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How To Promote Your Poetry Reading

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You’ve started a poetry reading series, but you don’t have a big advertising budget to promote it. There are lots of simple ways to publicize your reading without spending a lot of money.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 2 hours a reading

Here's How:

  1. Read your local daily newspaper, weekly cultural/alternative paper, poetry newsletter and online poetry calendar — get the format and deadline schedule for their free calendar listings.

  2. Write a blurb for each one that is specifically tailored to their format and style, and save it on your computer so that you can plug in new names and dates and reuse what you’ve written when the next deadline comes.

  3. Note the deadlines to submit listings for the newspaper and newsletter issues that will come out before your first reading date, send your blurbs in before those deadlines, and check each one off your list as you do so.

  4. Ask your venue owner to include a mention of your reading in any ads for the venue (and a schedule on the venue’s Web site).

  5. Have a sign-up sheet at each reading to build your mail/email list.

  6. Make separate mailing and email lists: You’ll want to move people and publications from the snailmail list to the email list when you can, to save postage costs.

  7. Print postcards rather than full-size flyers for your reading to save the cost of envelopes and to save on postage. (Postcards are 33¢ rather than 46¢ for first class envelopes.)

  8. Postcards are easy to do on most computers — print one master of four on a single 8½ x 11 page (each postcard will be 4¼ x 5½), take it to your local copy place and have it copied onto card stock and cut in quarters.

  9. If your reading is weekly, give the pertinent details (dates, time, location, admission cost if any, names of featured poets) for a month on one postcard.

  10. Make your postcards several weeks in advance so you can carry some with you and spread them around: Post them on community bulletin boards, give them to potential poets and audience you meet and distribute them at other readings you attend.

  11. Make labels and mail your postcards about a week to 10 days before the first date they announce. (Too soon and people will have lost the postcard before the reading date comes around; too late and they will already have plans for your time slot.)

  12. Choose whether you want to do brief announcement emails for every reading or a regular weekly or monthly email newsletter. You don’t need to do both (people will be grateful if you don’t stuff their email boxes).

  13. If you’re doing announcement emails, send them out 3 to 7 days in advance with just the most pertinent facts for those who want to attend.

  14. If you’re writing a newsletter with biographies or poems from the featured poets, put the pertinent facts on top and clearly mark the newsletter’s sections, so your readers can find what they want without reading through the entire text.

  15. Be sure to announce upcoming dates and details at the reading itself, so that people will want to come back.

Tips:

  1. If you want to get fancy with your postcards, you can buy perforated postcard stock that is preprinted with color borders or backgrounds, print the text on your own printer and separate them at the perforations.
  2. If you really want to save your postage pennies, check off the names of people to whom you hand your postcards so that when it comes time to print labels and mail them, you don’t send duplicates.
  3. Be sure to ask your venue owner to support your promotional efforts — funds given to you for postage, good quality postcard printing and advertising design are good publicity for the venue.
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