Chris A. Baird | July 14, 2023
How to Self-Publish a Poetry Book: An Ultimate Guide

So you've written one or more poems, but now you're ready to self-publish them or get them onto the market in some way. But how exactly are you going to do that? Well, stick around because we're going to go through the steps exactly.

You're going to need to know to make the right decisions for your poem. So, we're going to look deeply at how to self-publish a poetry book – an ultimate guide. So, what should you consider when self-publishing poetry books?

1. Do-It-Yourself or Hire a Professional?

The first thing you need to know is whether to do it yourself or hire a professional. That's a question that must be answered, and there are some advantages and disadvantages. If you hire a professional, you're going to pay a lot more money upfront before you even know whether or not this is even going to work.

You have to keep in mind that starting with poetry, it's difficult to get books to sell. It's just the way things are. However, if you build an audience and follow the steps I'm about to tell you, you're going to drastically increase the chances that your book will sell.

When it gets out there, and so if you choose to do it yourself, which I would always recommend, you're going to learn how to do the formatting and find all of the different people and freelancers who are going to put this entire project together and help you get the best possible outcome, giving you maximum flexibility, control, and highest royalties.

But if you choose to hire a professional, you want to make sure that it's a highly-ranked professional. I would recommend going with something like Fiverr or Upwork to find the professional service you're looking for to help you with the majority of the necessary steps to get your book, and your poems, put together into a book, and onto the market.

You have to figure out which one is working for you, based on the complexity of the project, the amount of time you have, and your technical abilities. These factors will impact this critical decision of whether you should hire a professional to do the whole thing or learn how to do it yourself.

2. Preparing Your Manuscript

Number two, preparing your manuscript. So, you're going to need to make sure that it's edited and proofread. The most important thing you can do is to ensure that the quality of the writing and everything looks great. If it isn't, it's already going to be an uphill battle to get sales for your book of poems.

So, for this poetry book of yours, you need to focus on making sure that the quality is there. Make sure that the manuscript is properly formatted and structured according to industry standards. The easiest way to figure this out is by looking at the best-selling poetry books of the same type that you're considering putting on the market.

You may consider hiring a professional editor and using beta readers. This is why building an email list can be helpful in this process. 

3. How Many Poems Should You Include?

Number three: How many poems should you include? Well, the answer is, it depends. The easiest way. What I would tell you is, let's look at books that are already selling, poetry books that are in the top hundred thousand books on Amazon.

That's the basic sales rank order, and if they're in the top hundred thousand, they are selling at least one copy a day. So, whatever they're doing is probably not too far off. But a couple of things to remember: you don't want to just put a bunch of garbage poems into your book to reach a certain length, like 100 pages or 50 pages.

However, at the same time, we need the book to be at least 24 or 25 pages in length. This is important so that we can make a paperback version of the book. So, don't just think about leaving it as an e-book version. It needs to be at least 24 pages, and if you can get it to around 85 or 87, then we can do a hardback version of the book, which I also recommend if possible.

Quality matters more than quantity, and therefore, you don't want to throw any old poem into it. We want to build an audience, and if they don't like the book, they're not going to buy your future books. So, it doesn't matter how many pages or formats you have.

4. Choosing a Trim Size

Number four: choosing a trim size. Now, the standard rule is, again, to look at the best sellers in your genre for poetry books and see the exact length they're going for. But I can already answer this one: it's going to be six by nine. That maximizes the total distribution, getting your book out to as many different distribution channels as possible.

Also, when you do the hardback and other versions, it's easy to just use the 6x9 size without any additional work. That's why I always recommend 6x9 whenever in doubt. However, of course, you can choose other trim sizes if you need to. But if you do that, you're going to decrease your distribution, and maximum distribution is one of the keys to winning the self-publishing game. 

5. Poetry Justification

Number five: poetry justification. When you're figuring out how your margins and all these things should look, again, I would look and see what your competition is doing. What exactly does your ideal reader expect when they're going to be reading your poetry book?

Is everything usually centered, left-aligned, or sometimes in the middle? Or do they use justification where the far left and the far right are perfectly aligned? But then, if it's in the middle, it's not going to look like a standard book. Poetry just doesn't work that way.

