Select Page

A Harsh Truth About Poetry Publishing…

A Harsh Truth About Poetry Publishing…

When I started The Scrambler in 2003, it was originally a zine that I handmade in my living room. I did the first 5 issues that way and printed up about 100 copies each. I went around to some bookstores and dropped some off and said they were free and then I sent some out to my friends and family—many of whom didn’t really know what to make of it, but there it was. In 2005 I purchased my domain name and it just sat there empty for a year or so. I crudely made and put up a website and started to put up new content on it. It evolved as these types of things tend to do.

no-tell-headerIn 2008, I decided that I wanted to start publishing full length poetry books.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I sent emails to a few small press publishers that I followed, one of them being Reb Livingston of No Tell Motel and No Tell Books. I had already known her a little because I had interviewed her for The Scrambler. She responded immediately and was more than gracious with her time and advice. She helped me out by sending me practical things like a sample author contract that she used for No Tell, but also being honest with me about how much work and fun running a press would be. Since then, she has always supported Scrambler and been more than happy to help out when needed. Today’s beat is dedicated to her and the below quotes are from a blogpost that she wrote in response to the whole BlazeVox controversy a few years back. I think most of the quotes below still resonate with today’s independent small press community, especially people that are just starting out. I am glad that I had someone tell me these types of things before I started, it not only educated me but also helped to ground my expectations with some facts (which was definitely needed).

Publishing poetry is a thankless job. What begins as a labor of love can often sour rather quickly. Despite technological advances, such as print-on-demand, publishing books still cost money, supporting and promoting books, even creatively and with a shoe-string budget, costs money. Very few people, including poets looking to be published, buy many poetry books. If I sold anywhere near the number of books that I receive as submissions, No Tell Books would be making a small profit. No Tell Books is not making a small profit.

On travel:

I do a lot of things knowing I am losing money because I believe it’s important to promote the books I publish. I also believe it’s important to educate people on diy-publishing and poetry. But it’s draining, really draining… Often I’ll travel to give readings at independent reading series. These are almost always on my own dime, but I go because they often bring big crowds. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ll read to a full room of 50-100 grad students, the girls in their pretty leather boots, the boys with their fancy scarves, all enjoying pricey cocktails and nobody will buy a single book afterward. But many want to know when is my next reading period.

These are some of the things that she shared with me at the beginning of my book publishing with Scrambler. But the fact that poetry books do not sell many copies may have been the most important:

No Tell Books’ best selling title broke even after three years and is now earning a very modest profit. This is by an author whose work has appeared in places like Poetry and Best American Poetry. This title has been taught at universities. How many copies does one have to sell to be the best selling title at No Tell Books after four years? 228. That is not a typo. This number doesn’t include what the author has sold herself, probably around 200 copies on her own. But the press doesn’t earn money on those sales.

So if that’s a best seller, what’s a flop? 74 sales after five years (again, this number doesn’t include what the author sold on his own, which was maybe 50 or so). (UPDATE: Gatza states, “In general, books by new authors sell around 25 – 30 copies.” Shocking? Only if you don’t know the first thing about poetry publishing.)

This is the reality of poetry publishing. There are certainly presses that sell more copies. A poetry title reviewed in The New York Times can sell 2-4k copies, it is true. But small, independent presses, those small shops, usually run by one or a few people, rarely see those kinds of sales. University presses, for the most part, don’t see those kinds of numbers for poetry. I attended a panel by the publisher of Grove/Atlantic and he said his press’ poetry sales was around 800 per title. They publish “big-name” poets, their books are often shelved by chain bookstores, they have good distribution, a strong reputation . . . and that’s what they sell. Publishing poetry is their charity–their poetry titles are subsidized by their fiction and non-fiction sales.

