View Full Version : Should I self-publish my poetry?

08-12-2003, 12:31 AM
Hello, All,

In my search for a book publisher of poetry, I have become frustrated because a great deal of the publishers I have seen only want "literary" poetry and poems I usually don't write. I write traditional, inspirational poems. I had a poetry chapbook that I self-published that's up on Amazon, but it hasn't been selling too well.

People I have shared my poetry with keep asking for a new poetry book, but I don't know if I should self-publish my poems or go through a POD. I know I definitely don't want to take the e-book route.

Still, I can't find many publishers with reasonable fees for even this!

Should I just do it myself? I know it'll cost more money, but I'd hate to leave all of my poetry packed away in boxes. It's hard to find magazines that publish their kind, too, and I've been using nonpaying poetry forums to see what kind of feedback I receive on them

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


08-12-2003, 02:31 AM
Self-publisning poetry can be quite cheap if you buy your own ISBN number and go straight to a printer. First get independent opinions on the poetry and have it throughly proof read and then send free review copies to *everybody*.

08-12-2003, 10:05 PM
Thanks for that input. :D

08-12-2003, 10:40 PM
My own post needed a bit of proof-reading ;)

There are print-on-demand companies that specialise in poetry but I don't trust them. I would recommend a not-too-thin volume with quality colour covers and perfect binding. Make it look classy. If you have an ISBN number you can used amazon.com etc.

08-18-2003, 03:21 AM
There's nothing particularly cheap about an ISBN. You have to buy a block of ten numbers.

08-20-2003, 07:46 AM
I would love to think that self-publishing is a wonderful way to get our many great poems and ideas out to move and help others, entertain them and reach their souls. I don't think, though, that laying out a large amount of money is the way to do that. Maybe I don't know enough about it but I, too, am gathering quite a collection of specialized poetry myself, actually helping myself deal with a progressive, fatal disease. It is touching and not gushy and I would love to publish it and think it helped someone else but I just wouldn't do it through this self-financed route. Any ideas, folks?

08-20-2003, 11:46 PM
catmom: Good luck to you in getting through your disease. I would love to read your poetry.

But the financing question is a good one. You'd think all those self-published authors out there are millionaires! I can't afford $5,000 to self-publish my books. (An actual price quote from shopping around.) Or the $2500 down. Any ideas on how to finance self-publishing??

08-28-2003, 10:45 PM
I think you've been looking at the wrong publishers if they want $2500 or more but getting a book published doesn't mean people are going to buy it.
I self-published my first book "A Poet's Last Stand" last year. It was released in Sept. The book's website www.apoetslaststand.com didn't even get listed with all of the search engines, Yahoo, Google, MSN, ect. until July.
So far around 200 copies have been sold, most of them by word of mouth from those that have read it.
Poetry is a tough subject to sell. I have a running joke with one of my editors that I can change or even save another person's life with a single poem but I'm not a good salesman.
To date over 30 people have decided to quit drinking with the help of one poem, "There was a Man" and at least a dozen have found the strength not to take their own life with the help of "5 single Words."
Before you go any farther with getting your writing published I think you really have to stop and define what you want to accomplish.

08-29-2003, 10:29 AM
Thanks, amayhem.

The $2500 is actually from a price quote I got from a self-publishing company. It's the first of 3 payments that total $5,800. What company did you go through? How much did it cost? Right now, I'm only shopping around for the best deal. I'm not exactly a millionaire. (Not yet, anyway! ;) )

The reason I want to publish my poetry into little booklets: People and family asking for them. They keep writing to me and saying how much they LOVED my first book and want to see more. I'm not expecting to get rich and famous from this!

Sure I could do it all myself a la Kinko's (that's how I published a magazine!), but I'd like to use color cover and that costs more $$$.

Take care!


08-30-2003, 11:46 PM
I edit a small press literary magazine, and I have had my poetry published in numerous small press magazines as well as some larger press magazines. I write a great deal of traditional, Christian poetry, though I would not call it "inspirational" (that implies more of an upbeat quality, which does not define my work). Yes, book publication in this case is hard--book publication in any case, for a poet, is hard. Most poets start out by publishing a chapbook, which means you enter chapbook contests, which means you pay entry fees of $10-$25. It can get costly. There are some traditional publishers for books of poetry, but the competition is fierce. As a small press editor, I can tell you this--I think more people WRITE poetry than READ poetry.

