You probably wouldn’t be too far off-base if you were to make the assertion that of all the writers in the world, poets make the least amount of money. The markets for poetry have dwindled substantially in the last few decades for a number of reasons. First, the market for people who enjoy poetry is comparatively small; second, it’s just too darn difficult to find good poetry.
That said, it isn’t impossible for poets to earn money; it just takes a little bit more effort than it would for a fiction writer or an essayist. Not only do you have to find well-paying markets, but you also have to convince the editors of those markets that you are a good poet.
Stay Away from Poetry Magazines
You might think that the best way for poets to earn money is to submit their poetry to magazines which cater to that audience. The fact is, however, that most poetry magazines pay little or nothing for even the best poetry, and you certainly can’t make a living doing that.
Instead, look for magazines that are geared toward the subject of your poetry. For example, if you like to write poetry about the outdoors, consider submitting your poetry to Field & Stream or Orion. You’ll find that not every magazine accepts poetry, but target the ones that do.
Give Poetry Readings
If you haven’t looked into it yet, you might want to consider poetry readings as a way for you to make money with your poetry. When you can not only write poetry but speak it as well, you stand to earn more money. Conferences, poetry groups, coffee shop readings and poetry slams are all excellent places for poets to earn money.
Sell a Poetry Book
Honestly, poets can earn more money publishing poetry books than they can submitting their poetry to magazines. If you can write an entire book of poetry – from 10 – 50 poems in one book – you’ll stand a better chance of being publishing and of earning a living.
Remember, however, that publishers only consider contracting books of poetry that are extremely well-written. If you are considering earning money as a poet, you might take a few classes to make sure you can effectively write before submitting to publishers.
If you are an accomplished poet, you might be able to earn more money teaching poetry rather than writing it. Poetry teachers are in demand all over the country, from major universities to high schools to informal poetry classes. If you can come up with a workable curriculum, you might actually enjoy teaching poetry to excited and bright-eyed students.
Keep Your Day Job
Until you’ve “made it big” as a poet, keep your day job and write in your spare time. If you quit your day job to become a poet, you might find yourself unable to write because you’re so worried about bills and taking care of your family. Plus, a day job can give you the necessary drive and inspiration to continue writing poetry.