It is a harsh truth about poetry publishing, but not one that most unpublished poets know. Scrambler Books has published 16 poetry books out of a total of 19 published books since 2008. Some have sold well, others not so much. And that does not necessarily define them as successful. Each one I wanted to publish because there was something about the manuscript that I wanted to share with other readers. I have enjoyed working on all of the books Scrambler has published and each has been a unique, rewarding experience. This beat is not meant to discourage anyone. Rather, I hope it continues to add to the ongoing conversation about poetry publishing that places like Real Pants and Enclave/Entropy and Queen’s Mob Teahouse are having. And the new innovative ways that poetry publishers today are taking chances and currently selling books can and will only help with sales and getting poetry to more readers.

Jeremy Spencer

Jeremy edits The Scrambler (an e-zine) and Scrambler Books (an independent publisher of books) out of Sacramento, CA.

Latest posts by Jeremy Spencer (see all)

About The Author

Jeremy Spencer

Jeremy edits The Scrambler (an e-zine) and Scrambler Books (an independent publisher of books) out of Sacramento, CA.

  • NoTell Motel was one of the first sites I cruised back in 2006 or so. Reb made it look so beautiful and the poetry there was clearly accomplished even to a noob like me. I learned a lot just from checking it frequently.
    I’m really interested in these numbers! Thanks for sharing them. From my experience with PGP, I think I have a harder time selling fiction. Wonder what that’s about. Also I’m curious if things are better now (cuz as you noted the BlazeVox dust up was a few years ago).

    • Diana Rosen

      there is a trend, primarily with poetry publishers, to forego advances and offer writers substantial copies, say 1000-1500. It’s a win win because the poet makes much more money selling the books at retail and keeping it all, the publisher does not have to proffer the money advance, and the investment of 1000 books given away to the poet costs much less than the advance would. The poet and publisher can still generate conventional sales via regular distribution channels and the poet will earn royalties on those sales. An idea to pursue no matter what genre you write.

      • Jeremy Spencer

        That is hard though when the press only has an initial print run of say 200-500 total copies like mine. Also, paying for 1000+ copies at at least $3-$4 per copy and then giving them away to the author in lieu of the advance is still 3 or 4 grand. Would be interested to know if even a place like Copper Canyon or New Directions or Melville House give that type of advance to poetry books?

        • Joe Pan

          You can get 1000 copies for an offset book under 100 pages for $1.75 a copy, before shipping. I have never heard of a poet getting 1000 copies; it wouldn’t seem like a good plan to me, because it would be much cheaper for the publisher–say Ecco, even–to pay an advance of $500 or $1k w/royalties forthcoming than drop essentially $1750, with no guarantee that the book will sell (besides, if there’s too many books left over after a year, they can always sell them off to the author at deep discount ($1-2 a book), or possibly hand a bulk of copies off to the Strand, for next to nothing, if the poet is well known). Plus, my understanding is that even large publishers like Ecco & Knopf & Penguin only sell between 2000-3000 copies for a mid-career, well-established poet with a “broad” readership. Our starting print run is usually 250 copies, & I give our poets the choice of money plus copies or just copies. Most take the copies, because they can sell them at readings, & give them away if they like. We push the books hard on our end & utilize all the same channels of distribution–some sell, some don’t. About one-third of our books go into second print runs, & we handle those differently–sometimes we do a second larger run, sometimes we make the book on-demand, which discards the idea of print run altogether (this is the future–necessity-based printings; bookstore wants to stock 20 copies for a reading, order is printed & shipped, whatever is returned to business is kept for bookfairs, etc; less waste).

        • Diana Rosen

          I read about this idea in P&W and try though I did, I cannot find the article but will keep looking. The plus for an established publisher for poets is reputation and the usual excellent eye for arrangement and editing they provide, no small asset! Otherwise, a poet is better off self-publishing. I think the single most important thing that book publishers in American should do is drop the Depression-era scheme of allowing booksellers to return unsold books. You bought it? You sell it. The bookseller should buy fewer copies and, knowing they cannot be returned, they will definitely try harder to sell them. As it is, what’s the incentive for the bookseller to push all the books they buy if they know they can return the unsold ones, even during a limited time period? What other retail niche does that?

