a poetry collection by an unknown poet. Some famous poets, such as Dickenson and Hopkins, have been entirely unpublished in their own lifetimes.

Many poets today start out by self-publishing "chapbooks" (you can do this yourself at your local copy shop) and selling them at local readings. If your primary goal is to get your poems into the hands of appreciative readers, that might be your best option.

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It is very, very hard to get a publisher to take a "book" of poetry without prior publication credits. Note that I said "book" which implies a full length collection, which for poetry is generally over 60 pages.

Chapbooks are smaller, generally 16 to 44 pages (my estimate), and some publishers of chapbooks do not look at prior publications when considering what they will accept. They do look at the quality of the work.

The best way to find out if your work is publishable is to submit it for publication. You will have the best bet by submitting several poems at a time to various journals that publish poetry. You will want to polish your work -- edit and craft it, not just write it. Once you get some poems published, you will have more confidence in your writing. You may get really lucky and one of those journals will have an editor that gives you feedback. You may want to try a writer's group or check out Scribophile as a means for getting feedback.

Part of why you want to do this is, in the long run, it saves time. You will be better at picking the places to send your poems that will have similar interests (for example, not sending free verse to some place that only wants sonnets). It also means you won't send a sample to a publisher, possibly get rejected, and then polish your work and not be able to send it to that publisher you really want because they already rejected the work.

So my plan for getting published: write, edit, read other people's poetry, edit, submit to journals, build some experience, send to chapbook (or book) publishers. It isn't instantaneous, but it works (my first chapbook is being published in a couple of months).

On the other hand, you can always self-publish, but it doesn't sound like that is your goal.

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I would say that you should publish you first poems where you can. That said, let us talk about your question:

A. Problem: Depends on the publisher, it could be nearly impossible to get your work published.

B. Solution: Try to find editors that specialize on first-time authors and try work with them.

C. Strategy: While trying to pursue your goal, to publish your poems together as a book, send out these and other samples as single pieces to competitions. It will increase your chance to get published.

It might get a long time to publish your work as a book without single pieces published, but it can happen, you need to try, but you can as well improve your strategy and decrease the time it would take in the first place.

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  • Is this based on any experience or knowledge or poetry publishing? If so, can you clarify what the common policies and expectations of such publishers are? – user16226 Aug 14 '17 at 11:23
  • I don't think entering poetry competitions is a way to get published unless you win, which is very unlikely even if you're very good. It can get pretty expensive too. – Bob says reinstate Monica Aug 16 '17 at 15:31
  • Not all competitions are big and impossible. In fact, some of them are about bringing writers together and assemble books for publishing. What I tried to give my 5 cents of a strategy. One can do various things to improve one's career, and send your work for magazines, competitions etc, is not bad advice at all. – Kasper L Aug 17 '17 at 4:23
  • @MarkBaker, the heart of the matter is that it depends. You need to study the ed. houses and look for one or two that work with your profile. At the same time, nothing stops you from sending your work for your, let us say, favorite ed, house. The market for publishing is always hard, but for poetry, it has always been harder. – Kasper L Aug 17 '17 at 4:26

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