Thanks for your question! I'm in the same situation - trying to find a
publisher for my poetry manuscript - and thought I could offer you
Generally, it's tough to get a grant unless you're at least somewhat
established/known as a poet - that is, either previously published in
book form or widely published in magazines/periodicals. The poetry
grants I usually see advertised are targeted to poets at "mid-career"
or with at least one book under their belt. Also, it sounds like your
book is a finished work - grants are usually intended to cover a
writer's living expenses while he or she is creating a work.
As pinkfreud and papajone suggested, subsidy or self-publishing your
book is an option. With subsidy publishing, you generally pay a
company to publish your book, then collect royalties. Subsidy
publishing usually includes some form of "marketing," though it's
usually minimal. With self-publishing, you pay for the production of
your books, do all of the promotion and retain all sales. An advantage
is that you retain all rights to your work; subsidy publishers
sometimes require you to sign away certain rights.
There are several drawbacks to subsidy and self-publishing:
- Subsidy and self-published books aren't usually carried in
bookstores or libraries, limiting your readership
- Reviewers tend not to take subsidy or self-published books
seriously, assuming you choose one of those routes because no
traditional publisher wanted your manuscript
- No editing ? since you're paying a subsidy publisher up front, they
generally just print your book "as is" with little concern for
quality. With self-publishing, unless you contract the services of an
editor, you don't have the benefit of an outsider's eye to evaluate
- Subsidy publishers claim to market your work, but often just place a
token ad buried deep within a newspaper and send out a couple copies
for review. With self-publishing, you're responsible for all the
promotional footwork. If you're not a business type to begin with,
trying to convince stores and people to buy your books can be quite a
- Finally, most writing associations won't accept a subsidy or
self-published book as a qualification for membership or any of the
writing awards they administer, which limits your probability of
landing a grant in the future.
If you decide to proceed with subsidy publishing and money's a
concern, you may want to consider electronic subsidy publishing.
Electronic subsidy publishers operate on the same basic concept as
hard-copy subsidy publishers, but your initial investment is much
cheaper, anywhere from 0 to several hundred dollars. Your royalties
are usually much higher, and you can often have your e-book listed in
online bookstores. Somewhere between traditional and electronic
subsidy publishing is print on demand (POD) publishing, in which a
company stores your book electronically and prints and distributes
hard copies to buyers as requested.
If you prefer to have your book published the old-fashioned way, the
best approach is to query an editor with a cover letter and several
sample poems ? don't risk turning the editor off by drowning him/her
in your full book. In your cover letter, introduce yourself and cover
the basics: how many poems the proposed book would contain, any
prevalent themes, and any publishing credits you may have. Offer to
send the full manuscript at the editor's request, and be sure to
include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for his/her reply. If
you've not heard back after several months, it's a good idea to send a
follow-up letter or email to inquire about your submission's status.
One of the beauties of marketing poetry is that while it's
time-consuming, it's not expensive ? while novelists get all the
prestige, they almost always have to pay an agent to shop their work
A big advantage to publishing poetry with a traditional publishing
house is increased exposure/status/connections; it's hard enough to
get an audience for traditionally published poetry books, let alone
for subsidy or self-published poetry! And you don't have to start with
Random House - there are many small publishing houses that are
respected in the industry and are often more open to new and
Finally, I'd like to mention contests. Poets sometimes have their
manuscripts "discovered" through contests sponsored by publishers, who
publish the winning book and often throw in a cash reward. There's
often a small fee to enter (typically $10-$20), but it may be worth
your while. Small presses often run chapbook contests, publishing what
amount to small poetry leaflets as opposed to full-sized books. They
aren't usually carried by bookstores or libraries but nonetheless can
help you to get some exposure.
Here are some links you may find helpful:
"Electronic Subsidy Publishing: An Inexpensive Alternative" by Moira Allen
< http://www.writing-world.com/publish/esubsidy.shtml >
Funds for Writers
< http://www.fundsforwriters.com >
An excellent site by C. Hope Clark with information on grants,
funding, contests and markets for the beginning to serious writer.
Check out her email newsletters.
< http://www.instantpublisher.com >
Poets and Writers magazine
< http://www.pw.org >
Classifieds section includes calls for manuscripts, contest listings,
grant information, etc.
Poet's Market 2005
This definitive resource is updated yearly and contains sections on
grants and awards, large and small publishing houses, contests and
In addition to drawing upon my personal knowledge, I used the
following search terms to find your answer:
print on demand
electronic subsidy publishing
If you have any questions or require clarification, please let me
know. All the best!