How to market your poetry reading: first steps

Fiendish poetry marketing plan

Here’s how to market your poetry reading. Get your venue, readers and the practicalities sorted out by following the advice in this post: How to organise a literary event – and why it’s easier than you think. You need to know the venue, who will be reading, and the date / time. Once you’ve got your practicalities in place, here’s what you can do to market your event. Some questions for you:

  • Do you actually want or need to market your work?
  • Who do you want to come?

By the way, I’m using ‘poetry’ as short hand for ‘the kind of poetry or spoken word on show at your event or something similar to it’ – let’s acknowledge that there are lots of different kinds of poetry events around.

Do you actually want or need to market your work?

There’s a continuum here. Some poets – the ones that absolutely do not need to read this blog post – are so media savvy that they’re all over social media and YouTube, have a blog, a booking page, are selling stuff via their website. These are going to be the same poets who put themselves out there in other ways, who perform their work, who go to festivals and events, who run masterclasses, who submit stuff, who reach out to other poets. At the other end of the continuum are the other poets who won’t read this blog post: those poets who don’t want to market their work full stop, either because they just don’t want to, or they’re shy, or because someone else (an event organiser, a poetry journal, a publisher) does it for them.

This blog post is for poets who actually want, or need to market their work. Perhaps you are a little reluctant to market your readings and events. Perhaps you find the whole idea of Twitter, Facebook etc. off-putting. Perhaps you don’t want to do it, but you need to. For instance, you’ve got a book deal or a reading coming up and part of the deal is that you help advertise. Or perhaps you’re into the idea of marketing your event, but you don’t really know where to start. Does that sound like you? Read on!

Who do you want to come?

So here’s the thing, and it’s one of the most important tips I can give you: your target audience isn’t ‘everyone’ or ‘anyone who fancies it’. You don’t want people who aren’t interested in poetry to turn up, and that’s way too broad a target anyway.

You’ve got to answer a the following question if you want to market your poetry reading effectively, and you’ve got to answer it honestly: who do you want to come to your reading?

Broadly speaking, your target audience is going to be people who are interested in the kind of poetry featured at the event. Poets, editors, readers, and their friends. But it’s time to uncover your subconscious intentions here! Who are you imagining in that audience? Is the answer ‘the same people who always come’? Are you thinking of an ideal audience that’s made up of your friends and family, or work colleagues, or your students? Will it be people who hang out at the same community centre? Or will it be members of your writers’ group, or other poets?

Tips for marketing your poetry event:

  • Record a video of yourself performing or reading one of your poems and post it on YouTube.
  • Write a blog post about putting together the poetry event.
  • Pitch a guest blog to a relevant poetry organisation or publisher about your event.
  • Offer to run a free poetry writing class at the local library in return for a plug.
  • Offer to speak at an author event at your local University or college.
  • Create postcards with a selection of poems on them from people who will be reading at the event, and give them away at poetry events in the run up to yours.

For each of these, you want to drive your ideal audience to information about your event, so include a blog address, or Facebook event page, or EventBrite link, so people know how to get more information – make this easy for them. The next post in this series will help you discover what your ideal audience looks like.

Check out these marketing resources:

Event management for dummies by Laura Capell.

101 Ways to Make Poems Sell by Chris Hamilton Emery.

Robin Houghton’s books on marketing for writers.

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, Michael Larsen and David Hancock

Joanna Penn’s blog and ‘How to Market Your Book‘.

James Scott Bell’s Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing.

Happy organising. x

Next up in this series: How to market your poetry reading: your ideal audience


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