Q for the Poet

From A-Lotus:

"How do you feel/think about self-publishing? I mean, many poets out there are doing that, and I was wondering about that versus small presses--in terms of pros and cons!"
Admittedly, this is not my area of expertise, so I'm hoping others will chime in with their opinions.

The pros: Self publishing makes it easier to control your own "literary destiny." In other words, you control the cost of the books, the inventory, and the marketing. Lots of sites such as lulu.com make it easy to print and purchase books. And if you have a strong local network, or a good online presence, you can probably sell all of your initial print run.

The cons: you do everything yourself. I'm not that detailed oriented, so I don't want to worry about how my books get distributed. I don't care about tracking book sales or lugging a trunkload of titles to sell at my next reading.

Even the smallest of publishers can use their contacts and market insights to help your book find its readership. In theory, the publisher takes the risks and absorbs the costs. All you have to worry about is helping your title find its audience. Maybe there are more similarities between a self-published title and one distributed by a press. But for me, I've never wanted to self publish. Too much work, which takes me away from the creative process.

Does that help? I'd love to hear what others think about self publishing.


Maya Ganesan said…
I'm not a fan of self-publishing; I'm not a DIY person.

Definitely choose a small press. There's less worry for the author; it's a lot smoother and easier.
Lisa Cohen said…
I put a small collection together, primarily as a gift for friends and family. The market for poetry is so small and i wasn't interested in paying to enter various chapbook contests.

I workshopped each of the poems chosen for the collection, and had several poets whose work I respect read the collection as a whole before I put it together.

I had the book printed through Lulu and have been very happy at the quality and look.

While I wouldn't be averse to selling a few copies, that was not my primary goal in organizing the book.

As far as my fiction goes, I'm not interested in self publishing that, as I don't have the time, energy, or expertise in being the editor, publicity manager, agent, etc.

Hope all is well with you, January. Happy New Year.
Collin Kelley said…
Oh, dear...I hate to burst bubbles here, but even if a small press picks you up you're still going to be doing it all yourself -- publicity, getting books to take to readings, and many other sundry things. Small presses have no budget for this stuff, so in many cases getting a book picked up by a small or micro press means you're doing just as much work. I know there is a stigma about self-promotion and DIY, but that's the future of poetry, so dig in and have fun with it.
January said…
Sorry, didn't mean to imply that small presses equal no work by the author. But I do think the amount of work is less as a whole.

I can't think of one case where a self-published poetry book released in the last 10 years has picked up enough momentum that it's been picked up by a larger press or gained the attention of the poetry buying press. I'm sure these titles exist but I don't know of a good example.

As a marketer, I have no issues with self promotion. But the road seems much harder if you're going it alone than with a publisher. Not saying one route is better than the other, I just don't think DIY is for me.
January said…
Happy New Year, Lisa!
Catherine said…
I think the fact that New Zealand is a much smaller place makes it easier to self publish. We are just that much closer to our market here. (Which is, sadly, not a big one). Also, it cost us about $1200 for printing, plus some extra for cover art work and workshopping and editing from an experienced poet - a little over $2000 all up including refreshments for the book launch. There are few poetry publishers in New Zealand, and unless you are very well-known, some of them will still charge to publish your book - about $6000. In other words, self-publishing saves a lot of money.

That said, I felt much more comfortable about self-publishing having received a grant for it. It somehow seemed to give it more credibility. Then there is my wonderful computer savvy husband who did the layout and prepared the file for the printer. But yes, we are all set to do it again.
Q said…
From everything I've heard about self-publishing, it sounds like a total nightmare. I could be wrong, but I would never attempt it.
I could not be happier with what Lulu did for me. I kind of echo LJCohen (and I am going to look up the book!).

But, that said, I am really looking forward to your book, January!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for all the feedback as I've read everyone's comments. :)

It makes me think about what I want to do with a book of poetry. I mean, that's why I shared my poems online in the first place--it was mainly for friends and family to read.

In terms of the publishing world, I have to think about what my goals are if I'm heading in that direction. Thank you so much!
I self published a short collection a couple of years ago, it was excellent, I got to control the artwork and the layout and it was much quicker than it would have been with a publisher. I used a printer who understood poetry so he was able to give some input in about content. I sold almost all the copies really quickly and raised £200 for charity through selling. It helped that I had a ready audience in people who worked locally for the charity in question and also i was performing quite a lot at the time so had lots of events to take the book to and sell. I think that the sales were better than if i had had the book published with any of the three most local small presses,

But it is hard work and it's not taken seriously in the literary poetry world, because a lot of people see self publishing as vanity publishing, which its not but sometimes its difficult to explain the differences, especially to publishing companies who think they should be controlling the whole of the publishing world...

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