Publishing – Things I’ve Learned Along the Way
I promised to talk a bit about the publishing process – so here goes.
Publishing a book of poetry will cost you money up front. You will not be able to find a publishing house that will pay you to publish a book of poetry. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong and if anyone out there has had a publisher hand you a cheque for the privilege of publishing your poetry book please send me their email address immediately, okay? How hard you work at promoting your book will determine whether you earn back your investment or just have a lot of great Christmas presents for family and friends.
Don’t be fooled by online services that will ‘proof’ your book. I proofed a friend’s manuscript once, then it was sent to the ‘publishers’ who ‘proofed’ a bunch of mistakes into it, (sigh). Do your very best to proof (fix the grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors) and edit (polish the poems, look at line breaks, make sure each poem is the best it can be) yourself first, then find someone you trust (who knows shit from chocolate pudding about poetry) to go through and make suggestions. Caveat! Choose someone who is honest, respectful, and doesn’t have a vested interest in undermining your self esteem. I know the last one seems fairly obvious but it’s truly amazing how often we offer up our art to the most undeserving and then expect a fair response.
You will need to check out printing options. This includes local printing companies, online ‘print on demand’ businesses, or just hitting print on your personal printer. Figure out your page count (don’t forget the table of contents), the size you want the book to be, the type of binding, black and white or colour? softcover/hardcover, will it have an ISBN or a UPC? Who will do the cover design/art?… Then ask for printing quotes. Ask for quotes for different amounts of books too, usually there is a discount if you order more copies. I ended up printing my book “Falling Awake and other poems” through Lulu.com. They did a good job at a price that was low enough that I could build a reasonable profit into the price. They also offer an online outlet, so people can purchase my book online. (For Goodness Sake print a single copy first – then if there’s a mistake you’ve only wasted the cost of one book and you can fix it before they hit print on a full run!)
Computer literacy is vital. If you don’t have it, the cost of publishing your own book is going to increase. Whatever outlet you use to print your book, you’ll need to understand how to format, save, and upload your manuscript EXACTLY the way they ask you to. Screw this up and you’ll have a book that looks so unprofessional it might as well be written in crayon. Understand Microsoft Word – take a course if you need to. You may think you’re perfectly adequate in Word, but if you can’t format your document to include page numbers and a table of contents you need to learn more.
Sales do not happen unless you promote your book. Do the launch, do signings and readings, give away a few complementary copies, get interviewed, write a blog, have a website, create a Facebook Page… promotional possibilities are endless, you just have to be open to them. Also, what works for my book may not work for yours. You may have a totally different target audience – so figure out who they are and play to them. If you’re a normally modest person, promotion can be very difficult. My only advice is – Get over it – if you want to sell your book you need to show people you’re proud of it, that it’s important to you and that it could be important to them. That’s not bragging, that’s being honest. If you don’t believe in your book why would anyone else believe in it (or buy it). Yep, that was my version of a pep talk 😉
Good luck. I’ll post more learned lessons as I remember or experience them!