  • Thank you for this, Jeremy. I think you’ve stuck in the publishing game longer than I did and you’ve done a fabulous job with both The Scrambler and Scrambler Books. I’m glad I was able to be helpful in the beginning. At this point, NTB’s top-selling book has sold 335 copies, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get a spike later this year because that author, Jill Alexander Essbaum, has a novel coming out from Random House and she’s getting incredible press. I’m hoping that some of the people who love her novel will give her poetry a chance. I have dreams of four-figure poetry book sales numbers. 🙂

    • Jeremy Spencer

      You’re welcome Reb. You have always helped me out and answered any questions that I have had and I really appreciate that. I hope it reaches 4 figures.

      That’s funny Adam about the fiction. The 2 fiction books Scrambler has published are definitely in the top 5 in terms of sales of all of our books. This whole post was brought on because I am doing the annual sales for 2014 for taxes, etc…this week.

  • Joe Pan

    I could literally talk about this all night. And would in fact love to discuss this with any small publisher or group of small publishers in an effort to help each other out and establish a much needed dialogue. I’ve had well established poets not sell many books and debut collections (with zero publications) do much better than most. We are going to try something new in February, with Noah Eli Gordon’s book–selling for ‘pay what you want’–that may be a step in the right direction, at least for us. Meaning, it might be a price issue…it might be that $15 is just too expensive for folks to spend on a poet they barely know…but is $10? I’d you print on demand, you can get books for $2.15. It’s not offset, I know, but Lightning Source has been publishing a lot of books for a start up fee of $105 per title, so if you have people paying whatever they want (plus shipping/handling) you could break even much more quickly. I’m on a phone that keeps fucking up but I’ll talk about this with whomever etc

    • Jeremy Spencer

      “Pay for what you want” is interesting and I have thought about that since a lot of musicians that I like do that or have tried that. I think it would work. I have even thought of releasing the pdf of the book free (like musicians do with a mixtape) and then selling print copies of the book. I think Corey Doctorow did this a few times with his stuff.

      I think you are right about the price point being a big issue. But you know, if you say $15 and that includes shipping, that is pretty close to $10 + shipping. I wonder, which one are more people willing to pay for of those 2 options? I have though a flat price like $14 or $15 and that includes shipping but maybe not?

      As for POD, the quality is just not there. I have used it in the past, but I am really feeling the whole book as object (art) now. I think with good cover design, a well thought interior, quality paper and a quality cover material, a $14 or $15 price that includes shipping makes more sense. But I don’t know. Am very curious to hear how the pay what you want goes.

      • Joe Pan

        I’ve used digital publishers whose books come close to matching the look & feel of offset, but they won’t do on-demand. It’s not worth the time or expense for them. Doctorow & Neil Gaiman–several specific interviews they’ve done were more instructive to me than speaking with most other small publishers, actually, in terms of visualizing the future of publishing & acting on it now. I think people would pay $2-5 plus $5 shipping for a book of poems from a poet whose stuff they’ve read a little & which they liked. Books sold through SPD nets me about 1/3 of the retail price, minus shipping, etc, depending. Amazon used to give me 45% minus shipping, packaging, etc, & on top of that severely limit how many books it would warehouse. If someone paid us $5 plus $5 for a poetry book, I’d be making more than either my distributor or the world’s largest bookstore could pay me. That speaks volumes. Speaking to the other remark, I love books as art objects, I really do. But to me the important thing is what lies between the covers, the poems. I love great covers (& I think we have a lot of great covers; we use working artists) & I like nice paper, but if I had to choose between the most expensive looking copy of 50 Shades & a beat up, cheap copy of DeLillo, it’s the ugly goods that I want, the smart stuff between the covers. Do people buy hardbacks anymore? Maybe if they’re on sale. But the only reason they’re priced at $30 now is because libraries are still willing to pay that much for them. (This was related to me by two separate people working in publishing.) Gaimen started giving away PDFs of his work for FREE, & making money off his OLD books. That works fine if you have an ouvre, but if you’re just starting out, or if it’s POETRY, then different elements come into play, & I’m trying to figure out what those elements are & how to best negotiate them.

