Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marketing poetry books: helpful links

Here are the links promised in "The Peddler's Comedy, a post about doing events for The Throne of Psyche and discovering that I know nothing about the conjunction of selling and poetry.  Hence, the digging-about for knowledge...  If you desire the introduction and lots of sometimes-indignant comments, go there first!

Feel free to argue, object, or add a link of your own. Although I have rooted about to find these, no doubt I missed some good truffles.


The Belletrist: Selling Your Book

Amusing summation of the way it is from poet Quincy Lehr.  Make that Quincy R. Lehr. I wonder what the "R" stands for. Be sure and check out the comments as well.


Kickstarter sample projects in the realm of poetry. I’m not thinking about Kickstarter as a way of raising funds for a current book, but I am contemplating how it might be used as a sort of subscriber base for a more obscure sort of project in the future. I’m pondering Samuel Johnson’s great projects, which always began by establishing a funding base of subscribers.

Diane Lockward recommends and discusses a post by Marie Gauthier of Tupelo Press and especially likes salon-style events where a friend hosts and guests buy a book.  This idea seems quite pleasant, although I can’t picture asking somebody to do a thing like this… I suppose that is something amiss with me, though.

And here’s the original source on trying and trying too hard and more.
“How very difficult it can be to sell a book of poetry. At full price. To strangers. You can't take poor sales to heart. But all things being equal (quality of the work etc), I've noted that the poets whose books sell regularly tend to be active members of some sort of poetry community. Translation: poets who take joy in all aspects of poetry, who are interested in other poets and other poems beyond their own, who seek out ways to be involved.

Diane’s article in Poet’s Market. "Promoting your book is the business of poetry, but don't expect to make money." 

Nic Sebastian on an inherently non-profit activity and giving away poetry. I doubt that will work for my publishers, but she has lots of interesting ideas. Oh, and she likes Kickstarter, and there’s a link to Unbound as well. Interesting.

Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing (UK) (and a wide consulting business including Blackwell, Cavendish, and other publishing clients) with 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell: The Salt Guide to Getting and Staying Published" T. As "Chris Emery," he is also known as a poet. Sample pdf file available.
“Main description:  101 Ways to Make Poems Sell is an insider’s guide to the poetry business, focusing on the issues that matter: building profile, finding readers and selling books. Hamilton-Emery offers practical and hard-earned advice about the ins and outs of marketing poetry and driving sales. Whether you are a novice or an established poet, this book provides you with over a hundred tools and techniques to help sell your books, keep your publisher and build a readership around the world.”



  1. Looks helpful, though I have not had a chance to check out the links yet. I did order a used copy of that book though. I might as well do it now before Amazon goes away in CA.

  2. Hope it helps you, Robbi. Send back a report!

    * * *


    I do want to remind people that when you order an in-print book as a used book,

    a. the publisher gets nothing;

    b. the author gets nothing in two important ways--that is, neither the tiny amount of money that would be his/her share, nor the vote of confidence in the book that helps the writer stay on with the current publisher or find a new publisher for the ensuing book;

    c. Bookscan numbers now rule the publishing lives of authors, and used books do nothing for such numbers. Publishers look at prior bookscan numbers, and marketing departments often--often!--prevent the acquisition of a strong new manuscript because of prior numbers.

    I notice that in-print books are often almost the same price as used copies... If you buy at full price from your local independent bookstore (gold star sticker for you!), then you help bookstore, publisher, and writer. But if you have decided to buy a used copy of an in-print book because of the lower price, I suggest that you first check out the prices of new copies at the chain stores. Often it's almost as cheap (and sometimes cheaper) than used prices.

  3. Marly, I admire how you promote your own work, and all your well-researched and lively posts promoting the buying of books and art in support of their creators. I haven't had time to read your links or even comment regularly lately but I do read you with much appreciation. It's such a sad, and yes maddening fact that even when the 'audience' at readings and exhibitions is enthusiastic and loves ones work, few or no purchases are made. Many artists support other artists but cannot usually afford to buy each others work (at least the usually more expensive visual art). Sometimes we trade though, but that doesn't help the bank acoount, does it? For books, I tend to use libraries the most, and your suggestion to ask libraries to purchase suggested material is excellent and I must do that. And some of my rare book purchases have been directly from small publishing houses.

  4. Yes, now that libraries have cut their budgets it is more important that they choose well, so that's a good place to start. A lot of libraries only require three requests to list a book for order...And sometimes fewer, if you make the case for a book.

    I am very fond of owning original art (by friends and otherwise), crafts (particularly N. C. pottery and other handicrafts), and books. It's a great thing to live with a rich book of poems or a fascinating painting for many years.

