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Sea Witch
02-22-2012, 08:08 PM
Hi folks:

Since my step-father died a couple of years ago, my 80-year old mother has written at least 50 (surprisingly good) poems about grief. She has been writing her whole life but has never tried submitting anything.

She has zero knowledge of the submitting process and iffy computer skills on a good day.

Would it be possible for me to try to get an agent *for* her? That is, write the query and say that I'm querying on her behalf? (I guess I'd have to prepare the manuscript too, etc.)

I don't know much about selling poetry per se, but I understand the process. I know a book of poetry is a hard sell, but is it possible to get a deal?

Thanks

Terie
02-22-2012, 08:14 PM
Hi folks:

Since my step-father died a couple of years ago, my 80-year old mother has written at least 50 (surprisingly good) poems about grief. She has been writing her whole life but has never tried submitting anything.

She has zero knowledge of the submitting process and iffy computer skills on a good day.

Would it be possible for me to try to get an agent *for* her? That is, write the query and say that I'm querying on her behalf? (I guess I'd have to prepare the manuscript too, etc.)

I don't know much about selling poetry per se, but I understand the process. I know a book of poetry is a hard sell, but is it possible to get a deal?

Thanks

There is little market for books of poetry, so there are almost no agents who represent it.

Whether you wish to try anyway or go straight to publishers, you can't query on your mother's behalf, because you're not the owner of your mother's intellectual property, and only the owner can legally flog it.

However, the solution is simple: prepare the materials for your mother.

If her age means she has conditions preventing her from conducting business even with your support, you might be out of luck, though.

stormie
02-22-2012, 08:20 PM
First, why not prepare the query letter for her and let her sign it as if she wrote the query herself. Get the poems in order, too, if they request the full.

There are companies that publish gift books of poems, and I read of one recently but can't remember the name. Maybe go on the greeting card forums here and see if anyone knows of places to submit the query to. (I'm considering your mother's poems as a collection for a gift book, since it deals with grief.)

Sea Witch
02-22-2012, 11:18 PM
Thanks for the replies. No, her age doesn't prevent her from doing business, it would just be impossible (anyone have any aspirin?) for me to explain how it's done.

Yes, I could prepare everything for her, and I've considered that.

So are you saying that it would be better and worth it to go directly to a publisher and forget an agent (unless she got an offer)?

Terie
02-22-2012, 11:37 PM
So are you saying that it would be better and worth it to go directly to a publisher and forget an agent (unless she got an offer)?

As I said above, there are vanishingly few agents who handle poetry; I wouldn't be surprised to find there are none. Why waste your (and more to the point, your mom's) time? There aren't even very many publishers who accept poetry books. If you find one who wants to contract it, it's unlikely even then that you'll find an agent to take it on. There's simply no money in it to make it worth an agent's time and effort.

Drachen Jager
02-22-2012, 11:41 PM
Agree with the above. You're way better off picking one or two poems and trying to sell them individually, or enter them in contests. If you can find some success that way it will be much easier to get a whole volume published. As it stands you'd have better luck dismantling the Great Wall of China with a toothpick.

Katrina S. Forest
02-22-2012, 11:49 PM
There's literary magazines that still accept poetry. You could try submitting individual poems to various magazines and see what luck you have there.

Or if you really just want a bound book to share with friends and family, self-publishing is certainly an option.

Sad but true, books of poetry are almost impossible to sell. So much so that when I see a publisher that claims to take poetry, I'm skeptical of their credentials.

stormie
02-22-2012, 11:58 PM
See what I'm thinking is that Sea Witch's mom's poems are all tied in to grief. There are greeting card publishers who publish gift books of poems targeted to anniversaries, new babies, grief....

I just read about one recently and they're accepting submissions. I'm sorry--my mind is drawing a blank.

Sea Witch
02-22-2012, 11:59 PM
Thanks all. I'll get my hands on them, reformat them, and help her to submit them individually.

Sea Witch
02-23-2012, 12:53 AM
See what I'm thinking is that Sea Witch's mom's poems are all tied in to grief. There are greeting card publishers who publish gift books of poems targeted to anniversaries, new babies, grief....

I just read about one recently and they're accepting submissions. I'm sorry--my mind is drawing a blank.

So you're saying target the greeting card companies? I think there's a listing for them in the Writer's Market. I could also go look in a card store.....

Polenth
02-23-2012, 01:15 AM
I don't think the rights are great for greetings cards. I imagine she'd like her name on the poem and all that. Submitting to magazines individually is an option, but it's a tough market to crack. It also doesn't guarantee getting a book deal. Though some small presses do handle poetry, there aren't enough proportional to the number of published poets.

This is why self-publishing is normal for poetry collections. It's the route most poets go down.

tko
02-23-2012, 02:05 AM
Since others are saying there isn't much of a commercial market, it seems like most of the satisfaction might be in getting recognition for your mother.

In that case, maybe a high class web site with her poems would do the trick? Maybe collaborate w/a photographer. That might bring some closure and credit her way. It's almost free, guaranteed to happen, and won't disappoint. Who knows, maybe someone will ask for permission to use them and she can get credit.

Just a thought.