Like most things we stumble on; this is really good and helpful...so read carefully and comment if you have addittional tips. This is thanks to Modjaji Books; you can read more there...
You don’t stand a chance of getting you collection published unless you have a name as a poet, or are a well known writer who also writes poetry. Or you are a well known rugby player or have some other claim to fame and also write poetry. So how do you become a more established poet wihout having a collection?
1. Buy and read the work of poets who have had their work published. Do this regularly. See what is hot and happening. Subscribe to at least one literary magazine.
2. Attend live poetry readings - Off the Wall in Cape Town, launches and readings. Poetry Africa in Durbs. Jozi Spoken Word Festival. In Nigeria, Poetry Potter, book readings like IRead and Writers Anonymous.
3. Send your work to the literary magazines. Google the following names - New Coin, Litnet, New Contrast, Carapace. There are other literary magazines and perhaps those who are reading the blog can add names and thoughts.
4. Before you submit your collection to a publisher - ask a published poet whose work you like/admire to read your book. You will have to pay them to read your ms and tell you if it is publishable. You could do a Creative Writing course either at a university or a short course. Get feedback on your poems.
5. When you have reached this stage, I can recommend people to edit your work (once again you will have to pay for this).
6. If you can say Yes, to all the above steps, then you need to go through your collection and choose the ones that fit together in some way. A first collection that will comfortably be published as a thin volume, needs to be about 56 or 64 pages. But remember that the book will be typeset and remember that you need at least 7 or 8 pages for front matter and end matter.
If you can’t find a publisher, it is OK to self-publish. It is harder work and a bit less prestigious, but at least you get your work out there and you will find your readers or they will find you. Don’t leave out any of Steps 1 to 6 above, or your book will not be as good as it could be.