        • Jeremy Spencer

          Yeah, I think Doctorow and Gaimen have interesting ideas but they are already established so you are right, they have their built in ouvre which is probably the thing that sells them books. But even for new poets, putting half of the book via pdf or ebook online free somewhere, will let people do the whole “try before they buy” concept and it is probably worth exploring.

          As for distributors, they are a mess, you are right. Basically all SPD does for me is get books out in the world, but for 1/3 the retail price + shipping to them I am subsidizing that. I do not make $ from books they sell (have a future column planned about distribution, hopefully next Wed).

          You know, I have done 2 hardcovers, the first one contained 2 books by 2 different poets and was a dual release limited edition of 75, priced at $25 that sold all but about 5 copies. It did make some $ and it was split evenly between the 2 poets and the press. The other one was a fiction book and it was a limited run of 100 for the author’s release party and the bookstore that was hosting bought 75 of them so that at least paid for itself.

          Re: book quality, I agree with you on the 50 Shades vs. DeLillo but that is more a matter of taste comparing those two. If you had a choice between a cheap version of DeLillo and a limited edition version that looked beautiful, that would be a harder decision, no (considering you had the funds)?

          There was also a press Flatmancrooked (no longer around) that did the following: “their business model ‘launched’ writers, by asking their
          readers to make donations, a la Kickstarter, to help cover publication
          costs and effectively “invest in the future of an emerging author.” But they would do it all on their website and they were successful. More here:

          • Joe Pan

            Have you noticed how many publications shut down due, in part, to concerns over the publisher’s health? I’ve just spent the last 4 weeks working 10-15 hr days on a book of essays on acting, scenography, & performance art, coupled with promoting two big books & trying to write another novel & get my ducks in line for my own poetry book forthcoming this summer. The time crunch is amazing. I’m taking breaks to speak to this subject because it’s very important to me, not only as a publisher, but as a writer. Writers need to know how this stuff operates, in order to better market themselves. Luckily, more & more poets are becoming publishers (Angus, Cugini, McSweeney, Borland, Covey, Wessel/Cushing, Birds, et al) so there’s a greater understanding of how things operate & more poets to push their experiences into the public…..”(Considering you had the funds)” is, in my mind, the exact heart of the issue. When Bob Hass or Claudia Rankine has a new book out, everyone buys it. That’s money spent, often from a limited budget (poets aren’t the wealthiest folks, overall). So how can we get these readers, the people we often write for, a copy of our work? WE KNOW that when all the expenses are subtracted & the prices averaged out that a $16 book makes between $2-$5 for the publisher (we were going negative on chapbooks selling anywhere but via our website). So how can we sell a book for $10, what I believe is the new price point, & still make money? (This is based on anecdotal data, but each book we sell creates a larger population n-value.) I believe poetry (not fiction, not yet) has to reconsider not only its mode of production (offset vs digital vs ebook/pdf, which affects valuations in regards to many things, including printing costs, overhead, cost absorption) but also its marketing. We give away about 1/8th of every book for free. Go click on any BAP page & you’ll find an excerpt of the work. This gives people a taste of what the writing/art is about, without giving away the whole book. Our marketing plan for Noah’s book is a risk, but it’s a risk we should be taking. We could actually lower the risk tremendously by hosting a pre-sale three to four months in advance, so we get a MUCH BETTER idea of how many books might sell to the general public, which would better inform our decisions regarding print runs. Enough for now, back to work.

          • Jeremy Spencer

            Yes, all good points. So that $10 price point is + shipping right?

