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Poet Power!
The Complete Guide to Getting Your Poetry Published (and Self-Published)

Sentient Publications, 2004. 174 pages. $18.95

Thomas A. Williams, Ph.D.

See Sample Chapter: (How to Give a Poetry Reading That Will Sell Your Books)
Read some reviews.

Poets can publish (and sell!) their work when they utilize the market-oriented information and techniques that are included in this book. Longtime editor/publisher Tom Williams tells how.  Poet Power! contains dozens of tried-and-true strategies and techniques that lead to publication, readings, art council grants and wide public recognition. The Library Journal loves it. Dan Poynter says that it could be called the "self-publishing manual for poets." Agent Janelle Agyerman says "Thoughtful, perfect pitch prose and jam-packed with every bit of info one could possibly need .... I particularly appreciate Chapter 13 and the annotations in "Contacts and Sources." A typical reaction from a reader? "I am a North Carolinian, 37 year-old female poet of over 22 years. I've just read "Poet Power" and I am FLABBERGASTED and IN AWE at how your words have made me feel about publishing my own poetry! I NEVER thought in a million years that I would find what I've been longing to read and know about, and how to do it myself! :

Table of contents:

1. The Enterprise of Poetry : Why Poets Must Publish; Poet Power! and What It Will Teach You; Want to Publish Your Poems? Use The Prospecting Techniques of Non-Fiction Writers; Don't Let Your Poems Languish in Your Desk Drawer: Opportunity Doesn't Knock. You Do.

2. A Poet's Crash Course in the Economics of Publishing : Everything You Need to Know about the Real World of Publishing, but Don't Know Whom to Ask; Why Poetry is Such a Risky Business; The Economic Realities of the Literary World; The Free Enterprise Twins: Risk and Profit; Publishing Magazines: a Financial Tightrope Act; What You Need to Know about Publishing in Book Form: Costs, Discounts and Royalties; How You Can Beat the Odds.

3. Nine Secrets of Publishable Poetry: An Old-Time Editor's Guide to Writing Publishable Poetry; Accessible Poetry; Writing about Broadly-Shared Human Experiences; The Art of Timely Poetry; The Power of Thematic Verse.

4. How to Get Published in Magazines: What Happens in the Editor's Office; How to Know What Editors Are Looking For; How to Research the Magazine Market; How to Submit Your Poetry; The Power of the Poem Pack; Organized Marketing;The Professional Submission, and How It Looks; Beginners Mistakes You Must Avoid.

5. How to Find a Publisher for Your Book of Poetry: The Rapidly Changing World of Book Publishing; How to Know Who May Be Interested in Your Book of Poetry; Large Presses and Small Presses, and the Differences between Them; How to Create a Submissions List of the Most Likely Publishers; Submitting a Book-Length Manuscript; Understanding the Publisher's Mindset; Why Publishers Publish Poetry in the First Place: the Importance of Understanding Motivations. Why It's OK to Invest in Your Own Book.

Publish It Yourself!: Guaranteed Publication; It's OK to Self-Publish; Self-Publisher's Checklist; Basics of Getting Started in Publishing; How to Build Your Literary Reputation, and Why You Must Do So; How to Set Yourself Up as a Writing and Publishing Business.

7. The Anatomy of A Book: How to Design,Typeset and Print Your Book or Chapbook: Everything Your Need to Know to Design and Produce Your Own Book or Chapbook; The Easy Way: Find a Model and Follow It; Getting to Know the Jargon; Deciding How Your Book Will Look; Step-by-Step through Book Design and Printing; The Basics of Typography and Page Design; How to Choose and Arrange Your Poems; The All-Important "Front Matter"; How to Design Very Effective but Very Affordable Covers; Secrets of a Great Cover; Bindings, and How to Choose the One That is Best for You; Proofreading, and How to Do It (It's Harder Than You Think.); How to Get Your Book Printed at a Price that You Can Afford to Pay.

8. How to Start Your Own Poetry Series: Good Reasons for Starting a Poetry Chapbook Series; How to Design Your Chapbooks; How to Find the Money to Finance Your Series; How to Get Manuscripts; Your Editorial Board; Sales and Distribution.

9. The Unabashed Poet's Guide to Self-Promotion: You're a Poet, right? Why Not Be Known as One?; The Great Value of Your Literary Reputation; How to Build It Slowly, Bit by Bit; How to Prepare a Media Kit; How and Where to Send Review Copies;The Power of News Releases and How to Write Them; How to Get on Television and What to Do Once You Get There.

