poetry book

Poetry Book Writing: Dos and Don’ts for a Great Book

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

May 25, 2023

If you love to pen poems and are ready to showcase them for the world to see, you may consider poetry book writing. But creating a book of poetry is not as simple as collecting your favorite poems and sending them to the printer, although you will do both of those while self-publishing your book.

Undoubtedly the most challenging part of poetry book writing is creating the poetry itself, but not every poet may instinctively know what goes into developing, structuring, and printing a beautiful book of verses. We have a few insightful tips for writers to consider to guide you through what you should and shouldn’t do in the creation and preparation of your book so you can deliver the optimal poetry reading experience to your readers.

DO Write a Lot of Poems

Penning a plethora of poems can lead to writing poetry books, since authors of many verses often like to compile their works into one larger work. So if you are thinking about becoming a poetry book author, you will need a fairly large quantity of poems to choose from for the book.

Whether you write only when inspiration hits you or you schedule regular writing times for you to craft new poetry, having a large bank of work is the best way to make sure that you will have enough verses to select for use in your upcoming poetry book. Since most books have an overall tone, focus, or theme, it is likely that every poem you have written will find a place in your book.

But rather than writing poems only for inclusion in the book, instead, think about creating poetry that you love and that has meaning to you so you will have many options to choose from when you are deciding on which poems make the cut for your poetry book.

Different Kinds of Poems

You may enjoy writing poetry in one style, sticking to what you have mastered, or you may like to experiment with different poetry styles when creating new verses. But a well-rounded poetry book usually includes poetry written in different ways so the author can convey varied emotions, themes and ideas through their writing.

Ballad: This style of poetry is best for telling a story and ballads are narrative poems or even folk songs written in four-line stanzas. With their origins in France, England, and Ireland in the Middle Ages, ballads are the poetry style of choice for longer-form poetry that contains elements of a story. Poets who want to include characterization, plot lines, and a beginning, middle, and end of their poetry may choose to write a ballad.

Haiku: This Japanese, short-form poem restricts words by the number of lines (3) and the number of syllables (17 total). Typically unrhyming, haikus are structured with five syllables on the first line, seven on the second and five more on the last line.

Free Verse: A creative, non-conforming style of poetry, free verse poems can be of any length or structure and don’t have to follow traditional writing conventions. Modern writers flock to free verse because, without expectations for rhyming or any specific rhythm, free verse more closely mimics natural speech patterns.

Limerick: This bawdy and sometimes crude rhyming poetry style originated in 18th-century England. Limericks are characterized by their strict structure: lines 1, 2 and 5 contain eight syllables ending with a rhyming sound while lines 3 and 4 include five syllables each.

Ode: Ancient Greeks perfected poetry in this style and odes are still a popular poem style today. Odes are traditionally written in celebration of something meaningful or praiseworthy and their three-part structure makes this lyrical, long-form story in poem form less challenging to create.

The strophe is the first part of the ode where the poet presents the topic of the verses. The middle of an ode is the antistrophe where the poet discusses opposing viewpoints, and the poem is concluded in the epode or final stanza which may be written in a different style than the rest of the ode.

Sonnet: A 14-line poem, a sonnet is also bound to a strict structure. A sonnet includes one eight-line stanza and a six-line stanza and both can use a variety of different rhyme schemes in this poetry style originating in Italy.

DON’T Make Your Book Too Long

A typical poetry book will include up to 100 poems and will contain between 40 – 50 pages. While every poetry book may be slightly different, including too many poems or making your book overly lengthy can affect the reader’s experience negatively.

DO Pick a Style

Most poetry books are comprised of poems in one style. But authors that have crafted poems in differing styles can choose to dedicate a book section to a particular style, even if it contrasts with the other verses included in the book if the poem coordinates with the overall theme or tone of the rest of the poetry. Mixing and matching different poetry styles from page to page, however, can present a confusing, disjointed experience for the reader.

DON’T Just Follow Trends

The beauty of poetry is that it is evergreen content whose timeless appeal makes the verses just as intriguing today and tomorrow as poems that were crafted centuries ago. Be careful not to follow trends too closely, so your book won’t feel dated when those trends fall out of favor with poetry readers. Instead, focus on writing unique and meaningful poetry that can be appreciated for its intrinsic qualities and not because it feels of the moment.

DO Thoughtfully Organize Poems in Your Book

Organizing your poems for your book is two-fold: deciding which ones to include and determining the order of the poems within the printed book. Choosing which verses to include is a big part of putting together your poetry book, because you may very well not be able to use every poem you have written in your book.

Determining the overall message or tone of your book can help you to select the best poems to use while the order of the poetry is also key in presenting your works to the reader. The organization of the poems themselves shapes the reader’s experience as they move from the first page to the last page of your poetry book, so be sure to consider which poems need to be presented first and which will be best encountered as the final, lasting verses in your book.

DON’T Forget Your Audience

Always keep in mind your target reader when writing poetry books. Your book should not only feel cohesive and well put together but each poem you choose to include should connect with your intended audience. By thinking about your target readers while you select and organize your poems, your book will be more likely to be well-received by your audience.

DO Edit Your Book

Being a self-published author involves more than just writing a book’s contents. Authors have to create a cover that is appealing to potential readers, and sometimes authors choose to hire a cover expert to help. And many times authors engage the services of a graphic designer to assist with developing attractive graphic elements in their books.

But editing is something you shouldn’t skimp on if you are self-publishing. You may not be able to hire a professional editor to clean up your book’s manuscript and formatting but be sure to treat editing like it is just important as the contents of your book – because to the reader, it is.

DON’T Include Any Errors

Check and double-check your book’s contents before sending your manuscript off to the printer. Readers may not know if your book has been self-published or if it was published through traditional channels, but they will see small errors, typesetting mistakes or formatting inconsistencies if they are present in your book.

And potential readers who happen to see an error while they are deciding on bringing your book home may be turned off and might conclude that your book appears unprofessionally made.

DO Focus on the Visual Appeal of Your Book

Poetry books are meant to evoke specific emotions in the reader and the visuals included in a poetry collection can contribute to those feelings. Consider how typesetting choices can impact the reader as well as the inclusion of illustrations or other graphic elements. Be sure to include plenty of white space around your poems, too, to allow readers to experience each set of verses fully.

 DON’T Be Afraid to Be Vulnerable

Poetry is in essence a physical representation of a connection between the poet and the reader. Revealing yourself to readers can produce authentic, meaningful poems that your audience will appreciate and will leave them wanting more of your work.

Printing Your Poetry Book with Publishing Xpress

Working with the experts at Publishing Xpress can help you transform your verses into a beautifully bound book that will help you preserve your poetry for years to come. Whether you are an experienced, published poet or you are just thinking about writing poetry books, Publishing Xpress is a printing partner you can count on.

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