          • Joe Pan

            Jeremy, I love SPD–they’ve done great things for us & our sales. Over the years the good people there have spent hours with me on the phone, going through the ins & outs of publishing/distribution. I’m saying it’s important to develop a larger marketing strategy. Pre-sell books as “pay what you want” for a limited time several months in advance of the pub date, or begin with an Indigogo campaign offering readers multiple tiered benefits for a first edition; launch the paperback on its pub date at a higher value–$16-$18 now, according to certain models–so that SPD can do its magic with libraries/tertiary sellers & you can each make a small profit off each book as they reach a more disparate, open marketplace (beyond friends/family); begin selling the book at fairs & readings & in bookstores; settle down for the long haul. I can go into my evolving strategies, but I want to make something clear–I believe that there is enough readers out there that if this methodology works, & if enough of us work in tandem to bring down the costs of production & marketing by implementing prepay strategies, we can help poetry readers pay for more books of poetry than they are paying for now, using the same amount of money. But I’m going to step back here & say this: my plan might go bust. People might pay $5.01 per copy & I’ll be screwed, & chalk it up to a failed promotion & an expensive learning experience. But if it works…

            Also, yeah, $10 total. Think of it as $5 s/h/envelopes/paper/toner/etc plus $5 profit. Now, the bitch of it is, you need to account for ARCs for reviewers. These cut into profits bigtime. As of now, not many people are accepting PDFs as review copies, so you’re going to pay to get them out. 150 digital ARCs can cost you upwards of $1k, including shipping. Most small presses I’ve talked to do between 30-50 review copies; larger indy presses can do anywhere from 150-300, from what I gather, & the larger can go 600 up into the thousands for a big publishers. & I’ll be honest, I still don’t know if you need to be stingy with the ARCs, only passing them out to folks who promise to review the book, or do a blanket mailing. Do the math, see what you can afford. But what I can tell you is that word of mouth sells, so if you can find a few bloggers who like a book & who agree to post close in close proximity timewise, you’re in a good place.

            Also, we do ebooks & split the proceeds 50/50 with the author. Ebooks can be a bitch to make, but PDFs are simple as pie if you have the book in layout already, & it’s important to me my authors know I’m trying to get their book seen using whatever means I have at my disposal in whatever allotted time I have to give. Sometimes the authors make $.50 per year (because poets aren’t buying poetry ebooks, as of yet) but sometimes a person will make an extra $30 (seems to me fiction & chapbooks sell more ebooks than full-length poetry collections).

            I should also mention that at this year’s AWP I’ll be hosting a panel on DIY Publishing, so I’m very interested in what other folks have done & are doing.

          • Jeremy Spencer

            I am enjoying this conversation and understand what you are saying Joe and I agree with most of what you said. I hope that the pay as you go does work and I think it will. The AWP panel sounds good and I hope they record it and put it online.

    • Shanna

      Ain’t we doin’ this kinda on the panel at AWP, Joe? Or this + ?

      • Joe Pan

        Yeah, Shanna, we are! But maybe not as in depth. I’d like to get everyone together in March & discuss it more. Basically figure out what are the basic must-do’s for folks looking to start their own presses.

  • Jeannine Hall Gailey

    I’m very interested in this discussion too. I had very good luck with my first book, and am hoping to have similar numbers with my next book, so, to that effort, I’ve been researching overall book PR (not just poetry) and discovering what makes books sell NOW isn’t necessarily the same as what made books sell in 2006, though some things are similar. (Word of mouth, any major media attention like radio, and class adoption are still the big three for us, I think.) Anyway, this conversation is useful and important.

