Showing posts with label publication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publication. Show all posts

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Turning your poetry dabbling into a marketing tool

Poetry doesn't sell.  It's so often said (and validated by poets everywhere), that it has become something of a truism.  If you write poetry, you probably do it for the love of it.  You may well be supporting your poetry habit with a range of more lucrative types of writing like nonfiction or even working a day job.  However,value doesn't always come in the form of cash.  There's real value - and ultimately financial value, to be had by using your poetry as a marketing tool.  So where do you begin?  Here are a few tips to get you going.

Think themed chapbook

Have a look through your existing poetry collection, and see if you can find a recurring theme that you can use.  Some examples of themes which immediately suggest a market include (and I’ve used some of these myself) – Mothers, Love (in all forms or a specific aspect of love such as romantic love), Pets, Nature, your locale, a historical period, person or notion, politics, family life, humorous wordplay, or even sports.  Some chapbooks that I’ve particularly admired from well known poets include one on phobias, one on romantic love, and one set in the world of Walt Whitman during his period on the battlefield.  My own tendency seems to be towards writing scientific poetry – astronomy, physics, the genetic code, evolution.  So don’t limit yourself to clich├ęd themes.  If there’s something you tend to gravitate towards, go with it.  Another option is to think about what fits your other work - the stuff you want to sell, and theme the book around that - this way you'll be drawing in your target market. And speaking of markets...  

Define your market

Identify the market that matches the theme you came up with in the first exercise.  Try to make of list of up to three specific markets, and then list another six examples of those.  For example, if your market is florists, then come up with six florists you could contact when you go about marketing your work.  Having a sense of where you’re planning to market will help you plan and create your book in a much more coherent and effective way.  Always keep your market in mind when you’re constructing a book.

Construct Your Book

This might sound like a big thing but it's actually just a simple collation exercise.  Start organising your poetry into a Word (or other word processor) file.  You can use a Word book template for that - there are quite a few that come as standard with with Word or you can search here:  A chapbook could have as few as ten and as many as thirty pages of poems. Twenty poems would be about average for a small chapbook.  Put them in an order that makes sense and if there are any gaps or areas that require more poems, then write them!  Once you've got everything together number your pages, add a table of contents at the front, and voila, you're almost there.

The all important bio

This is the key - your bio.  This is where you need to make your book work for a living.  Include not only a little bit about yourself, but a link back (with an enticing offer like a free chapter) to your selling page for whatever product - your novel, your nonfiction, your audio series, etc, you want to sell.  Also include an attractive photo.  Don't rush this.  This is what's going to make value for you. 

Get someone else to read it for you. 

Whatever you do, don't skip this step. Get a fellow writer or eagle eyed reader to read through it for errors, things that don't make sense and the overall ordering.  If they like it, get them to give you a quote to use somewhere at the back of the book. 

Get it out there 

Make sure you've got an enticing title, that the book looks good, and then turn it into a .pdf.  If you're using Word 2007 onward, then you can just save as a .pdf.  You could sell the book if you want, but you probably won't make much.  Using it as a promotional tool, you can upload it to your website or blog and offer it as a gift for anyone who subscribes.  This way you not only get more subscribers, more people reading your work, but you also draw in readers and potential customers for your big tickets items. 

Writing isn't always about commerce and marketing. Sometimes it's about creating meaning, and that, of course is at the heart of poetry.  But there's no reason why you can't create meaning, bring in readers and still sell your work.  Using a poetry chapbook is a unique way to gift your work and still benefit financially from it. 

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at

Friday, August 10, 2012

Self Publishing Your Poetry – A Brief Primer

Self-publishing is an option open to everyone and it’s becoming easier and more powerful with different software and online options becoming available all the time. Why would you want to self-publish? Here are a few reasons:

  • There are no entry barriers. You don’t need a list of publications or any kind of awards to be considered, and your work can be on any topic.

  • You retain complete control over the look, quality, and promotion of your work.

  • You retain a far greater profit for your book. Most traditional publishers offer 10%, which isn’t a lot!

