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Can You Make A Living Through Poetry?

No, really. Can you make a living through poetry?

For many people in love with the written word, nothing sounds quite as appealing as making a living through poetry—or even just making a living writing. After all, who wouldn't want to make money through their passion? 

The problem with making a living as a poet, though, is that the market is flooded. There are literally millions of people out there with the same dream who want to do the exact same thing. So, can you make a living through poetry writing? 

Yes, you can. However, it's not easy, there's a high chance you won't succeed, and you'll need to approach the entire concept extremely intelligently. Here are the smartest routes you can take if you want to earn money using your poetry skills. 

Work to build a core audience via social media.

Many of the people who are making money with their poetry do so because they managed to cultivate an audience for their poetry through Twitter, Instagram, or similar social media platforms. If you have enough people who love your work, you will be able to make money when you sell books and merchandise. 

A couple of words of advice: 

  • Stick to a specific theme or a specialty shtick. Going all over the place with your poetry while having no rhyme or reason to what you'll post next isn't a good marketing plan. You want to have a cohesive voice or a special theme you work in your poetry. For example, Reddit user /u/poem_for_your_sprog got a massive following because they had a witty poem reply for a ton of AskReddit threads. 
  • Approach this as a business endeavor. Your writing career is a business. If you want to make a living through poetry, you better expect to treat this as a potential income source before you even earn a penny. 
  • Post frequently. You can't build a brand without posting regularly. People will forget you if you only post once in a blue moon. 

Start submitting poetry to literary magazines.

Literary magazines are good for building up your portfolio, and most reputable ones will pay up to $50 per submission or more. If you get a large enough list and are a really skilled poet, this can easily net you around $500 per year or more. 

That being said, it's not enough to make a living alone. Use this option as something to supplement your current income. 

Sell lyrics to bands.

Did you know that there are a lot of people who are professional songwriters and lyricists? It's true. A lot of major bands actually struggle with writing words to their songs, and if you have a keen sense of rhythm and music, you can make some money doing this. 

What you need to understand is that selling lyrics isn't often done in the mainstream music business. There are ways to become a professional lyricist, though, and much of your success as a lyricist is via networking. You will need a thick skin for this. This guide tells you more about what you need to do to become a lyricist. 

However, there are some sites that claim to allow you to sell lyrics to bands online. They're worth a shot, and if you're lucky, you might end up getting a pretty paycheck in the form of royalties. Should you get a solid rep among bands, you may find yourself making a ton of money. 

Can you make a living through poetry? If you're a lyricist, absolutely! You can earn as much as $100,000 per project when you get to the higher ranks, making this a very good way to make money if you have thick skin. 

Get published via a publishing house.

I will not sugarcoat this. Most people who ask if you can make a living through writing are asking about if you can make money getting published as a poet. My knee-jerk response to this is that it is possible, just exceptionally improbable. 

Most poets, even the successful ones, will not make much money from book sales and royalties. Publishers, too, are very unlikely to accept poetry books into their arsenal compared to other options. 

This is because poetry anthologies aren't really as popular or as lucrative as other genres like cookbooks, fiction, or even college textbooks. If you have a poetry following online, this may be a bit different. Even so, most authors will only make about $1000 a year or so from book royalties. 

Can you make a living through poetry sales? Unless you're really unusual in your skill and followership, probably not. Even so, there have been some poets who have made as much as $15,000 in royalties. So, there's always a chance this could make a good impact on your income. 

Sell poems to greeting card companies.

Yes, this is a real thing. 

What's amazing is that you can earn a pretty decent amount of money doing this. One woman actually earned $50,000 in one year selling things to greeting card companies. 

The problem? Well, not all greeting card companies want poems. If you choose to make a living through poetry going this route, you might need to be flexible in what you write. However, some major companies like Hallmark do have in-house writers. 

If you have a good portfolio of poetry and greeting card submissions, there's a chance they may hire you. However, it's not an easy field to break into.

So, can you make a living through poetry?

Absolutely, if you have the talent, the work ethic, and the business sense to do so. However, it's not exactly easy to do so. My advice? Start working on it, but don't quit your day job quite yet!

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