Your trauma can make you rich.
Your father just walked out on your family for the third time, your pet dog died, oh no! Your crush was online but didn't text you back. Do you know what this is? Bliss! Pure absolute exhilaration in the form of delicious, almost seductive literature is gonna engulf and suffocate you now. Your dear diary is gonna be wet, so wet… with your tears. Time to find that waterproof pen you threw away the other day. Take that writer’s block!
And there you have it! A stellar piece of work. A poem brimming with satire, or a short story that will leave the readers positively annoyed. It’s out on a paper now: the desolation, the agony, the sexual frustration (?).
But what now? Burn it? Sure, that’s viable. Make a paper plane? Cool, aerodynamics! However, on the off chance that you are an attention-monger like most of us writers, you ought to think about your alternatives of getting published and ultimately getting paid. That’s right! Your trauma can make you rich.
Contrary to popular belief, slam sessions, personal blogs and Instagram aren’t the only places where poetry belongs. From Frost to Eliot to Jericho Brown (not Rupi Kaur!) almost all the memorable writers that we know today (mind you, not Rupi Kaur), started out with local journals and contests. They are known to us today because they put their work out there, as embarrassing as it initially was. So take a cue from them and start sending your work out. And if you don’t know where to start, that’s where we come in. Here are 6 things you can do with your poems and short stories-
1. Submit to literary journals and magazines
There are tonnes of literary journals available in India that accept unsolicited poetry and fiction submissions. Even international magazines like The New Yorker and London Magazine accept and publish fresher pieces if they have merit. Now the best thing about these magazines is that submissions are almost always free. But if you get published, you will most probably get paid.
Although you may face a lot of rejection for your first few tries (acceptance rates for top magazines are actually dismal for freshers), and you may have to accept features in unpaid magazines, you will eventually understand the style each journal looks for and mould your work according to that. Top journals are also known to share feedback while turning down submissions, and that can help you get better. The trick is to keep trying. Big surprise!
Tip: Try to read the free issues of every magazine and then decide which poems to send.
2. Poetry Communities
Did you know that poetry platforms like Hello Poetry and Allpoetry can be used as viable portfolios while courting anthology publishers? Poetry communities are excellent for finding yourself an organic audience who you can eventually redirect to your website. All poetry also lets you get free feedback from a number of professional and amateur poets. Your work gets exposed to people who understand the art and can provide insights that your non-writer friends never notice. What’s more? All poetry has excellent contests that push you to practise poetry-writing in exchange for virtual trophies, cutesy fantastical titles and lots of serotonin.
3. Poetry and Short Fiction Contests
This is where the money comes from, but only in exchange for small investments. Most poetry and short fiction contests have small fees and big prizes. The best thing about contests is that you don’t have to bother with cover letters or author bios. You can get a direct yes or no answer without much effort. Although it is extremely difficult to win contests, even placing in the final shortlist can do wonders for your portfolio. Contests can also be the way to ease yourself into journal publishing.
Here are the upcoming poetry contests in India.
This option is a little tricky because you have to constantly be on the lookout for publishers and agents who are releasing anthologies. But anthologies are the perfect place for sending short stories as they get readership from the audience of all the contributors. A smart trick is to start your research in November because that’s when most publications release the year-end anthologies.
5. Cafe Table Display Trends
Again, this one won’t get you paid. But it’s a great way to market your poetry and get an audience. Indian cafes don’t use display trends as of yet. So it is an untapped market (maybe not after this article). You can talk to the owners and offer to give your poems. This will be a cute addition to any cafe and owners will be glad to get decorative and unique content for free. Printing text posters or perspex display plaques will hardly cost them one per cent of their decoration budget.
Platforms like Amazon KDP, Notion Press, and Writer’s Pocket help you self-publish your books for free. You can choose to publish your own poetry or short story collection. Most self-publishing platforms also provide marketing services in exchange for a small fee. But since anyone can avail this opportunity, you have to take care of quality-control all by yourself. Self-publish only when you feel that you have something that readers will buy, and no, ‘ random musings of my tortured mind’ is not an option.
All the efforts you put in today onwards will keep adding to your writer’s portfolio. While signing up for anthologies and sharing thoughts on online communities, you will form contacts with people in the publishing business. Eventually, you will learn exactly what you have to do to get a book deal. You will have the credits and contacts to put together your magnum opus and send it out there.
The world’s most resilient art form depends on you. All the Best!