9 comments


  • This is the flip side of what I posted a few days ago: working like hell to get the book out is Part 2, and I increasingly think about Part 1 as writing a book that in its very similes and stanzas shows awareness of its own potential audiences. I’m not saying I do Part 1 successfully!–just that all the good publicity in the world doesn’t matter if the book itself doesn’t rise to meet the occasion. As for Part 2, if I knew the answer, I’d be famous. Certainly you have to be ready to capitalize on lightning strikes, but life does get in the way, as in your illness. My husband had that happen with his last novel–the publisher collapsed, it got put out right before our 6 mo in NZ rather than right after, and the publicity plan dissolved. It’s like a miracle when the word DOES get out, really.

    August 29, 2014
  • I just realized that without the context of my comments below that post, this might sound like I’m complaining about the press or lamenting the low sales numbers. To clarify, what I meant was this:

    I got sick of promoting the book after a few months, and feel very guilty that I didn’t do more for the sake of the press. I never cared about selling my own poems, and should have realized that without dragging a press into it. The joy is in writing and making a book, and if I do it again, I’m going to save the press the trouble, and just make it print on demand, and sell five copies and be happy.

    I didn’t realize how much you have to do, as an author, and how little I could stomach it.

    August 29, 2014
  • Lesley, you’re right! When the stars align, things work out.

    August 29, 2014
  • And of course we have to write the best book we possibly can. I’ve read and reviewed some fantastic poetry books, however, that had bad sales numbers for whatever reason, and seen great numbers on poetry books I didn’t think were that great.

    August 29, 2014
  • Dear Tim, No, I didn’t read your comments that way, and certainly I also do not wish to impugn any of my lovely publishers. (Including, thanks Two Sylvias Press, the folks that just re-launched a second edition of my second book.) It’s tough out there for indie publishers, it’s tough for poetry publishers in particular.
    I think, Tim, that a lot of people don’t think ahead of time of what’s required of a writer without major $$ behind their marketing campaign – and to be clear, that’s only a handful of authors, even in the big publishing leagues – and I’m thinking seriously this time about what I can do versus what I can’t, or rather, what is worth investing in, time and money-wise.
    Actually, I’d love to hear from publishers about this, too! I wish there was more conversation about this out there in the world. It would help prepare more poets for what’s ahead!

    August 29, 2014
  • Lesley Wheeler

    Yeah! Same here. It just feels better focusing on what I can control–the art of it–versus what I have limited control over, the luck or buzz, as you put it.

    September 01, 2014
  • When my chapbook “Sink Your Teeth into the Light” was being published I needed a certain amount of pre-order copies sold before it would go to print. Most of my friends are not writers, most of my family don’t even read, so I was so worried about making the quota.

    I decided to go trough my facebook friend list, which is over 1,000 and I sent a message one by one, no group emails (Jeannine, did you get my message) to everyone on my friends list.

    Now, I say out of 1,000 about 6 wrote me back and told me I was a jerk for even asking them to buy my book, and that they were un-friending me. A couple even told me they’d be more willing to buy my book if I just posted it on my status update.

    Well, here is the truth: Before I sent emails out directly to everyone I did post it on my status update A LOT! At least twice a day for years (also for my first chapbook) and I have never had anyone buy any of my chapbooks doing that. I’ve sold a handful (and I mean a handful) at readings, but it was through those direct facebook emails where I’ve sold the most copies of my chapbook.

    The lesson here is everyone hates getting a cold call at suppertime from someone trying to sell you something, but there is a reason why companies still do it: it works.

    September 02, 2014
  • You know, Joshua, I’m thinking Facebook may be a poor place to promote a book – it might be a good place to make an announcement, and hear from your friends, but not necessarily a good place to make book sales. I’ve had better luck with old-fashioned e-mails and postcards, I think.

    September 02, 2014
  • I think about this a lot, especially this last year when I went down to one car and, therefore, went to very few readings. I actually don’t think the sales of my last book were particularly affected by that because I don’t tend to sell a lot of books at readings, which has always bugged me.

    I probably should keep better numbers than I do, but I think the amounts you mentioned are pretty normal. I don’t think any of my chapbooks (outside of “Fat Girl” which seems to have found its own little momentum) has sold more than about 100 copies. I don’t know that my full length collections have done much more although I think my first may have gotten over the 300 mark? I should ask my publisher. I think it helped when a teacher or two decided to use it in their classes. That doesn’t happen a lot, but that can definitely guarantee some sales.

    So, why do we keep doing it? It is a puzzle isn’t it? I have about 40 odd poems right now, about 20% published, that I think might be a collection in a year or two (my 4th full length as well!), but I feel some of that guilt Tim mentions when I just don’t feel like putting the book together sometime although I also want the poems out there.

    We poets are mental, aren’t we 🙂

    September 04, 2014

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