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Steamy Pancakes

HOLY HOTCAKES!!!!!!  Writing Friends

Today, I’m weighing in on a very hot topic: the current state of poetry book publishing.

A few days ago, discussions started over on Sandy Longhorn’s blog and were starting to get juicy.

Here I want to approach the subject from a slightly different perspective. Look at the marketing angle.

So we know, and have experienced firsthand, that publishers are increasingly relying on the contest or reading fee model in order to offset the cost of poor-selling full-length collections.

Marketers are taught that poor sales are usually the result of: 1) a faulty or lackluster product, or 2)  a failure to reach the correct market.

The question then becomes are these full-length collections faulty or lacking in some way? Do readers in today’s marketplace even have the appetite for them? Or do they prefer shorter, less expensive, more focused work?

If the answer to that last question is yes, and I think that it is, then do chapbooks/pamphlets make more sense than the full-length pieces?

I think the fact that we are seeing a such a resurgence of them in both Britain and the US answers that question.

Chapbooks are, in my opinion, the best way to expose readers to a wider range of work, especially in terms of cost and collectability. [More on that in a future post].

Additionally, they help build a poet’s following, thereby making it easier to convince a publisher to take on a full-length collection down the road.

Even for those who already have full-length collections, chapbooks can be a good place to try out new things.

Teapot**For more on chapbooks, see Laura Madeline Wiseman’s blog. She has some really interesting interviews with both writers and publishers of the form.

As to failure to reach the right market, Ploughshares recently ran an article on just that subject back in May. You can find it here: Why Poetry Can’t Find It’s Public.

While I might not agree completely with the author of the article, it is clear to me that we as writers need to work along with our publishers in order to engage new audiences.

There are avenues open to us beyond youtube, radio, and e-chapbooks, if we will just allow ourselves to think outside the poetry box.

Which poets do you know that market themselves well? Which publishers are doing fun and creative things to engage more readers? Please post! I always love hearing from you.