Skip to main content

Some tips on putting your pamphlet together — winner of the 2013/14 International Book & Pamphlet Competition

There's only this weekend left to submit your pamphlet of poems to the most prestigious pamphlet competition in the land: The Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition 2020

This year's judges are the hugely celebrated writers Imtiaz Dharker and Ian McMillan. Find out more, and enter online, here. You've got until midnight this Sunday 1st March.

Here are some tips I've put together, as winner of the 2013/14 competition for my short collection For Real. Good luck!

• First off, I should mention it took me a good few years to get the pamphlet into shape, and like almost every winner, I entered the competition more than once before winning. Treat the experience as a learning curve: the positive pressure of a deadline and of your work being judged carefully and seriously will help you to improve whatever the outcome.

• Front-load your pamphlet. Every editor in the land knows that you put the very best poems at the front of a book. The first three poems in your pamphlet should grab a reader in different ways. Make sure your writing stands out from the crowd.

• So the competition asks for 20-24 pages of poems. Why include 24 single-page poems for the sake of it? Send in your strongest 20 pages if that’s what you have.

• Does every poet lay out their printed poems on the floor to discover a manuscript’s shape? Probably. It’s a tried and tested way to look for the conversation between pieces, and to shuffle and re-shuffle to get the order just right. 

• Your pamphlet’s title will probably spring from a phrase in one of the poems, or even one that reoccurs across poems (mine did). Make a shortlist, and ask for advice from savvy friends.

• Once you’ve submitted your final manuscript, title and poems perfectly in order, don’t overthink stuff. If you’ve submitted the best work you have, trust in the process. Judges have different tastes and preferences, so if you don’t win this time, it doesn’t mean your pamphlet isn’t any good. Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better. Keep on keeping on, and remember that success is a journey.

For me, winning the Poetry Business Competition is the very best way to publish a pamphlet. Want your poems to reach their audience? With more poetry published these days than ever before, you need three things. First, your stuff better be good; as good as you can possibly make it. Second, you need the quality editorial input of an experienced hand and a beady eye. Third, you need to publish as part of a truly reputable imprint, one that counts some of the best poets currently writing in its history. The first is down to you. Win, and The Poetry Business will bring the other two - in abundance. My pamphlet For Real was years in the making, so I was more than a bit chuffed for it to be chosen as a winner in 2013-14. Since then, I've been invited to give readings up and down the country, received further awards and critical recognition, and published my first full book. Winning the Poetry Business Competition gave my writing a real boost, at just the right time.


Popular posts from this blog

Way More Than Luck: 27.2.18 - the launch

Poetry in Motion

Why one Reds supporter is committing his love for Liverpool FC to verse

Liverpool FC and poetry have a lot of previous – from John Toshack’s Gosh It’s Tosh collection in the late 70s, to the verse of Dave Kirby and Peter Etherington in the fanzine Red All Over the Land, to the lines written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a University of Liverpool graduate, in the aftermath of 2012’s Hillsborough findings. Now there’s Ben Wilkinson, Reds fan and book critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, who’s compiling a series of poems commemorating the club’s legends. “Football is part of the fabric of life, and anything that’s important to people finds its way into poetry,” he says. “Wilfred Owen’s poem 'Disabled' describes a soldier who loses the use of his legs, meaning he can never play football again. Philip Larkin’s 'MCMXIV' compares boys queuing to join the army to fans outside Villa Park. These poems have stood the test of time because t…