10. The Joys of Signing and Selling:How to Sell Your Books at Autograph and Publication Parties: How to Sell Enough Books at Your Publication Party to Pay for the First Printing; Why You've Got to Do It Yourself;The Importance of the Sponsor, and How to Find the Right One; How to Prepare the Guest List; Sending Out a News Release Announcing the Event; The Best Time of Day; How to Choose the Best Location; How to Arrange the Room; Signing and Selling; Should You Have an Autograph Party in a Bookstore?

11. How Sell Your Books at Poetry Readings: Why Poetry Readings are the Key to Successful Poetry Publishing; Most Books Are Sold at Readings, Not In Bookstores; How to Make Your Reading a Really Special Event; Audience Expectations, and How to Mold Them; How to Package Your Reading to Sell; How to Schedule Reading after Reading; Why You Must Take Charge of Your Reading, and How to Do It; How to Publicize Your Reading; How to Create an Effective Space for Your Reading; How to Make Your Reading a Real Performance; What to Do Before the Reading Starts; How to Warm Up Your Audience; How to Develop Your Own Patter or "Stump Speech"; How to Organize the Book Sales Table.

12. How to Sell Your Poetry in Book Stores and Other Retail Outlets : How Bookstores Work; General Bookstores and Specialty Bookstores; Religions Bookstores; A Little Research Goes a Long Way; Doing Business with Bookstores; Discounts and Dollars; Those Important Non-Bookstore Retail Sales and Where to Find Them; Selling through Catalogues; Premium and Promotional Sales of Your Books

13. A Poet's Guide to the Internet : The Intenet: a Great New Tool; How Email Can Help; Ezines and Webzines; Introducing the World Wide Web; The Supersites and Their Resources; Information Sources and Problem Solvers; A Starter's Kit of Web Sites for Poets.

14. Poet's Glossary of Book Design, Printing and Publishing Terminology

15. Contacts and Sources

Softcover, 226 pages. 6 by 9.  $16.95

Reviews of Poet Power!

"Fledgling poets hoping to break into the tough world of publishing will appreciate the sound advice offered in this new manual. Founder of a successful small publishing house, Williams provides tips for selling poems to magazines as well as finding a publisher for a book of poems. He covers publicity and the marketing of books at poetry readings and retail outlets. For those wishing to try their hand at self-publishing Williams describes how to design and print a book of poems.... A wise purchase." -Library Journal.

"This book is an absolute MUST for anyone writing poetry who hopes for publication. Poet Power! The Practical Poet's Complete Guide to Getting Published is not only a friendly guide for the road to publishing poetry -- a notoriously difficult area --carefully pointing out the route for the hopeful one. It's more:Tom Williams is an extraordinary guide; he knows the road and clearly points out all the points of interest involved, from interesting magazine editors in taking poems, to developing book of the poet's best work, to doing the publishing personally, and even better, how to market the poet along with the poems. (He includes a chapter on how to set up and do successful readings.) Not only does he share his own considerable know-how and skill, he points out other books that go deeper into particular areas. Like Judith Appelbaum's book How to Get Happily Published, which he strongly recommends, this book should be on the poet's desk, and it should become well used." -
Patricia J. Bell, author of The Prepublishing Handbook. Cat's-paw Press. Instructor, Introduction to Publishing,Writers Club University (http://www.writers club.com/)

"Very nicely done. Good information and great layout. It could be described as the Self-Publishing Manual for Poets. "
- Dan Poynter, author, The Self-Publishing Manual

Chapter Eleven / How to Sell Your Books at
Poetry Readings

copyright 2003, by Thomas A. Williams

MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT, ninety-five percent of all books of poetry are sold at poetry readings, and that is where you will sell most of yours. And because they are so important, poetry readings are—or should be—full-scale, carefully planned performances of which you and your poems are the stars. Unfortunately, these powerful marketing events are often poorly planned or not planned at all, and that is a great waste.

At a reading, you have everything going for you. The audience is always friendly and well-disposed toward you. They have, after all, chosen to come to this place to meet you and listen to you read your own work. Some are poets themselves, some are lovers of poetry, and some are friends who have come along to show their support for you. All are positive listeners. They are here because they want to talk poetry, hear poetry, think poetry, meet at least one successful poet (you), and exchange ideas about their craft. They will gather any crumbs of gratification (usually all they will get at most readings) offered to them and leave very grateful for having gotten anything at all.
Your audience deserves a good show and you, as author of the poems being read, certainly deserve one. More than that, you need it. But unless you take charge and make it happen, neither you nor your audience is likely to enjoy the occasion. For the sad fact is that poetry readings can be deadly dull. This is quite a paradox. A poet uses language to achieve the most intense communication possible, and yet the evening’s readings are all too often devoid of any life at all, let alone passion.