So, based on the lines and things you have, you may even have graphics in there that you'll have around the sides. That's one of the reasons why, with my formatting, I use Jutoh to do the formatting. 

This way, I'm able to get exactly the correct spacing, whether you have graphics and images to go along with your poetry. It just makes the whole process a lot simpler. So, you need to figure out what's going to work for you. What usually works for the best sellers will also work for you.

Check out this related article: Best Payment Gateways For Self-Publishers

6. Styling Poem Titles and Poem Text

Number six: styling poem titles and poem text. We want to make sure that the style is exactly right, in terms of large caps on the first letters, and the exact fonts you're using. Again, we're looking to see what the best-sellers are doing. We also want to choose a font that's easy to read.

That's one of the reasons why, in my book "Formatting Made Easy" course, I go through exactly that. I like to use Georgia, and I provide the size and a template that shows you exactly how to best use this tool to ensure that your book is formatted correctly.

So that whether it's the e-book, the paperback, or the hardback, all of them will be perfectly formatted and ready to be published on Amazon without any errors or mistakes. You can eliminate quality issues by using the correct formatting for all of these formats.

However, you can also choose other professionals to go through the process and figure out which styles will work best for your book. 

7. Designing Your Book Cover

Number seven: designing your book cover. This is one of the most important aspects because if readers don't like the book cover, they won't click on it. And if they don't click, they won't buy.

I would suggest looking at the top-selling books in your genre. Additionally, you might consider taking a creative approach. It needs to be clear on the cover that this is a book of poems and not just some random title that doesn't convey the value proposition. We want the person to click and immediately recognize it as a book of poems.

If they see it's a book of poems and still doesn't click, that's fine. They weren't interested in the first place. When designing your cover, you can do it inexpensively on platforms like Canva, but I wouldn't recommend that. Instead, I would suggest going to Fiverr.

Check out this related article: Best Link Shorteners for Self-Publishers?

You can find my recommended cover designer in the comments below, through my affiliate link. She will create a fantastic cover for your book of poems. Provide her with an idea of what you think the cover should look like, and she'll take care of the rest.

It's around $25, making it very affordable for your cover, assuming. We just want the basic e-book cover, and we can handle the rest of the cover formatting ourselves. 

8. Submitting to a Book Designer

Number eight: submitting to a book designer. This is another option where you can hire professionals to assist you with the entire process. However, it is a bit more expensive, and you need to be very clear about what you want. Keep in mind that if you make changes in the future, you may need to pay them additional fees.

This is one of the main reasons why I highly recommend learning the steps yourself to get your book formatted, on the market, and selling, without having to go through these additional expense loops that you're going to find. You'll need one change here and then, a week later, you have to make another change.

And they're hitting you, and who knows, fifty, hundred dollars a change, it can be very, very expensive. You're also going to want to find somebody that you can communicate effectively with to make sure they don't misunderstand what exactly you're trying to accomplish with your book of poetry, and they're going to be able to do it.

Where to Publish Poetry

So, where to publish poetry? Now, this is an interesting one. 

Publishing in journals and magazines

The first thing is publishing in journals and magazines. You don't have to do it with a book, a self-published book. You can find journals and magazines that are already publishing poetry and simply tell them, "Hey, I want to put my poems out onto the market.

And I've got these amazing poems, and you have to just keep on following up, figuring out what their guidelines are and also figuring out how big their audience is, and then making sure that you're being persistent and staying in the game long enough to give yourself a chance to win at this publishing game.

Self-publishing on a website or newsletter

Number two, self-publishing on a website or newsletter, this one is really powerful because you're able to give out this free poetry and help build up that audience. You should choose the right platform because there are a lot of different platforms you can use for this.

This is a bit complicated, but now we're starting to get a little bit closer to using content marketing for your specific book, which is an important way of finding your audience and making sure that when they're already familiar with your poems when you come out with your poetry book, they're able to click and make the purchase. 

Self-publishing a collection

Number three is self-publishing a collection. Now, this one is almost nested, completely necessary, which is we want the book to reach 25 pages, ideally around 87. So, what you're going to do is put lots of poems together, but you need to plan the content.