  • You learn a lot and it can be quite fun if you enjoy playing around with your computer and trying out new things.
But self-publishing isn’t all roses.You’ve got to do everything yourself and it’s hard work and often involves its own learning curve. You’ll have to learn about formatting, about graphics, about designing a cover, about ‘bleeds’, about document conversions,about distribution channels, about Amazon and other online stores and the list goes on and on. If all you want to do is write, then self-publishing is probably not for you (and believe me, it will take time that you would otherwise have been spent writing).

In addition, traditional publishing provides an important curation and editing function which you aren't advised to skip if you're going to self-publish. Instead, you'll need to curate yourself. That's not easy but it can be done.  You can hire a well-respected editor, and manuscript assessor to ensure that your work is up to scratch, or you can work with a mentor - something that is particularly useful for poets in need of objective and valuable input. How do you self-publish? The easiest way is to just add a cover and copyright information to your book and save as a .pdf file. Lo’ and behold you’ve now got an ebook which you can sell from a website or blog. When you do this, 100% of your sales are profits, but you may not get many sales!

Or you can send your digital book to one of the big copy houses like Snap printing, Qwikcopy, or take a file into your local Espresso Printer and have them print out what you need when you need it. The print copy is very nice indeed for the Espresso machine, with quality comparable to any high street book. You can hand print and staple your work too, although it won’t be very professional looking. You can also go with one of the print on demand companies, who will produce a professional looking product for nothing or very little, but take a cut of each sale and may also charge you for expanded distribution. Many of them will also provide you with a barcode and ISBN and make the book available for sale at a range of online shops. You probably won’t make much through direct sales, but the book will be attractive, and often you can buy copies inexpensively and hand sell, which is probably the best way to sell poetry. Some of the more well known ones include:  

CreateSpace: this is Amazon’s own publishing house and to my mind, it’s one of the best. It will take you a while to learn their particular formatting requirements, but everything is .pdf based, fairly straightforward, and they’ll give you all the templates you need. The cover maker is excellent and will give you a very nice lookng cover, with custom images. The one key advantage this one has over the others is that your book will be sold on Amazon once it’s complete for no extra (most of the other self-publishers offer Amazon only with a paid distribution package). Also their prices are pretty reasonably, especially if you want your own copies to hand sell.

Lulu: Self publishing / print on demand publisher. Lulu is very popular. You can sell your book directly from their website and they offer a pretty wide range of options including spiral bound, landscape, hardcover with dustjacket etc. 

Cafe Press: Self publishing / print on demand publisher.

Smashwords: ebook only, but they do have allow you to distribute your book free and do all of the format conversions for you with their "meatgrinder". They also have some excellent promotional tools and get exceptional traffic.  Note that, for poetry, conversions are not perfect and need to be fully checked on every device or you may end up selling something that is substandard (This happened to me. However, Smashwords is very responsive and will often help sort out any problems quickly.).

There are plenty of others out there and new opportunities/distributors appearing all the time. For a self-publisher, the intense competition has been a very positive thing.  However, and this is very important, bear in mind that none of them will edit your work (some offer editing packages, but I highly recommend hiring a professional) or go through the rigorous and often difficult process of telling you what works best and what doesn't - something that is important with a poetry collection, and of course, none of these places will promote your work for you.  All of that will need to be done by you, with help and support from clued up professionals, something that is mostly par for the course in traditional publishing. That said, you'll retain control over the finished product - with formatting, images, and the overall package completely in your hands.  If any errors or problems should creep in, you can usually fix them easily - something that's not the case with traditional publishing.  Also the speed to market can often be significantly faster. In any case, regardless of who you use, make sure you follow their instructions to the letter, and your book will end up looking as great as the poetry within it deserves.

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of  traditionally published books Repulsion Thrust, Quark Soup, Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, and the self-published books The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson,Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red,Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. Find out more about Magdalena at

Write for the Reader, Not for Yourself

  By Karen Cioffi Years ago, a client told me that I don’t write for the client; I don’t even write for myself; I write for the reader. This...