I've decided not to bother with the idea of publishing a book of poetry, and to concentrate instead on the magazine market. Just about any editor can tell you, that for the most part, poetry doesn't sell. Those who publish poetry do so for love, not for money. The same goes for poets. With all my magazine credits, I've never earned more than $20 for a single poem.

If you just want to put your work in print so you can share it with friends and family, why not consider formatting it yourself using a desktop publishing program and then getting a 100 or so copies printed up at a local copy shop? You could get perfect binding and it would look as good as any chapbook, and should run you no more than $2-$3 a book. Don't publish a book just to publish a book. If it's friends and family who want to read your work--you can provide it at much lower cost to yourself. And, you may want to consider not publishing your book at all--because some magazines will not even consider previously published material. You may want to "save" your best poems for submissions to magazines.

The inspirational market does exist, though it is not large. A market for traditional, rhymed verse exists also, but again, it is small. But it DOES exist. However, as an editor, I can tell you good traditional verse is very hard to come by; most poets who use rhyme seem to have no sense of meter or to use rhyme in a jarring, obtrusive manner.

You can check out my Resources for Writers page, which includes many religious markets, as a starting point in your search for magazines in your market:

www.literatureclassics.co...urces.html (http://www.literatureclassics.com/ancientpaths/magazine/resources.html)

08-31-2003, 11:25 PM
Thanks, skylar! :)

I notice Able Muse is on that list. I submitted to them months ago but never got a reply. Also, looking at their Web site, it shows Summer 2003 as last publication.

I'm really beginning to think that paying a ton of money to self-publish is not a good idea if it's poetry. Poetry is very hard to sell (look at my first book! Only ten copies sold since 1993 publication!). Yes, you can market the heck out of your poetry books, but the bottom line is that people are very "iffy" with poetry. I should just print them myself and sell them myself, thereby gauranteeing refunds in the event books are returned to me. I'm learning all I can about self-publishing and the mechanics of registering for copyright, ISBN, LCCN and LOC CIP. Again, I'm not expecting to make millions from these books; my goal is to safely share my poetry (having it copyrighted) and make people happy from it. Whether I do that through Kinko's or by a professional book printer is still up in the air. I just don't want to spend a ton of money to do it with.

Take care!


08-31-2003, 11:57 PM
The copyright should only cost you $30. I'm not sure what the ISBN fee is, but it can't be too high. You'll also have to deposit the required number of copies (two?), so that will cost a little. Since vanity presses don't do any real marketing or distribution for you anyway, I'd just go with a standard, lower-cost printer. However, before you publish a book at all, you might want to try to build your list of literary magazine publication credits first. It takes about 10-15 rejections for every acceptance to a literary magazine, I'd estimate.

09-01-2003, 02:17 AM
The ISBN for my chapbook cost $50 and copyrighting that collection cost $30. Luckily though, I won a contest at Shadow Poetry where the prize was chapbook publication plus $100. They covered the cost of publishing the chapbook, but I had to pay for the ISBN and copyright. However, having won the $100, I just used that money to pay for it.

Here's a link that you may want to check out: www.poetrytodayonline.com/page7.html (http://www.poetrytodayonline.com/page7.html)
There are a couple of articles about self-publishing a chapbook that you may find helpful.

Also: celaine.com/little_poem_press_info.html (http://celaine.com/little_poem_press_info.html)
It's small and new and I don't know that much about it, but it couldn't hurt to check it out.

My chapbook was published by Shadow Poetry (http://www.shadowpoetry.com), but like I said before, I was lucky enough to win a contest. Otherwise, it would've cost me around $300.

Hope some of my info was helpful. Good luck. :)

09-02-2003, 12:34 AM
Thank you, missluckypenny.

I am going to enter Shadow Poetry's next contest. I'm in the process of sending poems "everywhere" (even to England!) to get some publishing credits. Of course after a year of doing this, I have a nice collection of rejection slips, but I know I must keep trying.