    • Joe Pan

      Our big 3 is readings, bookstores, SPD. When someone gets taught, it’s a big sale $100-$250, depending on the class size & the book, but it’s not super frequent enough to rely on, not yet, but it’s also because we’re only now building up a “teacher’s list.” The absolute best thing a poet can do for us is string together readings. We try to help them set up 3-5, along with AWP & other festivals, if they’re planning to attend. Brooklyn/NYC bookstores do well for us, but SPD sells the most, through their various backchannels, & to libraries. Other ways we sell books: brand recognition (some people just buy each Brooklyn Arts Press book), Facebook/Twitter updates (small amount), newsletter (small amount), poet appears on Poem-a-Day or something like it (a few copies, possibly), online ads (few copies), interview I or they do (few copies), pre-sale promotions (“the first 50 buyers get…” sells out fairly quickly, usually, but can’t tell if it’s because of family/friends, name recognition, or promotion). We did a Kickstarter campaign for an art book & sold $6k worth of books, covering the cost of production; this, or Indigogo, is an actual real verifiable way to sell poetry books, with the added bonus of getting both a buzz going & getting a sense of how the book is going to sell on the open market.

    • Jeremy Spencer

      I agree there have been changes in how books sell and the way writers and publishers are approaching selling since 2006. Social media which is just another way of saying word of mouth definitely helps and is much bigger (more platforms) than in 2006 for instance.

      And (it sounds like you definitely already know/realize this because of the Big 3 that you listed are all related to direct sales) but not all sales are created equal – a distributor or bookstore selling a book will not net close to as much as a direct sale from a author/publisher website or reading.

  • Jeremy Spencer

    This interview with O/R Books’ Colin Robinson up at Entropy today is great and speaks to all these issues: especially the third answer he gives.

  • Elizabeth Clark Wessel

    Wow this is basically the most relevant conversation on the internet for me at the moment. We’re transitioning from financially low stakes chapbook publishing to full-lengths at the moment, and I’m curious/scared/excited about the whole thing. One issue that hasn’t been addressed here is contests/reading fees. I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on that. I’ve always been very opposed to contests, though I’ve entered plenty, but I feel like as a publisher that doesn’t charge reading fees I’m on an uneven playing field. Poets are spending money on contests and not books. I’ve been thinking that in the long term, after we have a few full-lengths out, I might try some form of a modest reading fee in exchange for a book. If someone is interested enough to pay a submission fee to us, wouldn’t they want one of our books? And then wouldn’t we reach a wider audience? Or would our books be associated with coercion and rejection? Thoughts? If we also stay committed to having some free open reading periods, would that mitigate the class issues? (I’m afraid of getting submissions from only well-heeled poets, in other words.) We’re far from making any decisions along those lines, just some thoughts I had swirling around in my head. PS I would love to meet with a group of you and discuss all of these issues, too.

    • Jeremy Spencer

      Thanks for commenting Elizabeth. I actually have a lot of responses to your questions which I will try and put here now. And these are just from my experiences and I really don’t know much. But…

      Regarding fees/contests – I have never charged them or held a contest. I am sort of against both for various reasons. I think as long as you don’t open a contest with someone (the winner) already in mind (or if there is an outside judge, then one of their acquaintances/students happens to win) then you should be all right.

      One of your next concerns that you are “afraid of getting submissions from only well heeled poets” is legitimate although as the editor you need to be willing to accept non well heeled poets as well. For example, I have found that if you see that you are not getting enough submissions from a certain “group” of writers, say writers that use the word “magenta” or something, then all you have to do is be willing to publish some writers that use the word “magenta” and then more will submit. In other words, we as editors shape what we publish and if we see that there are not enough of a certain type of writer, then do not be afraid to write and email and solicit ones that you like that fit that description. I hope that makes sense. But I think having an open reading period or two will hopefully get you the variety that you want.

      Also, you work with Argos and Circumference right? I like them both a lot. It is funny though, for the title of this post you could have substituted “translation” for “poetry” and probably had the exact same article. I really like the work that is being done in Circumference, I am trying to include more translation projects with my press/website.

  • Thanks for this blog, best thing I ahve read in ages. I made up a booklet of my poetry and sold 250 copies, I thought I was doing really badly. This is the BEST THING I have ever read. So bless, if we want to make a fortune, write blockbuster novels, if we want to tell the truth, write poetry and give it away.

    • Jeremy Spencer

      Thanks for sharing Janet. And for reading.

