Why I chose to publish my latest poetry collection with a new indie publisher
Earlier this month I had the happy opportunity to publish my most recent poetry collection, enditem., with a young, exciting independent publisher based in Ireland, Beir Bua Press. While there are many things I can say about publishing, and particularly about publishing poetry, I really wanted to take this chance to share with you why I chose to bring out my book with a relatively new indie press. For any of you who are interested in publishing your poetry, I hope this will be helpful, both in terms of sketching out some of the choices you might make, while also telling my publishing story up until this point.
Balancing access and literary reputation
Though I have met a few exceptions in the past several years, most poets aren’t in it for the money. The vast majority of poetry books published every year earn no profits, no royalties, and can even generate losses. Of course, there are exceptions for major poets (usually dead), but publishing poetry is generally not a keen strategy for direct financial gain.
So why do we do it? I think this is a harder question to answer than most poets are willing to admit. There is the rather conventional answer that we do it for the love of poetry, which I believe is a kind of agreed-upon avoidance of the question. It’s socially acceptable to “do it for the love,” but there are so many ways we could love poetry without publishing. And even if we admit that publishing may be a critical part of sharing our work with the world, the difficulty of deciding on who to publish might be less intense if this was all just about the love.
Frankly, most poets who publish want to be read and read widely. The strategies for reaching this difficult-to-quantify objective however are varied. Do you publish online, distributing PDFs for free? Do you try an online retailer like Amazon? Do you seek out a reputable smaller publisher or do you aim for a big NYC publishing house with a roster like the Pantheon in Paris? Or do you start on Tumblr or Instagram like Rupi Kaur?
For many poets, I think there is a tricky calculus being done between giving readers accessibility (and distribution channels are not to be under-estimated) and the degrees of prestige…