Don't just throw random poems in different, styles together. That's going to end up with a result that looks all hodgepodge, just thrown together. The last second, you do not want to do that, and people will punish you by not purchasing future books or doing returns on the books they purchase from you.

Edit and revise back again to this thing. We want to make sure there are no mistakes in that collection, making sure that the formatting looks very similar. As we're moving through the process, design the layout. And one of the keys to designing the layout is to make sure that it's consistent.

Check out this related article: Book Templates For Self Publishing  

So, we can have different sections for our poems, but we need to ensure that the flow of the poems fits together smoothly. It's not just random poems thrown together haphazardly, right?

Do you see what I'm saying? You want to make sure that your book of poems flows nicely and smoothly, and that the style itself in the book is very consistent.

Why to Self-Publish a poetry book: To Share or to Sell

So, why self-publish a poetry book? To share or to sell? This is one you're going to have to consider. 

Self-Publishing Poetry to Share

Number one, self-publishing poetry to share. You want to share it with the world, and you want to get this thing out on the market. So, you just figured out a platform where you're able to just get it to share. Like, I think, what's Pad? What's uh, Pad? What Pad is, is a great place to do that. There are several other forms you'll find on the internet, but you can put it out there.

We're not trying to make money, we're just trying to possibly, hopefully, build an audience. We're just going to be able to format it and put the thing out there. The downside is there's less control if we do it this way, and that means that almost anybody could do this route.

And it will end up with sometimes your book can be out, your poetries can be out there with a lot of books of poetry, books that are a lot lower quality than yours. And you may need to promote your work for the strategy. This is a long-term strategy. But, it can be very effective in building your audience. 

Self-Publishing Poetry to Sell

Number two, self-publishing poetry to sell. So, if you're trying to get it to sell, then the fact is, you're going to need to focus on big, strong platforms like Amazon KDP, IngoSpark, and maybe Lulu, depending upon the length of your book. You're going to need to run ads against your book.

And you're going to need to price your book, your poetry book, competitively to make sure that people can when they see the price on it, it's not too high and not too low. So, you're able to make enough money that you can afford to run ads against the book.

But, at the same time, you want to make sure it's not too high that people want, people just discredit it based on that. And you want to leverage the book marketing tactics on this whole thing.

Where we're using all of the advanced Jedi ninja tactics that I teach on this blog to get this book of yours to sell. And especially since poetry is a tough genre to write, it's okay. I hope that makes sense.

Self-Publishing Poetry for the Sharers and the Sellers

So, self-publishing poetry for the shares and the sellers. So, in other words, we're doing it for both, but to do that, you need to make sure it's on a platform where you're making money.

But at the same time, you can do it in ways in which they can either donate or whatever it might be to get this book. And you should be focusing on quality. That's a very important aspect. In addition, you should use visual elements with what you're doing with your poetry.

There's no reason you shouldn't have illustrations and diagram illustrations that go with the poems that you're writing. Just no reason at all. And, like normal, you're going to have to promote your work, either using content marketing or through paid ads.

I tell exactly, step by step, my group coaching and 1-on-1 clients exactly how to go about running ads for your book. And I walk you through exactly the precise steps that you're going to need to succeed.

Final words

There are a lot of things to consider. You notice we went I did a deep dive today, looking specifically at your poetry books and what are you going to do with these poems you've been collecting, you've been writing over the years. Let's put them together and let's put them onto the market.

I would not recommend sharing all of your poems. Keep some of the better ones and give them out in exchange for an email. You can also then take your existing book, so you can give them away for free to people in exchange for an honest review.

For the people assuming you're building an email list, the hardest part of this entire process is building an audience. We're looking forward to your next poetry book and we'll purchase it. You can use all sorts of social media, you can use content marketing, or TikTok. A lot of these things connect with your audience.

And when they connect with you when you have that personal connection, they're going to buy from you and they're going to read your books, be excited, help you with reviews, and find new readers for you.

So, there are so many things that get covered when it comes down to this. My question for you is, how far have you come in your poetry book? How many pages is it so far if we put together the different poems that you've done?

And also, have you published this on any particular platform? Because I want to know, down in the comments, where exactly you're at in the process. And check out my other blogs and videos for more answers to your self-publishing questions.

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