  • missjmp

    I wonder if you guys have seen the blog I’ve been curating at www/ I love that you talked with my very smart, very relevant buddy Reb (whose tell-it-like-it-is attitude about publishing, and everything else, is always refreshing and necessary) and I think you’ll find a lot of conversation like that on the site, which aims to spark a conversation from many perspectives about poetry, money and worth. Do check it out. I’m interested in what you have to say!

    • Nice site. Good conversations happening there — I liked this post in particular, about paying submission fees and submitting (or not) to non-paying markets:

      • missjmp

        So glad you enjoyed it, Adam. I was glad to read your post and a bunch of my friends shared it, so it seemed serendipitous to me that we were both talking about the same thing at the same time. Keep coming back. There are new posts several times a week!

    • Jeremy Spencer

      Thanks for sharing your website. I read through a bunch of posts last night and thought that the one about how you are keeping tally of all the money spent vs. money received from places that pay for poetry is a good idea. I am curious as to what the outcome will be…and I hope that it is successful.

      • missjmp

        Ha! Yes. That is the fun (but also the scary) part. I’m due for a January update, actually, and the good news is that I am actually UP! However, that’s if I don’t include subscriptions to journals I like. (I decided not to include that, though, because if I were a doctor, say, I wouldn’t include all the medical journals or books I bought to read as taking away from my actual salary, just as expenses of life.)

        • Jeremy Spencer

          Yes, I agree to not include those fees. Interested to see how many total places you end up sending to as well and then comparing that to say last year. Did/is this experiment impacting the number of places that you send your submissions. Makes sense that it would, especially if you have set a budget for the year.

          • missjmp

            Surprisingly enough, it’s making me submit more, not less. Of course, this is not an exact science. I didn’t have as much work to send last year, and since I finished my next book but it will not be published until 2017 (by Red Hen Press) I have a bunch of material to send out. But more importantly, this pledge is actually changing me. I’m seeing my work as something more worthwhile, and it’s pretty cool.

          • Jeremy Spencer

            That is good to hear. And valuing one’s work is always a good thing and a whole other conversation topic in its own right.

          • missjmp

            Absolutely. In fact, I think that’s what my next post on the site is going to be about. The various ways one can value one’s own work.

  • i just found this piece ( a year later) but thanks for discussing actual numbers. most ppl don’t want to do this, but it’s hugely important to set real expectations. i made like $50 on my last ebook. i wrote about it here:

  • All her anecdote about the people who go to readings but never buy books tells me is that people care about the performance and the public pageant of “attending a poetry reading”, and care nothing for the actual vision of the poetry itself.

    In the long run, the poetry itself will far outlast all of us.

    Back in the 1800s there were thousands of people writing and performing poetry for each other in salons, but some of the only poetry from that time we seem to value is that written by the intense reclusive girl who kept to herself in her room and put all her poems in a trunk.

  • Richard Gammon

    I saved a couple of thousand quid (UK Sterling) and had a local printer turn out 500 copies – good quality – well presented – 200 + pages. I give these away free to anyone who expresses interest. There will be another tranche (2nd edn.) at the printer in October.
    At a reading say I put half a dozen on the side and go, “Take one.” well, they are always taken and people like me to sign them too – the thing is, I want people to enjoy my stuff and there are lots of people who would not or could not afford a volume of poems – I see the artist/poet as offering insights to people and if only those with money to spare get to read it the spread is narrowed almost to extinction.
    And as a life time beatnik I have no interest in money – I live on the state pension and save most of that. I also tend to find the setting of a price demeaning.

  • Jonathan Walton

    I just found this article and am late to the conversation. My three books of poetry sold close to 5K copies, mostly in rural southern virginia and then in NYC, and a tour my family, friends, and performances financed from 2003-2008. now as I write my next book, I was drawn back to this dialogue. I would sincerely like to engage in a discussion if you are willing and able.

Real Pants

Good hair, crooked gait

Our Sponsors

Mailing List

Keep current with literary stuff

Type in your email and hit enter
* indicates required