Something Different
The challenge is to make your own readings something different, something above and beyond the ordinary. Think of a favorite play. When inexperienced people sit around in a circle and read the text in low-key voices, the sparks do not fly, the tinder does not catch and the fire does not begin to burn. But let fine actors utter those same words in the context of a production and the heart begins to race. Something important is happening, and the spectators are caught up in it.

An Art That Can Be Learned
You need to convert your readings, insofar as you can, into a performance that will catch your listeners up in the same way. Most of us are not natural performers. Fortunately, putting on a dramatic reading is an art that can be learned. As you work at developing your reading and as you do more of them you will become more and more adept at achieving the kind of powerful communication you want. Your poetry is art. But your reading of it is—must be—showbiz.

Molding Audience Expectations
The psychologists talk about “mind-set.” They use these words to refer to the mental and emotional expectation in individuals and groups that predisposes them to react to what they see and hear in a particular way. This is one of the great secrets of show business. Everything about a successful performance, all the peripherals and props, must predispose the audience to think “This is great!” And if that is what they do think, they are predisposed to enjoy, to approve, to applaud.

A typical rock music concert provides a wonderful example. What is the reality of it? Rather unattractive young performers stalk about the stage with unpleasant expressions on their faces, shouting bad lyrics to worse music. The music itself is performed with mediocre skill by musicians of more energy than talent. Yet thousands of spectators stand, cheer, and generally carry on as though in utter ecstasy of artistic enjoyment. They experienced what they expected to experience.

The Packaging Makes the Product
With rare exceptions, it is the packaging rather than the product that provokes this frenzied response. The mind-set of the audience is carefully prepared to facilitate it.

At such concerts there are only five or six musicians and singers performing on the stage. Yet the day before, legions of lighting specialists, sound technicians, stage hands, and others arrived with truckloads of paraphernalia and props—enough to make the magic appearance of the Wizard of Oz look like a child’s sparkler by comparison. Smoke rises from the stage, electronic fireworks illuminate vast auditoriums, sound systems capable of deafening a major modern city amplify beyond all imagining the lead singer’s clumsiest stroking of his guitar. The excitement is palpable. It is not just a concert; it is an experience.
Well, of course, you may not be able—or even willing—to match that act. But you can and must learn from it. Always keep in mind that the atmosphere of your reading is as important as the reading itself. If you want your audience to listen to you and to react enthusiastically to your verse (and buy your book), you’ve got to work to create an environment that encourages them to do so.
The fact is that most people don’t know what to do at a poetry reading including, in most cases, the poet. At a basketball game, when a player makes an unbelievably deft move and scores a key basket, you stand up and cheer. But when a poet turns out a near perfect line or passes through one of those “sudden rightnesses” that great poetry is made of, what’s to do? Shout “Yeah!” as they do at jazz concerts? Exactly. That is precisely the kind of reaction one should encourage. Yet the atmosphere of most readings is more like that of afternoon tea at the Ladies’ Missionary Society. Any show of real emotion is out of place. The atmosphere is not one of freedom but of inhibition.

You Can Change All That
You’ve got to work to change that. It may be a tall order, but you can do it. As you do more and more readings—of your own poetry and perhaps even the poetry of others—you will get better and better at it and have more and more fun. Those who come will truly enjoy themselves, and will create a reputation and positive public visibility for you that will be an asset for years to come. How are you going to do all this? Here are some steps that will get you started along the way.

Be Aggressive in Lining Up Readings
Line up as many readings as you can. In the beginning, explore every possibility, no matter how modest the opportunity. The first few readings are like a shakedown cruise. You get everything running right and coordinated. You learn your performer’s craft.
In order to accomplish this, you will want to do the following things:

• Utilize the same media kit that you used for your newspaper and TV publicity in building a schedule of readings. Send it to program chairpersons, then follow up with a telephone call. In each news article about your activities and in each TV appearance, get the word out that you do readings.
• Approach writers’ clubs, arts councils, public schools, community colleges, junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and other special organizations whose interests may coincide with the themes in your poetry. If your poetry is religious in nature, for instance, church groups may be interested in having you. Let those responsible for program planning know that you are ready, willing, and able to put on a superior performance at a moment’s notice.
• Stress the fact that your readings go beyond the ordinary and create enthusiastic audience response and active audience participation. Let them know that, more than a simple reading, your appearance will be an educational experience, a performance.
• Treat each of these readings with all the care and professionalism that you can muster.

