I came across a great piece about releasing an independent album over on Arts Hub and while it targets musicians, I think there is much wisdom here for people looking to independently release a book of poetry.
Let’s take a look at the seven shots of wisdom and how they relate.
1. Determine who your audience is
What really spoke to me here is that not everyone is going to want to read (or listen to) your work. Let’s not even kid ourselves that our work appeals to ‘everybody’ that buys and/or reads poetry, and again, let’s be honest that this is not a staggeringly large number of people in the first place… so taking the time to know who does read your work is of great importance.
2. Find out where your audience gets their fix, then meet them there
As with music, this is going to be largely online – magazines, blogs, facebook, twitter etc… – and at events. Do the hard yards and find out where your audience reads/listens/gathers and do everything you can to make sure that you have a presence there.
3. Give it away now
Yes, this is a great line from the Chili Peppers, but never has anything been more true. You may not want to… you may not think it’s important… but, giving copies of your work away – free books, online downloads etc… – is one of the most important ways of getting your voice heard. Embrace it!
4. Think about distro
And in this sense, don’t limit your thinking to ‘hard copy product’. I am the first to say, that the physical media of the book (or the record) are my preference as a creator and as a consumer, that said, I embraced the digital world with my blog several years ago now and have never looked back (in fact, I feel I would be lost without it!)
Also, don’t limit yourself to distribution through book stores. Be select and support those stores. Three to five quality stores stocking your book will help build your presence. And never underestimate the power of the travelling bookstore (i.e. you!). Get along to readings, festivals, community & author events and make sure you have copies of your work with you. You just never know…
5. Make videos
Poetry and film have become very close friends in the digital age, so if, like me, you don’t have the technical chops to make a film, broaden your network and find people who do. Book trailers and poetry films are a great way to meet a crossover audience.
6. Have great photos, great artwork and a great website
I this speaks for itself! But as the article points out, be prepared to pay professionals to make this happen!
7. Be a great publicist, or hire one
For many of us, this does not come natural, so if talking your work up is the equivalent of having your nails pulled out one at a time, you need to take the leap and pay someone to do the job for you.
If you are serious about your work being read/heard, then you need to promote it. I have never looked in to hiring a poetry publicist, but I imagine they are very rare. A positive option may be to ask a peer who has these skills if they would be willing to assist you for a professional fee.
Releasing a book (record, whatever really) independently is hard work, but it is something that more and more people are doing successfully. What I hope these seven points have done is completely dispel the myth of the term self-publishing. If you self-publish (i.e. do everything yourself), you are destined for hard times… Building a successful team of professionals who you work well with is the real key to success!