Some self-publishers I've checked out have offered to include the cost of an ISBN in their plans, while some leave it up to the author.

I'm still considering the self-publishing route. But, yes, I'm trying to get my poems published on- and offline, too.

Have a great day!


M Richard Smith
09-21-2003, 11:20 PM
Hello, I've been reading your thread and thought I'd mention a few options for self- publishing POD. Check out Lulu.com and checkout Instant publisher.com. Lulu is free and you get royalties, whereas InstantPublisher you pay for the production of your books, but it seems very reasonable. I just published my first collection @ Lulu.com. Email me if I can help.

09-21-2003, 11:26 PM
sorry, my email address. is m_richard_smith@yahoo.com

09-22-2003, 08:03 AM
As far as submitting poetry to be published and/or promoted by magazines I like Poetic Voices, www.poeticvoices.com - They have published three articles I have written and will include my poem "Dates" in their October Issue. There also is The Poetry Sharings Journal. They have included eight or nine of my poems in their monthly editions. It's sent out to around 20,000 people.
Getting and keeping your poetry out in the eye of the public is not easy but VERY important if you are planning on putting out a book.

09-24-2003, 01:13 AM
I have not heard very good things about Lulu.com ......

09-24-2003, 06:59 PM
What have you heard about Lulu?

09-24-2003, 10:11 PM
I have heard that the charges for the fee is "absolutely outrageous" (someone else's words), that you don't publish with ISBN numbers (which I would have to get on my own, anyway) and that it's hard to get any of your books into bookstores. Dot-com publishers are basically seen as vanity presses so that hurts the reputation. I have also heard that you request writers use your own ISBN, which would then mean that YOU own the book, and that you "lowball" writers. You'll notice Lulu.com is also on the Bewares Board.

09-25-2003, 07:17 AM
I have heard that their site and service has recently been overhauled, or so to speak.

I actually chose not to get an ISBN just yet, but may add one later. My goal was/is to have a book of my poetry produced at minimal cost.

They do offer 2 ISBN services, a "Basic" service for $35 and an "ISBN Plus" service for $99.

What these services do is give you a scanable barcode and get your book listed in Books in Print.
The Plus service also gets you listed in Ingram's database, so stores can order them wholesale.

Their fees don't seem too bad, especially considering I don't need to spend a penny out of pocket to get my book published.

It is explained on this page of their site:

www.lulu.com/themes/home/...#basicisbn (http://www.lulu.com/themes/home/isbn_basic.php#basicisbn)


I checked several options, Iuniverse, 1stBooks, and others and found this was the best for me, that's all. This was the easiest way for me to get something in print with little (or in my case, no) cost.

I chose lulu for myself, because I didn't (and still don't) have money to lay out for books that may or may not sit and collect dust in my closet. I figure, If I have to lay out a couple hundred bucks for a "set up fee", I need to move a lot of product in order to break even.

I am waiting for a copy of my own book. Should probably arrive later this week. I'll comeback and comment on the quality when it arrives. If it's a rip-off, I be the first to say so, trust me.

Getting books into stores is completely another story. I think that we, as self-publishers, will have the same difficulty regardless of who we chose to do the actual production of our books. I think it can be done, but it will be difficult.

I was a personal manager for several independent bands and music artists for a few years and I know how tough it was to get stores to carry indie music cd's, barcodes and all. I have 600 CD's of an extremely talent (but now defunct) band sitting in my garage, a year and a half after the initial release.
It seems to me that Indie publishing might be the same game with a different product.

09-25-2003, 07:34 AM
Don't plan on getting a POD book carried by any bookstores, they won't. The cost per book makes it impossible to sell the books and make a profit for them since they work on usually a 50-100% markup ratio.

09-25-2003, 10:12 AM
That's pretty much what i figured too. The only way I figure that would work would be if you could buy a bulk order from the manufacturer, at a discount (which some will do) and then try to get some carried by a local store on consignment in conjunction with an appearance. (I have had some CD's placed at a couple Barnes and Noble stores that way, but I had a great relationship with the right store managers who had the authority to allow that).

