How to Make Money With Poetry

By Eric Hammer

It is every poet's dream to make money with poetry. Sadly however, very, very few people make much money if anything at all from their poetry. Poetry is very much a labor of love rather than a way to make money. That said, there are a large number of ways to turn your poetry into cash, if you are good, though even the best poets alive today rarely make their entire living from their poetry (and if they do, they're likely not doing it writing the kind of poetry you typically would write if you were a poet; more on this in a moment).

First, you can always look for magazines that publish poetry. A large number of such magazines exist and they do pay for poems they like. However, the money you can make is typically no more than token payments (anywhere from $1 to $25, though occasionally you can find professional places that offer several hundred dollars for a poem). Plus, the competition is extremely fierce.

If you are very good and already well known, you could also publish a book of your poetry, though again, books of poetry rarely make much money. Even famous poet's work such as Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, which are quoted all the time make very little money for publishers who offer them in collections in book form.

Finally, you may be able to make money with poetry by selling it for a variety of non poetic uses. You can sell poems to song producers who may turn them into a song. Another very big market for poems is greeting cards. Keep in mind however, that in both these cases, you are not going to have the freedom to write poems that express deep inner meaning for you. Instead, these need to be short and snappy with a clear message that anyone can understand, even people who don't like poetry. Plus, they typically need to be happy messages.

How Much Can You Make?

Those looking exclusively for ways to make money with poetry will find that they can't make much. Even those who regularly publish poetry professionally make only a few thousand dollars a year from the job. For the average poet, if your poem gets published and you make a small, token payment, you should consider it a good day.

On the other hand, those who write commercial poetry (i.e., songs, jingles and greeting card poems) do make in the neighborhood of $50,000 per year. The catch is that most poets don't consider this "poetry," at least not in the classical sense of the term.

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Bottom line: few people if any work ONLY as professional poets, writing poetry all day. That said, many professional poets do many money with poetry by offering their services as lecturers in universities and tutors so that they work in the world of poetry, but not necessarily only in the writing of the stuff.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are absolutely no criteria required to get published except that your work is truly exceptional and worthy of publication. However, if you want to work as a university professor or even a tutor, expect to need at least a Master's degree and possibly a PhD to get such a job.

First Steps

Start by visiting poetry forums online and hone your skill. Show off your work to others. Then, look for professional markets to get yourself published in. Once you are established, it's often easier to make money with poetry from less conventional methods.


Check out these helpful resources to find out more about how to make money with poetry:

Ezine Articles: How to Make Money From Poetry - A very good guide to writing poetry professionally and making money when doing it.

The Poet Sanctuary - A web forum devoted exclusively to poets.

Duotrope - Not specifically devoted to poetry, this web site lists nearly 1,000 markets that buy fiction. Many of these markets also purchase poetry. You can search by keyword for the word poetry at the duotrope web site. (Just click on "Show more search options" and put "poem" into the keyword search).

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