Ask any poet you know if they ever considered making a living from their writing and you’re likely to get an incredulous laugh in response. That’s because most poets—particularly the ones who have tried to do it—understand that the prospect of making a career out of their poetry is slim… well, very slim.
In her article “Livelihood of the Poets,” Rachel Friedman writes: The three best-selling poetry books of 2011 were: Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins, Leavings by Wendell Berry, and Come, Thief by Jane Hirshfield. Collins sold 28,406 copies of Horoscopes. If we estimate a 10% royalty rate, he made around $44,177 on it. Berry, in second place, only sold 2,928 copies of Leavings, making him about $4,377. Hirshfield did similarly, selling 2,250 copies earning $5,625.
Granted, even if you made it to the number-one bestseller spot, $44k is arguably not a liveable wage in many parts of the country. With that thought in mind, as a poet, you might want to keep your day job even if your work becomes a bestseller. However, if you’re looking to make a sizeable side income from your writing, that goal might be far less of a pipe dream than making a living from it.
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. In my new book Poetprenuer: How To Make Money With Poetry, I will show you the smartest routes you can take if you want to earn money using your poetry skills. It’s a free book. Click book card below to download now.