How To Promote Your Poetry Without Paying A Penny

Written by Emily Harstone | February 26, 2014

Updated January 19th 2017

Many writers ask me this question all the time: “How do you promote your poetry without paying anyone?” There is more then one answer to this question, but it mostly comes back to hard work. In my experience, outside of paying to enter contests, it is very easy to promote one’s work for free.

Here are 8 ways that I have found to be the most effective.

1. Submit to Literary Journals

There is no way around this fact. If your work is accepted by a literary journal they will promote your work for you. Not only that, but you can add the name of their publication to your author’s bio. Each time you are published by a literary journal you make another connection in the literary world to an editor. Sometimes these ties are weak and you never interact beyond a superficial level, but other times they lead to publications in other literary magazines and even chapbooks or full length manuscript publication.

If you have no ideas how to start submitting we have several articles here that would be helpful for you including: Why You should Submit to Literary Journals, Three Tips for Submitting Your Work, and Print Versus Online Journals. We are also publishing a book all about submitting soon, so keep an eye out for that.

Some literary journals charge writers a “Reading fee” to submit and that has become more popular over the last two years, still there are thousands that don’t. Reading fees are not worth it. All the literary journals we review have fee free submission options.

2. Have A Website or Blog

You do not have to pay to have a website or blog. Therefore as a writer who wants to get their work out there, you have no excuse not to have one. I have a professional website that links to all of my publications, contains a lengthy bio, and sells my chapbooks. I have sold chapbooks to strangers in Newfoundland based entirely on the existence of the website.

When I publish my work in a journal my website is always listed in my bio. When my work is published in a journal I always link to that journal from my website. This cycle of promotion is very helpful.

I also have a blog that I update sporadically. I do not post any poems on my blogs but I know many poets that do.

3. Use Facebook

Many writers have Authors Pages on Facebook. In the poetry community I belong to, that is frowned upon. Instead most of the poets I know will add any other poet on Facebook, but they filter the content they see. So these poet friends who you don’t know don’t see anything personal because of privacy settings.

I don’t do this, but I still have over 400 friends, so whenever I have a publication I post a link on Facebook and generally this link is shared by other people, and my poem is read by my Facebook friends, those that are interested in poetry, and some who are just curious.

4. Join a Poetry Community

Being part of a poetry community is a great thing. You have friends to talk about poetry with. You will be able to promote their work and they will promote your work. It is a wonderful thing. You can talk to each other about opportunities for grants and for publication.

Finding a poetry community can be tricky but a good place to start is by going to a poetry writing class held at a local bookstore or community college. You can also meet people by attending poetry readings and other literary events. Be brave, make friends, and network.

5. Go to Open Mics

Open Mics are events were people from the community come together and read their work. It can be exclusively poetry, but it could also include short fiction, and even music. Start attending and then reading at an open mike. I suggest attending at least one before reading. Each open mic tends to have its own crowd of regular attenders and it is good to know who they are before reading the first time.

Often you will have an opportunity to sell books or copies of your poems at open mics, so if you have published anything, bring a copy.

6. Join an Online Poetry Community

If your really shy in person, live rural, or just want to expand your current poetry community, a great way to do that is to join an online community.

Most of these communities are forum based. One of the biggest is SheWrites, for female writers of all genres. But there are many, many others. Look up writing forums and feedback on Google and scan a few, try to find one that works for you. In many, you can post your poem and get editing feedback. You can also give others feedback. Giving good feedback is a great way to become part of a community.

There are also a number of active poetry communities on Facebook. Search through Facebook groups to find one that might work for you. Often joining one Facebook community leads to others. Some of the best writing groups on Facebook are secret invitation only groups, but often joining one of the public ones and being active in it, often leads to the private groups.

7. Start a Writing Group

Writing groups are important and I have written about them before in the article How to Find A Writing Group. Personally my writing group is a wonderful circle of support and promotion. Everyone is there for the other writers in the group. Several of my pieces have been published because of advice from the group.

Because members of my writing group have become the editors of literary journals and regularly rotate guest editor positions I receive a number of solicited submission requests from them every year. When your work is directly solicited it is almost always accepted.

8.  Join Tumblr (Or Twitter, or . . . )

Facebook is not the only big social media site anymore. There are others around and they each have different personalities in terms of poetry. Maybe browse a few to see which ones would work for you. I am only going to cover 2 of them but there are many more out there.

Tumblr (a micro blogging site) has a huge poetry community and a supportive one at that. People publish their work on Tumblr and share friend’s work. However, it is important to note two things. The first is that Tumblr skews towards a younger audience and most of the poets there are young and interested in spoken word. If that is in your area of interest you should definitely join tumblr. Lang Leav became a best selling poet in part because of Tumblr.

A lot of poets use Twitter to communicate parts of their poems, a line here, a line there. Because you can never use more than a 140 characters at a time, Twitter forces you to be creative. Also, a lot of Twitter poets have come up with inventive ways of using hashtags to communicate ideas.

There is also a growing number of popular poets on Instagram. They often post their poems or excerpts from their poems as memes.