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Followup To:
  Thank You So Much for your help.  I have another question please.  I was afraid to let my poems be published because I was afraid that they would not be mine any more, that whoever published them would own them.  I have 2 poems on Poetry. com.  I had entered one of their contrest before they started putting the poems on the net. they had asked my permission to put my poems on the net after I had given them permission to print my poems in an anthology book.  I have not recently bought any books with poems in them, because I don't have much money. When I was working I did buy them. The question is this is a scam?  They wanted me and my family to purchase the books where my poems were in,  but we declined and I had the feeling that they only reason that they wanted my poems was to fill their book so they could sell them and make money.  That's is why we declined to purchase them. Thank you for help it is greatly appreciated. If is a scam, than that means that my poems are no good and that they just wanted to fill up their books.
 Thank You
 Mary Ann Gandolfo

Question -
I have written some poems, not many but when I have enough of them, how do I go about getting it published? Do I have to copyright those poems first?
 Thank you in advance for your help.

Mary Ann

Answer -
First, don't put the cart before the horse. If you do not have enough poems to make up a book, write and polish more poems to a high shine first, before you concern yourself with publishing a book.

From your question, I'm not sure if you want to self publish or find a traditional publisher; but each path is different.

Assuming you prefer to find a traditional publisher for your book of poetry, here is my suggestion: While you continue to write and polish new poems, you must also submit your best poetry to legitimate competitions and literary journals for potential publication. I use the work "legitimate" because several companies run scams and tell poets their poems are finalists in a competition, but to win, the poets either have to pay to attend a convention or they have to buy an overpriced book that includes their poems. Do not fall for scams! Check out everything before you enter. One way to find legitimate literary journals, magazines, and competitions is to use sources such as Literary Market Place, Writers Market or

To sell a book of poetry, poets have to enter individual poems for potential publication first, to create a track record of success. Look in the front of any book of poetry, possibly on the Acknowledgments page, and you will see a long list of places where some of the poems in the book first appeared. Few publishers buy books of poetry until and unless the authors have excellent track records of having their poems first published in other sources, such as magazines, literary journals, and anthologies.

Write more, learn more, submit more: those steps are necessary for now. Later, after your poetry has appeared in a dozen or more places, you can research poetry publishers on the Internet or go to a bookstore and see which companies are publishing books of poems. Get their guidelines for submitting books of poetry (each one differs), and follow those guidelines.

In the meantime, how many books of poetry have you bought in the last five years? If you have not bought any poetry books, don't expect the market to support you, when you have not supported (and studied) the market. Buy books of poetry and learn what is selling. Always upgrade and polish your craft.

As for your question about copyrights, the laws today protect authors, so you automatically own all rights to your work the moment you finish it. Nevertheless, if you decide to self-publish, register the copyright for the final compilation of work right before it goes to press. If you sell your body of work to a traditional publisher, it will register the copyright for you, in your name.

First let me say that having poetry accepted by a company that may not be as honest as another does not mean the poetry is no good. It merely means that the company accepts everything, in the hopes that people will pay big bucks to buy their overpriced books. Good poetry and bad poetry gets accepted by these folks, so don't make a negative assumption about your writing. is one of the many names used by one company that makes an estimated $9 million a year by selling overpriced books to hopeful authors or by charging them to attend conventions to collect a prize. Don't worry about falling prey one time, because you are not alone; the company could not make that much money if people did not fall for the ploy.

Instead concentrate on your poetry. Never stop learning, but don't forget that poetry can only be considered a hobby; it is not lucrative enough to be a career.

I wrote poetry for about ten years before I ever saw any of it published in a literary journal. Now I've been studying and writing poetry more than 40 years (even took classes under the poet laureate of my state at the time), and the most I've ever made on a poem was $100. Poetry is an extremely educational hobby that teaches you how to pick precise words, write tight, and create a universal message. It's great practice for writing other things that pay better than poetry does.

Let me address your fears of owning your work if someone publishes it: Unless you transfer rights, you still own them. You might sell first North American rights, in which case you could still sell second rights. You have the choice to transfer all your rights or not, and it does not happen automatically, simply because someone wants to publish your work. I'm not an entertainment attorney, though, and perhaps you'd feel better if you spoke to someone who is more skilled in the area publishing rights.

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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