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HomeCalendarI Think I have a Book: Successful Strategies for Preparing Your Poetry Manuscript w/Keith Kopka

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I Think I have a Book: Successful Strategies for Preparing Your Poetry Manuscript w/Keith Kopka

Wednesday, August 7, 2024, 7:00 PM until 8:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada) (UTC-05:00)
Additional Info:
Event Contact(s):
Dan E Arndt
Erin M Krol
Online Activities Coordinator
D. J. Stevenson
Online Classes Coordinator
Online Classes
Registration is required
Payment In Full In Advance Only
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All Pennwriters Courses are conducted in a “live” presentation format utilizing the Zoom platform. If a conflict arises based on the required meeting times, please contact the instructor and Online Courses Coordinator to find a possible solution. ALL sessions will be recorded.



  • 4 recorded 1-hour Zoom sessions, Wednesdays, 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm


Description: Publication of a book-length or a chapbook-length collection of poems is something that many writers aspire to. Yet, unlike our counterparts in prose, we do not have agents to rely on to “shop” our manuscripts, and often times publication through the contest model can feel akin to playing the lottery. Left to our own devices, the “behind the scenes” work that poets do to prepare a manuscript for publication successfully can seem overwhelming and misunderstood. Although there is always an element of chance in finding publication, there are, in fact, tangible strategies to improve your chances of getting your manuscript noticed in the slush pile. This workshop will explore questions and strategies for cover letters, different types of manuscript submission, contest research, submission organization, and finding the right press for your work, as well as the more technical elements of manuscript preparation such as formatting, poem order, the purpose of sectional organization, and many others. No matter what aspect of manuscript submission you are still curious about, this workshop will help you prepare to send your collection of poems out into the world.



The first week: The opening Gambit

Creative writers are often operating in a bit of a vacuum. We spend a lot of time with our art, and sometimes it isn’t easy to know when you’re ready to take that private art and make the next leap toward the public sphere of publishing a chapbook or full-length collection. If you enter the publishing world, it is crucial to have some context to help you maneuver that world. In this first week, we will lay it all out on the table and understand the larger framework of the system we are operating in. We will discuss the overall culture around poetry publishing, examine its benefits and flaws, and discuss how poetry has been traditionally published, as well as the changes to that tradition that might lead to more diverse and equitable outcomes. 


The second week: Preparing Your Manuscript

When preparing a manuscript for publication, there are almost limitless tips, tricks, and approaches. However, this variety of options can be overwhelming, and it can all seem like a trick. In this week’s lesson, we will demystify the manuscript preparation process and discuss specific strategies concerning manuscript length, order, and organization. We will discuss how to identify helpful themes in a collection and answer any questions about content related to the manuscript form. We will also discuss editorial decisions concerning choosing what poems remain in a manuscript and what poems you might want to cut. 


The third week: Take the Chance: Strategies for Submission

In this section of the course, we will discuss the nuts and bolts of submitting your manuscript. This discussion will include strategies for cover letters and effectively researching contests, presses, and judges. We will look at ways to organize your submissions, different types of publication options, and discuss what to do and what not to do to get your book noticed in the slush pile. 


The fourth and final week: Marketing Marketing Marketing 

Poets are often their own PR firms, so it is vital to plan how to get the word out about your book after it has been accepted for publication. During the last week, we will look at what to do once your book has been accepted for publication. We will talk about landing book reviews, booking speaking engagements, social media strategies, working with media experts, and anything else you want to know regarding the tangibles of authorial promotion. 


Customer Benefits/Takeaways:

  • A clear understanding of publication processes
  • A tangible strategy for preparing a poetry manuscript for publication
  • A list of resources for publishing and promoting work


About the Instructor: Keith Kopka is the recipient of the 2019 Tampa Review Prize for his collection of poems, Count Four (University of Tampa Press, 2020). His poetry and criticism have recently appeared in Best New PoetsMid-American ReviewNew Ohio ReviewThe International Journal of the Book, and many others. He is also the author of the critical text, Asking a Shadow to Dance: An Introduction to the Practice of Poetry (GRL 2018). He has received awards and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, The Chautauqua Institute, and The Books Publishing and Libraries Research Network. In 2016, he co-founded the Writers Resist organization, which has hosted over 100 events nationally and internationally to help fund nonprofit organizations. Currently, he’s an Assistant Professor and Director of the low-res MFA at Holy Family University in Philadelphia.





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