When I was an undergraduate, one of my peers had written a book of poems, and she wanted to publish them. But she hadn’t, to my knowledge, published any single poem. So how, I wondered, would she get her book published?
Soon after, I had one of my own poems accepted by a literary journal in south Florida. I was so excited, I subscribed to the journal. The journal ended up folding–if it was ever a journal to begin with. My poem was never published, and I never got my subscription money back.
Since that time, I’ve seen people get their poems accepted at places that then ask them to buy the book the poem appeared in. Like me, they are happy to spend the money to see their name in print. But it’s a scam. The purpose of these publications is merely to make money.
Likewise, I’ve seen people self-publish, pay a company to print their poems in book form. It seems a little empty to me.
So how do you publish a book of poems?
If you develop your talent and are persistent and lucky, you do what Katherine Larson did. Her first collection of poems, Radical Symmetry, was selected by Louise Glück as winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets and published by Yale University Press. Her work has appeared or in Poetry, Notre Dame Review, and The Massachusetts Review, among other places.
It turns out that contests like this are probably the main way published poets find their first book publication. To learn more about first book publications, check out Keith Montesano’s blog, First Book Interviews. These poets give the inside scoop of their journeys into print.