So at this stage in your career as a poet, you’ve probably written a good number of poems, had them sent to various poetry journals, and even read them in poetry communities and open mics. Some of your poetry may have already been published in anthologies, online journals, and print magazines.
But you feel like it’s time to take it to the next level and put together a book manuscript. You’re not sure how you can go about it, but you know you want a book manuscript that can be submitted to different publishers.
In this article, we’ll be looking at a step by step guide that you can follow to turn your poetry into a book.
Make Your Poem Selection
The first thing to do is to type (or print, if it’s already on your computer) out all the poems you’re thinking of adding to your book; one poem to a page (unless when the poem is longer than a single page). Use this opportunity to make minor revisions to any of the individual poems you feel needs altering.
Decide on the Size of the Book
The next thing to get you started is to decide how big you want the book to be. A typical chapbook is usually about 20 to 30 pages while a full-length collection is about 50 pages or more. You may change your mind as you’re selecting and ordering the poems but deciding the size gives you a good starting point.
After deciding on the length of the book, go through the pages you typed or printed out, put the poems you think belong together in some way to groups. You can create a series of poems or a general theme from each cluster. Or you could group them according to how they were written. So poems that you wrote in a particular form or a specific chronological sequence are put in the same group.
Don’t Rush the Process
After putting your poems into different groups, allow them to sit overnight without thinking of them. Go through each pile the next day and just read through them. Remember, you’re looking at them not as an author but as a reader. Since you’re the writer and you probably know your poems well, you may find yourself skipping ahead. So read them out loud and take the time to listen to each poem carefully
After reading through your stack of poems, remove any poem(s) you believe no longer fits into a particular group. Then put all the poems you want to keep together in the reading order you want your audience to experience them.
You may find yourself doing a lot during this stage; reshuffling the poems, moving one poem from one group to another, combining groups of poems, or even creating new and different groups. This process is completely natural, so you have no reason to worry about it. As you reshuffle and reorganize, you may come across an idea for a new chapbook or book, or change your mind about a decision you’ve already made. The important thing is to allow it flow naturally until you get something you’re completely comfortable with.
Take another Breather
After pairing and reordering each pile of poems, allow them to sit on their own for another night. Use this opportunity to ponder over your reading, and go through the poems in your head for the one that stands out and how well they mesh together.
Pay close attention any other poem that may have resonated in your head when you were reading an individual pile. You may decide to add them back to the pile or replace similar sounding poems with it.
Re-evaluate the Length of Your Book
Give the length of your book another consideration. You may decide to use one of your stacks as a chapbook, or you may choose to put everything together into a long manuscript collection. You can also decide to combine some of your piles into sections within your full-length book.
Create the Actual Book
If you like you’ve been spending too much time shuffling your poems, and you’re not getting the shape of the book you desire, try making what you have into an actual book that you can leaf through. Make multiple copies and staple them together, or punch holes in the pages and add them to a binder notebook or you could use your computer to print them in a book format.
Pick a Title
After deciding on the length as well as the general shape of the book, the next thing you want to do is pick out a title. Perhaps you already had one in mind, or you were inspired by a particular poem while you were still shuffling through
Make sure you meticulously proofread the entire manuscript. Go through every page from start to finish and make sure there are no mistakes. You may be tempted to just scan through since you’re familiar with the work, if that happens, give yourself a couple of days as a break before you come back to go through and this time, give it your full attention.
Finally, you can pick out a publisher you wish to drop your manuscript with. Remember to follow all their guidelines and adhere to their terms and conditions.