Take Charge
There are sayings that have been around for years. They have been around and are still around because they are very, very true. One is that “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” Another comes from management seminars on small business.

“Nobody,” this saying goes, “cares about your business the way you do.”
You will do well to take both these pieces of advice to heart. As soon as you have a reading lined up, get in touch with the program chairperson. Find out who is responsible for getting the space ready for your appearance. Write up a paragraph or two outlining your needs, props, etc., for the chairperson’s use. Offer your help in arranging things the way you want them.

Create Powerful Publicity
One of the most important parts of taking charge is to make sure that publicity plans are well-made, well-scheduled, and as effective as possible. Here are some items to think about:

• Remember that your program chairperson knows very little about publicizing an event beyond, maybe, putting a little note in an organization newsletter.
• If there is to be such a note, you write it for your program chairperson. Fill it with the kind of information that will attract more attendees. Build excitement and anticipation. Let people know that your reading will be something out of the ordinary and is not to be missed.
• Send news releases announcing your appearance (and afterward, releases telling about it) to the local newspaper and to local radio and television stations.
• Offer to appear on their shows with some teasers from your performance.
• If possible organize a telephone campaign to contact people who might be interested in coming.
• Contact English teachers and ask that your program be announced in class. Perhaps it could be made the subject of a theme or paper.
• If the organization’s budget—or your own budget—can stand it, send out invitations to a selected guest list.

Nothing happens by itself. You have to make things happen. Remember that no one is as interested in your success as you are. What is your program chairperson’s chief concern? That the program not bomb. Convince the chairperson that you simply will not stand for anything less than a smashing success and that the glory will be his or hers as well as yours.

Create a Usable Space
Visit the premises several days before your performance. Allow yourself plenty of time to set things up (arrange the stage!) to suit you. Make certain that the room itself has a warm feeling and is as conducive to direct communication as possible. Often you may scout around the building and suggest that another location might be much more effective for your presentation. Decide where you want the lectern located, where the easels and other props go, where the refreshment table is to be located, and where your table of books for autographing will be.

You do not want too few people to rattle around in a large space. You don’t want to be cramped, but it is better to come close to filling up your space than to have yawning gaps of emptiness to fill up with your energy. Water boils faster in a small container; the steam whistles more quickly from a small teapot. The same dynamic relationship between space and energy holds true between performers and the space they work in. Test the PA system that you will be using.

Remember That You Are Planning a Performance
Plan your evening as though you were planning a performance—which is just what you are doing. Good performances are well-organized performances. Don’t wing it. Don’t trust to luck and improvise as you go. Have the presentation well-planned. Develop specific answers to questions such as these:

• When do I arrive?
• What am I going to say as I mingle with the audience during the social hour that will set the stage for my reading?
• Who will introduce me?
• What should the introducer say about me as a good lead in?
• Which pieces will I read, and in what order, so that I build to a climax?
• How do I get the audience involved?
• What do I say in closing?
• How do I let the audience know in the most effective way that I will be available to autograph my books?
Every good dramatic performance, as Aristotle taught two thousand years ago, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It builds slowly, reaches a climax, and then comes to a strong and satisfactory conclusion. Your reading must do the same thing.

Call On Friendly (and Free) Consultants in Staging and Drama
The one-man show has had a strong run of success on the stage in recent years: Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain and James Whitmore as Harry Truman are two examples that come to mind.
What makes such shows successful? Find out, and utilize these techniques yourself. If you have a friend in a community theater or an acquaintance who has experience in stage direction, consult them. If you don’t know such people, perhaps you can find them. Go to the local arts council, community college, or even the high school English department. Odds are you can find people who are ready and willing to help with suggestions and ideas. The question you put to your informal consultants is straightforward: How can I make a poetry reading a dramatic success? Gather as many ideas as you can, collate and sort them, and use the ones that work best for you.

Every Detail Is Important
Everything is important: what you wear, how you look, your tone of voice and the way you project it, the clarity of your diction and the expressiveness with which you read. Some rehearsal is definitely called for. Check your presentation on video. Your expert-friend-consultant can furnish important feedback here.

