It’s not that I don’t love you guys, I do. But if we are all of the belief that poetry does not sell and some of you are of the belief that $250 is not too much to give someone to publish something that–no matter what promotional efforts might go into it–won’t sell, why would you not just self-publish? If I had used CreateSpace’s templates, I could have published A City of Ghosts for $40 (since I chose to distribute it through Ingram). As it was, I spent maybe $100 more than the $250 they’re throwing around and I made it back plus more by selling under 300 copies. If I’d spent $40, I’d have needed to sell about 15 books to make my money back.
So, someone, preferably a poet, explain to me why having someone else publish your POD book that’s going to sell 300 copies, if you’re lucky, is preferable to you publishing your POD book and possibly selling 300. Shit, even if you sold 150 copies, you’d be money ahead. Is it the cache of being “selected”? But where does that cache go once you realize that any fool with $250 can get “selected”? Is it about having a good editor? What?
I’ll say, I have mixed feelings about self-publishing, but if I were publishing in a genre in which I was an active participant and in which there was a finite, small audience I knew how to reach because I was also an active member of that audience, I’d start to question, hard, what a publisher could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself.
Edited to add: I messed up that link up there, but it’s better now.
Edited again to add more: New authors will sell, on average, twenty-five to thirty books?! Okay, fine, I am not an avant garde poet, but this bowls me over. Do avant garde poets not have grandmas? Do they not have avant garde poet friends who buy their books out of hope that, when the friend’s book gets published the now-published avant garde poet will buy it?
Why in the world do you need a publisher to sell thirty books? This is baffling. You could literally sell thirty xeroxed copies of your work if you put together an interesting-enough poetry reading.
Avant garde poets, heed my advice. Get on CreateSpace or one of the other self-publishing websites yourself. Learn how to lay out your poems how you want them in Word. It won’t be fabulously pretty, but it will be fine. Use one of their covers. Cost to you so far? $0. Do not pay for your own ISBN. Let CreateSpace assign you one of theirs. Don’t worry about paying extra to have it more widely distributed, if your goal is to just sell 20-30 copies. Upload the book. Order your check copy to make sure it looks how you’d like it to look.
Fix what’s fucked.
Order another check copy. If it’s fine, release your book. You’re still only out about $10 at this point.
Spend some time researching the email addresses of every local media outlet in your town and every blog and website that covers poetry that you regularly read. Send them all an email press release announcing your book and telling them a little about yourself. In the emails you send to local media, tell them that you are a local author.
Then email every single person who you know and tell them you have a book and give them a link to how to order it.
Voila! You will sell 20-30 copies of your book and you’ll get $6-$7 a piece. So, shoot, even if you sell two copies, you’ll have made your money back.
You do not need a publisher to sell 20 or 30 copies of jack shit. And you certainly don’t need to pay someone $250 to sell 20-30 copies of a book you can sell yourself for about $10.
My god, you’d be better off to use your $250 to hire a poetry editor to go over your poems before you self-publish them, because at least you get all the royalties.
There is no reason, none at all, to have someone else publish a book that will sell so few copies. You can definitely do that yourself.