Cloudy Day Art #67 – How Not To Market Yourself As A Poet

This poetry podcast was birthed from my thoughts about how poets market themselves. I then turned these thoughts inward and looked at how I market myself. It was a really freeing exercise, because I realized that I’m a terrible marketer. I think that a lot of us poets are.

Artists in general are not great self-promoters.

So, I decided to study my inactions and make them actions. I list five ways that we as poets fail to market ourselves. Why don’t you listen in and share your thoughts and experiences?


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Links mentioned:
Slam Idol Podcast
Lonely Remix


How not to market yourself as a poet.

Poets are not known for their marketing skills. We are known for our profound words and how we are able to paint pictures on the canvases of the audience’s mind. We write our poems in solitude; scribbling our thoughts down in our darkened bedrooms like a monk locked away in a monastery, writing down his daily prayers.

We share these words with no one except perhaps a lover or a dear, close, and trusted friend. We do not brag on our works or stand on a pedestal and shout, “Hear my words. FOR…I…AM…A…POET!”

Some of us do breakaway from this solitary mindset and share our words beyond our circle of trust. We attend poetry open mics to share our creations amongst the masses; teaching and pouring out our hearts and emptying our minds onto microphones and through sound-systems, so that they may hear. But we are still alone.

This brings us to the point of this essay–this diatribe. How do we market ourselves to the masses? Or perhaps more importantly—do we need to? The answer to the latter question comes first. Yes. There is no grey area. No maybe. No perhaps. Just yes.
I believe that the call of the poet is to speak into existence the every thought of every man. To utter words for those who have not yet figured out how to connect with their muse. To relieve the inner-turmoil and frustration brought about by the inability to outwardly communicate the correct words.

We are modern-day abolitionists; who through our writings and speech free the spirit from the captivity of the limits we have unwittingly placed on the mind. And we cannot keep that to ourselves. We must share our poetry. But to share we must find people who will listen. And finding people who will listen is the essence of marketing.

I figure the best way to figure out how to market your poetry is to figure out what most of us already know, that is, how to not market ourselves.

Non-action one: Do nothing. This is one thing that comes easiest for most of us, but the hardest to break away from. Overcoming this step alone will propel us further down the road of marketing than anything else. It is purely a matter of changing your mindset from that of focusing on inaction to focusing on action. What can I do to market myself?

Number two: We don’t share our works with anyone beyond our circle of trust. We need to move beyond just sharing our poetry with a loved one or a close friend. Take the action-step of handing a poem to a co-worker and saying, “Hey, Do you mind checking out this new poem I wrote? Tell me what you think.”

That brings us to number three: We don’t ask for criticism. Agreeing to let someone tell you how they think you can improve yourself takes an unbelievable amount of effort. I wouldn’t advise letting just anyone criticize your work though. I would liken the previous example of asking a coworker what they think of your poetry to asking a friend what they think about a house you’re considering purchasing. They can bring up some good points, but they’re not a licensed home inspector.

To get technical criticism on our writings you need to seek other poets whose writings you respect and who have possibly contributed advice to other writers that you know.

Again, asking for criticism gets your poetry into the hands of others beyond your circle of friends, but it also prepares you for overcoming our next non-action.

Number four: We do not submit our works to poetry publications and to poetry contests. Why not? I believe the greatest reason is our fear of rejection. Think about it. The actual act of submitting a poem to a publication takes less effort than it took for you to subscribe to this podcast.

Most online publications have very simply laid out rules and instructions on how to submit your works. These instructions include what type of format the poem must be in, deadlines, and biography requests. Simple.

So, the only reason that we don’t take the time is because of the fear of rejection. This can be a by-product of previous rejection or lack of confidence in your work. But, the more you put away the in-action of the previous steps, the more confident you will become.

Rejection happens to everyone. The greatest writers of all time have had their poetry rejected by publishers. They would not be where they are today if they allowed that to prevent them from ever submitting another work to a publisher or a contest.

Additionally, once again you are sharing your poetry with someone who has never had the chance to read your works. Although they may not find it right for their tastes, you are doing what you have been called to do. Share.

The final non-action step is, in my opinion, one of the most important of them all. We don’t share our poetry at open-mics. Judy Kronenfeld touched on this in our interview on Show #53. We can turn all the previous in-actions to actions, but nothing helps to build confidence and community like getting involved at an open mic poetry event. I’m not talking about just getting up and reading, although that is the primary focus. I’m talking about “getting involved”. Hang out before and after the actual event and get to know and network with other poets.

Walk up to a poet who you have just heard and tell them what you thought about their poem. He or she will definitely appreciate it and may return the favor to you. This works especially well at open mics that are part of poetry workshops where the point is to help you to become a better writer.

We are a small community and we are family. We are family and we are friends. Take these non-actions and make them actions in your life, so that the world my benefit from what the muse has put inside of you.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this discussion or any specific tips you may have when it comes to marketing yourself and your poetry. Just send an e-mail in text or audio format to Will{at} or call in to the voicemail line at (206) 339-POET (7638)

Will Brown

Will Brown is a poet, blogger, and a scanner of all things new. He also currently blogs at Help Desk Helps where he discusses tips and issues affecting the help desk professional.

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  1. Hey, cool show. The ccMixter piece was interesting, a nice contrasting of intentions with the interplay of the music.

    On the non-marketing, here’s a couple ‘inactions’:
    * Look for an agent. That’s the sure-fire “vanity press” trap that takes your money with promises of literary fame. There are still some poets out there who don’t realize that legitimate literary agents generally don’t deal in poetry, especially from unknowns, and agents pay the writer, not the other way around. The trick is to forget about an agent; if people like your poems, an interested agent will look for you…

    * Write a Novel. I never had poet writer’s block before, but this story in my head that refuses to come out neatly is proving an effective block to my writing poems for almost a year. I don’t have a trick to beat this dead end yet, aside from just gutting it out, one word at a time, though the pace can be frustrating.

    Anyway, really enjoyed the show, and I’ll check out ccMixter; I’ve been meaning to.

  2. Thanks for the tips, Larry.
    What you said about getting an agent makes sense. I can’t see a poet actually getting an agent unless he/she is already established. They would probably have to have at least self-published and be well-known locally or on the poetry touring circuit.

    Good luck on your book. I’ve heard you mention that on your show a few times.


  3. Man, I really loved this podcast. I’ve got to listen more often. Good points concerning marketing; I’ll be posting some additional thoughts about this soon on my blog.

  4. Thanks, StrUHT!
    I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say. You always have some pretty good insights.

  5. This is an interesting twist on the approach I use with clients who are having trouble arriving at a clear intention for themselves. I ask them what they DON’T want, and they immediately tell me. Then we work on flipping the “don’t want” to the positive intention. It is an effective technique, hope it produces good results for you.

  6. Thanks for the input, Lexi.
    I never actually thought of it that in depth. Reverse-engineering a problem does seem like a good technique to use when confronting a problem though.

  7. This is an interesting twist on the approach I use with clients who are having trouble arriving at a clear intention for themselves. I ask them what they DON'T want, and they immediately tell me. Then we work on flipping the “don't want” to the positive intention. It is an effective technique, hope it produces good results for you.


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