If you’re an aspiring poet, promoting your poetry is in your own hands, and you know it can be hard to attract readers to your work. People tend to shy away from poetry, because they feel it is difficult to understand, or in some cases, that it’s even pretentious or elitist. One of the best ways to reverse this opinion and attract people to your poetry is to put a piece of it in their hands. Enter the broadside.
What is a Broadside?
A broadside is a large poster or flyer printed with literature on one side. They came about in the 16th century, and were wildly popular as late as the 19th century – the first copies of the Declaration of Independence were printed as broadsides, in fact. Lately, independent writers have started using them again, and there’s no reason you can’t use them to promote your own poetry and attract more readers.
What Should a Broadside Look Like?
You can design your broadside anyway you like. Add a logo or print the poem over a background image. Try to use a large, readable font, and don’t make it too busy: you want the poetry to attract the reader’s eye, not confuse it. If you have a website, and every aspiring poet should, be sure to include your URL.
In my case, I chose three of my best poems, and printed them on standard 8×11 sheets of paper. I printed my website logo vertically along the left side of the page, and at the bottom, I include a small message inviting readers to visit my website to see more of my work, and an unobtrusive copyright notice.
Now I’ve Got Broadsides. What Do I Do With Them?
Try to think of places where poetry readers congregate: coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, and student lounges are all good places. Check the English department of your local universities: they often have bulletin boards you can post broadsides on. If you decide to put your broadside in a commercial location, be sure to ask for permission from the owners first.
You can also hand your broadsides out to people on the street. A fun way to do this is to recruit a group of friends or fans and hold a contest: whoever hands out the most broadsides wins a prize of some sort. Be sure to check your local ordinances, though: some cities or neighborhoods have rules against unsolicited promotions.
Consider less orthodox areas to put your broadsides. Post them on the inside of bathroom stalls. Leave them between the pages of the in-flight magazine on airplanes. Medical and dental waiting rooms are great places too.
Do what I did, and put your broadsides as downloadable PDFs on your website, and encourage your readers to print them out and put them up in their own local cities.
They may not turn you into the next Charles Bukowski, but broadsides will help you attract readers to your poetry. Who knows: one of your broadsides might even find its way to a publisher, and that could lead to the publication of a chapbook.