Before the Reading
You will have taken care that the room is completely set up according to your instructions before the audience arrives. If necessary, you will do this yourself. Here are some tips:

• The refreshment table will be in place. Refreshments will be served both before and after the reading.
• Your autograph table is nearby, with stacks of books and display boards (as described above for autograph parties).
• As people begin to come in, mingle with them and introduce yourself. Ask about their work and their interests, and listen attentively. Have someone nearby who can spot key attendees and point them out to you, introducing you to those whom you do not know.
• Do not socialize too long at this time. Allow the crowd to assemble, have a glass of wine, and shake your hand.
• Then you wind your way to the front of the room where you are to do your reading. No later than five minutes after the announced time for the beginning, you begin.

As the Evening Begins
There are some important preliminaries to attend to before the reading proper begins.

• An introduction must be carefully done—so carefully, in fact, that you can’t just leave it up to the program chairperson, who probably has no idea how to go about it. You will write an introductory script and give it to the chairperson. It can then be read or, if the chairperson is at ease in front of an audience, paraphrased.
• You must let the audience know what the overall organization of the evening will be—that you will give your reading and that afterwards refreshments will be served. During that time, you will hope to meet with everyone present and answer all questions and “just have fun talking about writing and publishing poetry.”
• The introducer will also announce that you will be available to autograph your books.
• The introducer (or you) will let the audience know who you are and what you have written. If you have published widely, mention some of the more impressive publications. If there are reviews, the introducer can quote these, so long as it is done in good spirits and in a low key. Many of those present will be poets (in fact or in their dreams) and will enjoy hearing about your professional trials, tribulations, and triumphs, so long as this is done in the right spirit of fun.

Down with Victorian Restraint!
Let the audience know that this is going to be a reading unlike others that they may have attended. Let them know that you welcome interaction, questions, even interruptions. Let them know that it is OK to make noise, to clap, whistle, shout encouragement—that it is OK to have fun with poetry.

I have often been struck by the fact that at poetry readings there seems to be no socially acceptable audience reaction other than polite, Victorian restraint. The poet finishes reading a piece and is met by dead silence. He has no idea where he stands with the audience. If they like it, silence. If they don’t like it, silence. If they don’t understand it, silence. And on to the next page. It is only their love of poetry that keeps them (mostly) awake.

This just won’t do. I have often—and very seriously—thought of giving out Halloween noisemakers at the door. As stirring passages are read appropriate sounds of approval can be made by shaking, swinging, whirling, or blowing into the devices furnished to the audience. Certainly it would impress on those attending that I was serious in inviting their reaction. It could work very nicely.

Warm Them Up
When you watch a live show on television—a comedy show like the Tonight Show or even a quiz show—the host always walks out to thunderous applause as the show begins. How, you may ask, could a cold audience reach such a pitch of enthusiasm in so short a time? The answer is that the audience is not cold at all. For an hour or more it has been warmed up, carefully primed for the moment you have just witnessed.

How can you warm your audience up? Here are some random ideas that will illustrate the kind of thing that I am talking about. These fit my personality. Others will occur to you that fit yours.

• Kick things off in a light vein, establishing a tone of fun and relaxed interplay for the evening. You might try something like a humorous introduction to the kinds of silence that universally befall poets at their readings. Then you may suggest what you think can be done about it and lead the audience in practicing boos and cheers and in using their noisemakers.
• Read surefire zingers from other poets—parts of Whitman’s Song of Myself, for instance. Such poetry can be fairly shouted out at an audience and ought to be greeted with shouts of approval and choruses of “Right-on’s.” Lead the cheers yourself. Also include some dismal stuff that you can all hiss and boo.
• Then read other well-known poems to indicate the range of reaction possible. Read difficult poems. Read them first as though you assume everyone understands. Then hand out a sheet with the poem printed on it and read again. Stress that poems are made with words, rhythms, and sounds, but also with the semantic properties of those sounds. So we may get more from it when we follow the text, at least the first time, with our eyes, especially when the poem is dense or difficult.
• Ask questions of your audience. Point at them. Jump up and down and yell at them if necessary, but get them involved.

Develop Your Own Patter
A stand-up performer continually talks to the audience, whetting its appetite, building its interest, heightening its reaction to the next part of the act.

