7 shots of wisdom

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!



Filed under discussions

14 responses to “7 shots of wisdom

  1. Some good points made here.

  2. 1.2. – for someone exiting almost entirely and only in the web this is very hard to say (apart that almost everyone has facebook and such). IN fact I would say I barely know who my audience are apart of that that the big majority of them are heavy blog/net poetry consumers.
    3. Well, I am never too sure about that one. My father taught me that when starting a business (and for that, self production is one) your family and friends should be the first to pay and not the first to get something for free. I observed it for long time and never looked back. When ever I can shop by a new friend place there I will go, and will try to pay the full price if possible.
    That said, if you can get your product for free to someone who will promote it in a larger/different circle, that is a surly good thing.
    4. reading… bhaaaa, (my personal feeling only)
    6. cross genre can be very cool way also to explore your own work and your own creativity with someone else and in someone else’s eyes.
    7. Yes Yes Yes

    Wonderful post Graham. I love Bryan Borland‘s example who took the self-publishing a step higher into a wonderful publishing “project”.

    • gnunn

      Glad this provided much food for thought D. Can I ask why you feel that way about readings?

      • Of course you can ask πŸ™‚
        I can also answer ;).

        Stage fear. LOL. And my English is shite. Did I tell you maybe 40% of my poems contains words i either have no idea how to pronounce or i had to look up in a dictionary and already forgot their full meaning.

      • gnunn

        Definitely sound reasoning D. That said, I have always found your work to have an inherent music to it… it would make for great listening.

      • Thanks G. Appreciate it very much.
        Though, as said, not sure I am really able to read it in the right manner. Maybe I will work on it one day.

  3. Great post Graham πŸ™‚ That’s what I love about poetry – you can be as flexible and creative as you want. I need to hook up with someone who has good video or editing skills – like the idea of matching sounds with words, and short movie type things – I don’t suppose you know anyone with these talents in the widebay area? I also like the idea of putting a collection together in a self bound format – in for eg., cloth – in a small number that can be made on demand – again, I am completely craft deficit so would need someone to help me (I do have crafts disease though πŸ˜‰ can’t remember a fkn thing – hahaha – so someone to remind me to do things is also good – haha – or to write me big reminder notes).

    • gnunn

      Gabe, don’t feel tied to your local area… This big, bad blogosphere has enormous reach allowing us to work collaboratively across the globe.

      So, readers, if you are a video/photographic/visual artists looking to work with a committed poet (or know someone who is), drop Gabe a line!

      She would love to hear from you!

  4. Gabe,
    i will happily post this in my place too πŸ™‚
    and who knows, though it is much nicer with flesh, it might also come later. – as a friend told me over in skype last week – this is a damn strange world where i see you and talk with you as if you are just in the room but a sec later you are gone 3000 miles away. We got really fast.

    • haha – so true – for the record I would love to hear you read even if on an audio recording – I wouldn’t worry if the English is not 100% (that is part of who you are and your poetry too). I guess what I would really like is to sit down with someone who is good at editing video and superimposing music (like people do on youtube) and watch how it’s done – haha – I used one editing program once and was trying to edit out the blanks and ended up editing out the actual video – doh!

      • On the record πŸ˜‰ http://www.blackriderpress.com/shop.html – down there

        I know what you mean. I had such a person (well of the sort) on my last visit to India (I put the video sometime ago). I watched her cutting and glowing and came home trying to do the same – I still have a lot of digital film slivers all around my virtual floor

  5. Dhyan – none of those links seems to work anymore – though I think I might have listened to the recording ages ago – never mind!

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