When is it Time to Publish Your Poetry Collection?

The short answer is whenever you damn well please, but there’s a longer answer

You are a poet. You’ve been poeting and poeting and are thinking, with all this poeting, shouldn’t I release all these wonderful poems in a collection?

The short answer — yes, go for it! I mean what have you got to lose? It just feels so good to put your work out into the world and take your place as a published poet-author.

How do you know if it is the right time?

First, let’s talk about your why, before we can address your when. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • WHY do I want to publish a book?
  • If not one person buys my book, do I still need to do this?


  • Are you personal friends with Oprah or Reese Witherspoon? (If so, what the heck are you waiting for? And can you get them a copy of my book, please?)

If you establish that you are writing poetry because you want to, you need to, and no matter what happens, you need to compile your work into a book that is bearing down on your mind, haunting you, and screaming at you that it wants to be a book — then go. Go ahead. Do it. Follow the idea and make it something you love.

If you know in your heart it is time, then it is time.

But what if your goals go beyond that?

You want to sell them, increase your name recognition, get noticed as a poet, get some recognition for a body of work that seems, to you, to belong in a collection.

This is where timing comes in and you need to address a few things to make sure the timing is right for your book.

  • People are not asking you if you have a book out, but “Where can I buy your book? — This is a good sign that your readers are ready and that they perceive you are far enough along in your career to be at the level of “published poet. They just assume you have a book, already. You’ve been submitting your work to magazines, contests, and literary journals, but let’s face it — this could take a decade. It’s time for you to take matters in your own hands and get a book together on your own.
  • You have a following. You’ll need a substantial web of potential readers and buyers in place so that you have someone to market this book to. Otherwise, you may as well be one of those poor souls who make a living “cold-calling” customers and trying to sell them magazines. (This is a terrible job. I sucked at it.)
  • You have a body of work that can be organized into a theme of some sort and an idea for how you want your book to be arranged. You will need to design it or have people you can get to do it for you. Fiverr is a great resource for people who may do some of this work for reasonable rates.

(Keep in mind — I am focused here on self-publishing. Traditional publishing is a different process altogether. A few words on this later.)

  • You have resources and a bit of know-how. — It’s not a super-hard process but it can be daunting. Do your research. Here is an article on how to prepare your manuscript and load it into the KDP system if you choose to use Amazon: The Complete Guide to Uploading a Marketable Book on Amazon KDP
  • You are ready and willing — to dedicate your time and energy to marketing your book, doing open mic reads, scheduling presentations or readings so that you can meet potential readers and sell books. You will be the legs and mouthpiece for your book so you will need to be prepared for this end of things if you want relative success for your book.
  • You can take a punch. — You’ll need a bit of humility for the “peddling” aspect of book marketing and have a strong enough sense of self to not take it personally if it does not sell or you get negative reviews. Poetry is very personal and a lot of people write it from a very therapeutic place, but once it is in the hands of your reader, it is their experience, not yours. There is a bit of letting go and hanging onto your own spine here. Make sure you are ready for it and come at it from a place of strength. You cannot tie your self-esteem to the success of the book.

A few words on other options.

You can always choose to submit your book into contests. This takes time, a LONG time, but winning a poetry book contest is a surefire way to break into the genre as a credible poet. I chose to write two books. I self-published one and the other will make rounds in poetry chapbook contests. I am looking into post-publication contests for the published one as well. I will probably enter it once a month in 2020 to give it more chances to be chosen.

You can also choose traditional publishing. This is a wonderful route but difficult. If you have another published non-poetry book, you can hope your agent will get onboard with a poetry book that can ride the coattails of the previous book. Some agents and publishing houses are not interested in poetry as it is notoriously a “hard sell” but a good relationship with them may help you get it pushed through.

While these are a few things to consider, they are not all-inclusive, nor are they “rules.” You, above anyone else, will know when the time is right for your book to come together.

If you know in your heart it is time, then it is time.

Then…be ready. Because you may just be crazy enough to want to do it again and again and again.

Christina Ward 🎄 is a poet, writer, and cheerleader for other poets on this difficult but undeniably metamorphic journey. Become a fan.

𝘐 𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘥 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘫𝘢𝘮.

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