Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Five ways to get your words read without a publisher

Most of us write in order to be read, but if you use your imagination, you don’t need to bookdeal in order to gain readers. I wrote these tips for an article on the Carrie and Danielle website earlier this year, from which this blog piece has been adapted.

1. In her excellent writing guide, Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg talks about how she set up a poetry booth at a fete. She sat in front of a table and wrote poems then and there for people who came to her with ideas. This is such a great idea as it lets you share your love of writing with other people. If you don’t like the idea of instant writing, you can always print out your poems in advance, tie them up with pretty ribbon and sell them under their general themes – love, gardens, nature, or whatever it is you write about. It’s a great tool for fundraising, as well as bringing people pleasure as they choose, keep and read your poems.

2. Share your writing as a gift. I’ve never forgotten going for a walk in a wood one day and finding a poem about that beautiful place pinned up on a tree. Can you believe how it made my day? You can leave poems and pieces of writing for people to come across just like that, or maybe in old books in a second-hand store or taped on benches in your local park or tucked into menus in cafes or even on the bus for the next passenger after you to find. Use your imagination, and don’t be shy. I still think of that poem I found as a gift.

3. Exchange writing with a friend. Earlier this year, I spent a great month sharing poems with another writer. It started with a comment he sent me, ‘sharing is for grown ups’ (OK, OK, I’m not very good at sharing my chocolate!). So I sent him back a poem with this title, and was thrilled a couple of days later to receive a poem from him based on one of the lines in my poem – ‘funny how expensive nothing is.’ The exchange lasted for several poems, and each time it was a treat to see what the other wrote. And of course this was how the Messages Project got started, one of the things I'm most grateful for in my writing life so far.

4. Find a writing project to join in with on the internet. One I always enjoy is the Apple House Poetry site (run by my own collaborator, Lynne!). As well as proving prompts for inspiration, by posting your responses you will quickly become part of a writing community, reading other people’s work and having them read you in return. Also don't forget the prompts on the sidebar of this blog, or the Snaps I publish. I'm always happy to see the work produced as a result.

5. Make your own books. Try a self-publishing company like Lulu, or think about an ebook. There's a wealth of information on the internet when you start looking - try this youtube video (I love this woman!) and Alison Baverstock's Marketing Your Book is well worth a read.

Do let me know of any other ideas you might have too - or any successful projects you've been involved in. I love the whole generosity involved in sharing words, whether it's reading poems out loud on buses, or in Marks and Spencers. Hell, you can even knit yourself a poem!.

Read more:

* Five Ways to Write More

*Your Messages. (Warning - this website isn't operating now, but the Your Messages up there are definitely still worth reading!)


Natalie E Bowers said...

With regards to No. 2, if a person has a book of his/her writing that they'd like to share in this way, they can register it at and follow its travels around the world.

jem said...

Good post. I think so many people are held back by the fear of what they will do with their writing once they've written it.

As you know, I've long wittered about wanting to share my poems in public. I often write my haiku out and about, and would love to stick up one of my post-it poems there and then. But I always fear that the locals might accuse me of littering. Perhaps next year will be the year when I'm brave enough to just do it.