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Reader Question: How Can Freelance Writers Sell Poetry & Fiction?

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The type of freelance writing most often discussed here is business writing -- anything from copywriting to freelance blogging. But there are paying markets for just about any type of writing you can think of -- including creative writing like poetry and fiction.

That's what Daniel Cowick wanted to talk about when he submitted this question on freelance writing markets:

I write poetry, prose, lyrics, and some fiction and want to be a freelance writer. Any specific tips / advice for starting that type of career? Is self-publishing an effective route? Any information or advice is much appreciated. Thank you.

Well, Daniel, this is a rare freelance writing question I'm not 100% comfortable answering because, like you, I'm still hoping to break into some of these types of markets. I just submitted my first poem for consideration on January 1st, and I'm planning to start a weekly submission routine soon. Similar for short fiction, where I'm focusing on horror short stories more this year. I'd be thrilled to get one of each published in 2018. But I'll also be thrilled to get some rejections flowing just for the sake of knowing I'm trying.

So that's what I can suggest: if you want to get published in creative markets, you'll need to get used to the pitching and rejection process.

Sounds easy enough, but where can you find these kinds of markets to pitch? Here are a few places to get you started:

  • The All Freelance Writing Markets Database (You can use the search for markets accepting poetry, or browse to the fiction category.)
  • WritingCareer.com (Keep an eye on new calls for submission here to see what's currently in-demand.)
  • DarkMarkets.com (If you write horror, sci-fi, or anything along those lines you'll find plenty of fiction markets here.)

Of course, you could also get a copy of Writer's Market to keep on-hand when you're looking for new publications to pitch. Or you can subscribe to their database.

If you already have a stockpile of polished poetry and stories you'd like to pitch, a market directory is a good bet. If you want to write something new and see what publications are looking for for a specific upcoming issue, then lists like those at Writing Career will be a better fit. Those places will (hopefully) help you find homes for your fiction, prose, and poetry.

For lyrics, I'm afraid I can't be of much help. I'm long removed from my music industry days, and at that point artists I worked with almost exclusively handled their own lyrics or had long-time writing partners. But Writer's Digest does have a Songwriter's Market book that might be of help.

What about you? Can you recommend any market listings or lyric-sales tips for Daniel? If so, tell us about them in the comments.

Latest posts by Jennifer Mattern (see all)

7 thoughts on “Reader Question: How Can Freelance Writers Sell Poetry & Fiction?”

  1. Poets and Writers has a ton of listings for fiction and poetry. They also have listings of literary agents, contests, and grants. I recommend that he subscribe to their free newsletter to get updates. https://www.pw.org

    Duotrope also has a wealth of listings and a submissions tracker. There’s a fee to join.

    Reply
  2. You can not write and earn money and should not write just to earn money. However, if you are novice writer and don’t have much knowledge about the field, straightly to say, you can not earn a penny through it.

    But if you don’t just write but scribble your emotions on paper through poetry then you could make a collection of all the poetries and an peak of your instance you may publish a book through writing poetry which will eventually land you in place of filling your pockets !

    Reply
  3. Hey Jennifer, how are you? I’ve been reading your stuff for at least the last couple of years or so, and I’d recommend anything you have to say to anyone aspiring to a professional writing career. In Daniel’s question he does ask for tips and advice and even though I’m not a professional writer I would like to point out a couple of things. First off you should know that I’m a retired business professional that includes 15 years service with the Air Force and Navy. I started out writing non-fiction, informational and how to stuff, because I thought it would be easier to make money. I decided to research and write about topics that I’m passionate about or of interest to me. I authored 11 books, put them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc. and they make a few hundred dollars a year, nothing to write home about. To go all serious on you, it’s all about the marketing. I admit, I don’t do as much as I should. Unless you can write the next breakout novel or major hit song, poetry and fiction are a tough sell. In the last 10 years I’ve written 25 poems, 4 short stories, a crime drama novella formatted as a spec script, and a children’s story formatted as a spec script for a feature animation. I’ve written more than 80 songs, some have been recorded by a band in Nashville, and to date, I’ve not made a penny, but I really don’t mind because I love what I do. Next, it is essential that you have your own website, you can check out mine if you like, www.sprangpublishing.com, and from your website you should start and update your own blog. That’s something I’m working on now. If you decide to go it alone, you’ll be constantly writing, marketing, a tweaking everything you do. Anyway, I hope this helps Daniel. I don’t plan to give up, don’t you give up either, just keep marketing, creating, and listening to Jennifer.
    Johnny

    Reply
  4. Actually Sometimes, I also write. I love writing and by your informative post I got to know about how I can sell my talent to earn money. Very well explained. Nicely written. You might be awesome as a person just like as you are as a blogger.
    Thanks again .. 🙂

    Reply
  5. There aren’t very many ways to make money as a poet. You could teach poetry at a university if you have a degree or two to back it up. As mentioned in other posts, write verse for greeting cards. If you meet a really good musician you could be a lyricist for their songs. I think the odds of that happening are slim. Get a job and write poetry for fun. Then there will be no pressure to produce.

    Reply
    • This site is for writers who care about earning a living doing what they love — not just “writing for fun.” There are plenty of ways to make money writing poetry (or anything else for that matter). Those who care enough about doing that will find a way — greeting cards and lyrics are a start (though you’re right — getting in with musicians isn’t easy unless you know them personally as so many write their own). But there are also journals, online poetry publications, consumer magazines (especially those targeting young readers — they frequently buy poetry), submitting to editors putting together themed collections, publishing your own collections, and writing poetry directly for consumers (while I don’t support the sleazy practice of writing things like private love poetry that I sometimes see advertised on classified sites as it’s a writer helping someone else essentially be dishonest to someone they claim to care about for a buck, businesses use verse in their copy at times and that would make for a rather unique specialty for a poet with copywriting skills). If you want to turn a passion into a career, you learn to get creative about it. You don’t give up and decide it should only be a hobby. And, for the record, pressure isn’t a bad thing. It’s often a motivator — the reason writers push through the hard times. You don’t succeed in this world by only writing when you feel like it or when it feels like fun.

      Reply

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