OR: What Do You Mean I’m Not a Great Poet – I Got My Poem Published In a Vanity Anthology!
On the subject of poetry, it’s very difficult to publish poetry, or get famous doing it. But that’s not exactly obvious if you just google “publish poetry” or “poetry contest” and thousands of hits pop up – unfortunately a good chunks of these are vanity presses. A vanity press is a publisher who gathers people’s works (often poetry, though I’m sure fiction ones exist) into anthologies, which it then sells back to the people who wrote for it at (often) extremely high prices, and that’s how it makes its money. The people wrote for it buy it because they’re all excited to see their name in print. But they don’t really get all that much exposure out of it, other than the narrow group of people who buy the anthology. Though it might make them feel good about getting published – hence the term “vanity press”.
I got suckered into submitting work to one publisher that was often classified as a vanity press – the old poetry.com site (the site is being revamped now, apparently). Fortunately I never bought any of the books my poetry was supposedly published in. Once my friends and I learned about their scheme, we amused ourselves by sending really bad poetry to them. There was a form on their website which would automatically post your submission on their website, and it cracked us up to see our absolute gibberish “published” for all the world to see. We checked back at the site a couple weeks later, and all our poems had been taken down, except for one of mine. I can’t remember how the one they left up went exactly, but it definitely included the line “elephant on my tongue” – which displays exactly how high their standards of poetry were.
Really, though, it’s always good to keep in mind that it’s not a simple process to get your poetry works out there – or any type of writing you do.