  5. I understand what you are saying about books, but when I am faced with a book that costs $.03 or $5.00, as opposed to $20., I must choose the cheaper option because that is all I can afford right now. Otherwise, I wouldn't buy any books at all. I probably shouldn't, mind you, because our house is so small and has so little room for bookshelves.
    I still think reading a writer's work and recommending it to others is preferable to not reading it, and it might make one buy the next book that person publishes at full price after working up enthusiasm for that person's work.

  6. I understand completely and do not object. But I think other people don't always know these things... That is my experience, anyway!

  7. A book of yours would be grand assigned reading as part of a poetry class. While enrolled in a seminar some years back, we students were assigned three slim volumes, recently published, of the work of contemporary poets, two men and one woman. At that time (late 1990s), the men were attached to universities, but the woman was still a free lance in the writing realm.

    All wrote in more of a lyric free verse style, if memory serves. The typical output of our times for the past half century. But why not a book filled with fabulous formal metrical verse of modern vintage? I think students would respond favorably.

    How does one get her publisher to promote such a use? Perhaps by approaching the faculty directly? Is that incredibly bold? Might you approach one or two profs at colleges or universities right in your neck of the woods? People you may have met? Is that too gauche?

    Too late for the upcoming term, but maybe for the spring...

    My two cents.

  8. Excellent two cents, if only one could figure out how to make it go!

    And actually my publisher for the next poetry book has the idea of tackling professors who teach epic poems (because "Thaliad" is a sort of contemporary epic.)

    Of course, part of the issue is that an awful lot of academics (and academic poets) are a bit hostile to metrical poetry and regard it as high-falutin' and elitist (and other nasty things.) Which is a bit funny when you consider it because popular song lyrics and rap are metrical and have rhyme, and you can't call them elitist... And meanwhile many coteries of avant garde poetry are full of writers that an ordinary reader can't grasp, their work unreadable for most people. So who is elitist, I wonder?

    Shall have to think about this a bit more...

  9. I don't know if it's true that people still feel this way about metrical work. In fact, I think it is rather in fashion right now. But then I don't hang around MFA programs or even poetry readings these days, so it's hard to know.
    RE: ordering a book for a class, I think it's a great idea. I personally have given such books as gifts. But why not one of those self-created anthologies with chosen poems from a number of such writers? The publishers and maybe even the writers would see some profit, if not very much, from that.

  10. Robbi,

    More probably that means you are hanging around me! No, there's plenty of venom against meter and rhyme around... But it definitely is better, and there are a few good journals that focus on it.

    Well, there are such anthologies...a few. But I don't think my publisher will be going in that direction. And I don't know how much they help to sell individuals. But they are a good thing.

  11. Update--

    Ordered Chris Hamilton-Emery's book, and it just arrived... I shall be interested to see if he has ideas that haven't wafted through my brain! I hope so.

    Also, this post is getting a lot of views. There must be a lot of people out there wishing for readership.

  12. Yes, I heard a talk from Michael Schmidt a few years ago. He is the founder of one of the most prestigious poetry publishers in the UK, Carcanet (http://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?owner_id=665).

    The main message I took from that is that he said for every book he sold he had three submissions of new work. So I guess far more people are interested in writing poetry than reading it. In fact I wonder if all those people writing poetry actually buy (as opposed to borrow) much of other people's work at all! But then maybe they can't afford it.

  13. I don't know; these days a book costs about the same amount as a lunch. As a young writer, I would definitely have gone for the book!

    More bothersome, I think, is the idea that a lot of poets don't read. I've seen it said so many times, and though I know young poets who do read (how else could they find me, I guess), it appears to be a commonplace observation by writers in academia now.

    My two cents: there are a number of schools of poetry that appear to care little for tradition, sound, and form (and free verse should certainly care about form! There's nothing entirely free until it becomes free of poetry, and then it's not "verse.") These tendencies encourage young people to think that prose broken into pieces, often about their current or childhood distresses, is what constitutes poetry.

  14. One can hope that they are wrong,those opining professors... Perhaps those students are secret, mad readers and put up a front of not being so for some as-yet-unclear reason.

  15. Just read your reply to this comment. Many apologies.

    I think you'd love the section I read in a very unexpected place about 'modernism'. The book was 'Empires of the Silk Road' and the author referred to a philosopher called Theodor Adorno who has written a book called 'Aesthetic Theory' which sounded interesting.

  16. Clare,

    I ought to read the book--I have thought of reading Adorno every time I stub my toe on a quote from him. I am always bumping to comments of his on fascism, truth and lies, the individual. Love. Art. How to live. Good reminder. Perhaps I will do it eventually!

    Yes, I ought to do so.

  17. I'd not heard of him before! This author seemed to think his ideas were good ones w.r.t. totalitarian regimes in particular. It did sound interesting, but I usually find philosophers very difficult to understand.

  18. Oh, yes! Definitely there.

    You can always go a look at a list of clips from his work (like BrainyQuotes or something like that) to get a taste. I have run into a few turgid ones, but most don't seem that way.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.