About five years ago I self-published a collection of poetry through lulu.
I made exactly nothing despite apparently selling at least one book through amazon (according to the less that encouraging review posted), and in the end I retired the project.
The experience taught me a number of important things.
- Lulu is not the way to go if you want to sell a physical book on Amazon and make any margin.
- I am not a good enough editor. I need to outsource this element to avoid the number of typos and mistakes that were in the last book.
- Reading poems you wrote five or more years ago can be a painful experience. Especially when you realise the bad review hit the nail directly on the head.
So why am I about to give self-publishing another shot?
Well clearly I’m a glutton for punishment.
When I published ‘Before The Words Run Out’ there were thirty-two poems, a series of haiku, and some pieces of flash fiction (all of which can be found somewhere in the depths of this blog). For ‘It’s All In The Blood’ I wanted to create a collection of just poems, and ensure that the majority of them were not poems I’d already published to Writing and Works. Some have appeared elsewhere, such as on Ink Sweat and Tears, but for the most part the collection will be new pieces with a few favourites from the site sprinkled in.
The unfinished draft is sitting at forty-seven poems (it was forty-eight but I axed a poem which I didn’t feel was good enough). I was aiming to cut the collection off at fifty poems (because I like round numbers) but the final number is likely to be higher now as my recent dive back into the local poetry communities means I’m writing a lot of stuff and I’m actually really happy with most of the work I’m producing.
I am editing as I’m writing. As this is not a novel, I’m free to go back and amend, rewrite, obliterate poems as I see fit without changing the entire plot or flow of the book. This back and forth between writing and editing also means that I don’t get snow blind with my poems. It’s very easy to write something, go over it straight away and be like ‘Yeah, that’s good enough’.
No. No it is not.
I’ve got a couple of friends who are helping me with the next round of editing. Both are writers themselves, one of which has done some work in editing. Both are brutally honest and of the opinion that if they don’t say it someone else will, so it’s better coming from them.
There is a small part of me who wants to find the guy who gave me the bad review on my last collection and show him the new one. I want the chance for him to say ‘you’ve improved, well done’. (But that would be bowing to my need for approval and I’m trying very hard to shake that particular dog-turd off my shoe.)
I have been considering traditional publishing but quite honestly, I feel like I need to prove to myself that I can conquer self-publishing. This is unlikely to be my last poetry collection, I’m only twenty-five and it’s not even my first attempt. Even if this bites the dust then I will still come away with more experience that if I’d not tried at all.
The aim is to have the collection finished and ready to publish by autumn. (I will not specify when in autumn because ‘wiggle-room’). The title has been picked, I’m making tentative enquiries about possible cover designs with arty friends, and I’ve settled on using the Amazon self-publishing platform to produce and sell the book. It almost looks like I have a book and a plan. Almost.
A little further down the line (i.e when the book is done) I’ll be looking to do some sort of book blog tour but that is only a very small flicker on the enormous fairy-light display in my brain at the moment. For the most part I am focused on the writing and the torture that is rewrites.
In the meantime feel free to bombard me with any of your own experiences self-publishing, traditionally publishing, or just poetry writing in general. How do you balance writing poetry for a blog v poetry for a collection/competitions. Let me know in the comments below.