When I was a boy I loved to go down to the stage shows that they used to put on at the old Bijou theatre in downtown Savannah. My favorites were the performances of the sleight-of-hand magicians. These old-time troupers would stand alone on the stage, perhaps with the help of a single assistant, sometimes with no help at all. They would surround the act of magic with constant talk. They would tell in all seriousness how they discovered the next marvel in the mysterious east. They would make us keenly aware of the difficulties of accomplishing a particularly complicated feat, such that we appreciated it all the more when it actually happened. They would entertain and amuse us with anecdotes and stories as the evening wore on.
A poet is a magician, too—a magician of words—and effective patter is just as necessary to his own act as to any other. What kind of patter? You will discover bits and pieces of it as you gain experience. For instance:

• Introduce each poem fully.
• Tell stories that let the audience see you as a human being struggling to find expression for a feeling, emotion, or experience that is particularly important to you.
• Tell them about the technical problems you encountered and how you solved them.
• You may find it useful to provide copies of any difficult pieces you are going to read or of any that you are going to use as examples in your talk.
• Understand that when you skip this patter and proceed to read your poems without the necessary introduction they are over before the audience has even begun to focus its attention on the piece you are reading. You lose the audience before you begin. The reading of a lyric poem is a little like the Kentucky Derby. The race itself is over in a matter of minutes. It’s the preliminaries that make the Derby the event that it is.
• Sprinkle your presentation with talk of other poets that you know and their own challenges and triumphs.
• Tell humorous—or otherwise—stories of how you got started and how you published your first bit of verse in that grade school newspaper.
• The more personal and direct your patter, the more warmly involved your listeners become and the more effective your reading will be.

As you do more and more readings, your patter will become more and more effective. You try new things, keep the ones that work best and discard the others.

Develop Your Own “Stump Speech”
Politicians who tour the country during electoral campaigns develop what they call a stump speech. Since they obviously cannot prepare a new talk for each of the scores of stops along their way, they develop one presentation that is slightly altered to suit individual groups and circumstances.

The presentation you develop is your poetical stump speech. You do not have to create a new presentation each time you go out. Instead, you keep refining the materials you have developed. Stick with what works best. You might use different anecdotes for grade school, high school, and university audiences, but the overall performance will be the same.
There will come a time when a dangerous illusion begins to form itself in your mind. You have done your routine so often that you will feel that others must have heard it as many times as you have and become bored with it. If this were true, every Broadway play, even the best, would close after the first month.
This is a common but mistaken feeling among those who appear frequently in public. Remember that for each new audience your presentation is as fresh as the dew and that your only challenge is to remain as enthusiastic and involved as they are.

These Techniques Will Work for You
Everything I say in this chapter, all the techniques I recommend, will work. I know this because I have used them all. Most important, however, is the principal of the thing: a poetry reading must be treated as a performance.
There are certainly different approaches that will work, and many that may work very well for you when they would not for me or anyone else. These grow out of your special talents and interests. Maybe you will strum on a guitar while you read your verse. Maybe you will appear in costume. Maybe you will get the audience involved in creating an instant poem through games like the surrealists’ “Exquisite Corpse” (Cadavre exquis), where nouns, verbs, exclamations, etc., are written down by the assembled group on separate scraps of paper and a poem is made by drawing them out of hats as needed. The results can often be extraordinary in their creation of powerful and astonishing imagery.

But whatever you do, your fame and name will spread, and, if you work persistently to schedule readings and then do them with drama and flair, you will begin a gratifying career of writing, publishing and selling your poems. And—wonder of wonders—you may even begin to make money. The fact that you treat your readings as performances will put you in a class apart.

Sell Your Poems
During the reading, you will have created a spirited and pleased group of new friends. When the performance is over, many of them will gather around the “back of the room” table where you have spread out your books to continue the fun, discuss poetry, and stretch the evening as much as possible.

You will, of course, want to sell some books. Again, the path of wisdom is to have a friend make the first purchase to let the others know just how to go about it. The sponsors of the reading can be recruited to make change. You can also do this yourself, but it is difficult to carry on conversations, autograph books and make change at the same time.

You should take steps to optimize your sales and your profits. The attitude that poetry is a genteel activity not to be sullied by mere money is widespread—and it is as strange as it is wrong. Do you not like to eat? Do you not travel, buy books, give presents to the kids at Christmas?

You can offer other books for sale as well as your own. “How-to” titles (like this one, for instance) can be bought from their publishers at discounts ranging from 40 to 50 percent, usually depending on the quantities purchased. The difference between your purchase price and the retail price that you sell them for is all profit.

Talk to your audience about these books. Work some mention of them naturally into your presentation. Describe how and in what ways they have been valuable to you. Hold them up in your hand. You cannot help but sell some of them at each reading. When you are firmly established, you might arrange with your bank to offer charge card service.

You might also offer audio cassettes of your own presentations and the presentations of others, which you will purchase and sell on the same discount terms.

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