Tag Archives: independent publishing

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!

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Poetry and the Publishing Revolution

Publishing has been well and truly taking up a great deal of my thoughts of late as I am presently hard at work putting the finishing touches on my latest collection, Ocean Hearted (both book and DVD). I have been reading, reading, reading and one of the articles that has really stuck with me is The Small Press Poetry Revolution by Travis Nichols (The Huffington Post). It is true… with the current technology available, just about anyone can start a small press, but as Nichols points out, after the initial rush of excitement, it proves a very difficult thing to sustain.

What makes it hard to sustain is more than a lack of excitement though, for me it is the constant job of promotion and presentation that becomes the biggest hurdle. Let’s face it, keeping your work in the public eye is a full time job and expanding the scope of that eye… well that is another thing altogether. But after almost 9 years of being involved in publishing ventures, I still get a thrill out of putting new work out into the world. Like Nichols points out, small presses have been at the forefront of the poetry revolution because they are the ones unafraid to question what poetry is and to take the risks, big publishers would never dream of (sadly, it could be said poetry as an art form is now seen as a risk for major publishers).

So tonight’s job of finalising the running order for Ocean Hearted (the book) is one that I am eager to get into… the shuffling of pages, the culling, the excitement of seeing poems in conversation with each other… we need to love this stuff, to value it. It is all part of the creative process, all part of keeping the art of poetry a living, breathing thing.

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The evolution of the author/publisher relationship

I was over at Electric Alphabet the other day and was interested in Kate Eltham’s examination of the question posed by Mark Coker in his article for The Huffington Post, do authors still need publishers?

Coker argues that an author (he uses names like Stephen King and JK Rowling) with a dedicated fanbase could get a much better return from the marketplace by self-publishing. And while there are few poets (if any) who boast fanbases with the size and sustainability of King or Rowling, this also rings true in the poetry world. But as Kate points out:

the author that can make a self-publishing project successful is the author who is an entrepreneur, a small business manager, a savvy marketer and a tireless communicator.

No easy feat…

But this is something that poets worldwide have known for sometime and many are now fulfilling all of these roles quite successfully. As Seth Godin suggests in the article Tribe Building 101, increased communication between author and reader through blogs, online forums, and in person, encourages greater transparency and will help to consolidate your fanbase.

Blogging has opened up a new world for me and the countless other poets who regularly post their words each day. It is a way of reaching out to other writers and readers. It facilitates collaboration. It helps build community. And for me, it is a way of discipling myself to write. I feel like a novice in the blogging field, but already it has opened up many new avenues for my work. Combined with regular submissions to journals (online and print), regular readings (open mic and features), organising events, attending events and in general lending support to the development of the greater poetry community, I feel I am finally laying a platform to build on. All this has been ten years in the making and it has all been worth it. I plan to release my next book independently in 2010 and am feeling confident about the process.

That is not to say I am anti-publisher. Nothing could be further from the truth… I am one half of the team that runs Small Change Press and have recently been working on the Brisbane New Voices project. Indeed, I believe publishers have an important role to play, bringing new voices to a wider public, but it has to be said that independent publishers also require their authors to be creating their own platform through blogging, reading, submitting to journals etc… Being published, so to speak, does not mean that you can sit back and watch the sales roll in. In today’s writing/reading world, the entrepreneurial skills of marketing and communication need to be embraced by all.

It is clear that the relationship between author and publisher has changed forever. Some would argue for better, others for worse. What I am most interested in is how authors and publishers can survive and thrive (together or alone) in the future. All thoughts welcome…

 

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