But you're right, I wouldn't expect anything wide-spread. They prefer to play with the Big Boys.:hat After all, it is business.

09-25-2003, 10:55 PM
Bookstores normally don't carry POD books because POD publishers usually have a "no return" policy and the stores end up with a surplus of books they can't sell.

I'd definitely want to have an ISBN for my book, though. As a self-publisher, that would be my job to obtain.

I'd like to keep an eye on Lulu, though, before committing to them. See if their reputation improves and all.

There's also a company I found called Wasteland Press and their prices for chapbooks seems reasonable.

09-25-2003, 11:16 PM
Have you checked out InstantPublisher? They are about the best priced book printer I have found. They have an online instant quote system that is pretty neat. Their website is www.instantpublisher.com

09-26-2003, 12:50 PM
You have to remember Instant Publisher is just that, a publishing company. Before you submit to them you have to make sure you have your stuff really together and if you want an ISBN you have to get it. Their tool is very useful in letting you know what the quantity of books per order does to the price however. First plug in 100, 250, 500, 1000, then 5000 copies. You'll see why POD books are so expensive trying to sell them a single copy at a time.
I've been at this for awhile now. My book A Poet's Last Stand was released last September. It is an uphill battle, especially when you are talking promoting a poetry collection but the rewards far outweigh what it has taken so far. Few writers ever get the chance to know that something they have written has changed other people's lives much less saved a few. It has made me measure success with a whole new ruler.

09-26-2003, 10:56 PM
Yes, I checked them out. It doesn't really look like something I'd like to go with. I definitely wouldn't send them something that wasn't copyrighted yet.

09-29-2003, 04:45 PM
But everyhting you create is copyrighted... although I guess it helps to have a way of proving that available before you send something out...

10-05-2003, 10:58 PM
Well, I said I would return and comment when my book from lulu.com arrived, so here I am. I received the package on Thursady afternoon. Two weeks exactly from when I ordered it. I had it shipped via US Postal Media mail, the cheapest method. Whe I got home the box was waiting for me. I held it for a while, a bit nervous about what I might find. When I finally opened it, I was pretty surprised, but in a good way. The book looks great. I did notice a few formatting issues, but that was because of the way I formatted my own document. I already kew about the changes I wanted and before I received the first copy, I had made those changes and uploaded the new content document. Overlooking those things which were my own fault, I must say that I am completely satisfied with the product I received. The cost for my 45 page book came to $7.20, including shipping. The total cost for the new version, which is now 52 pages with the changes I made, is $7.34 including shipping. Before ordering, I set my royalty to $0.00 in order to decrease the selling price, then I reset it back to the level I wanted. The book currently retails for $7.13 (before shipping charges of $1.77 for media mail). I can adjust my royalties at any time, to increase or decrease the selling price. I can also buy my own at bulk prices, which I may do in the near future in order to have copies available at readings.

So, all in all, I am pretty happy with what I got. Basically, I consider it a good quality chapbook. It looks very professional. Perfect bound instead of staples and has a color glossy cover. The best part is that I own all the rights, can do whatever I want with it and it cost me nothing upfront to create. I look at lulu as a publishing service, a printer for my book. I don't necessarily expect to sell many copies through their site, but for now, I can get what I consider to be good quality copies of my collection, as I need them. I know some here have heard some not so great things about lulu, but I must say that I am pretty happy with the product I got. You just have to be careful, and have everything prepared exactly as you, the author, want it before submitting it. One nice thing about this method of self-publishing is that I can change the content any time, by removing previously submitted documents and submitting another. In my eyes, beats having to come upp with a couple hundred bucks upfront. Lulu also offers additional services, like ISBN's, Editing, Custom design, etc, but I chose none of those.

Again, I look at this project as a chapbook, with them doing the production work. The quality I got , in my opinion, looks way better than some of the other chapbooks, some with less poems, that sell for $6-$8 at readings.

My total ivestment so far in this project = $14.54 , for two delivered copies of my book, plus time (a fair amount) for preparing my book just as I want it.

10-06-2003, 11:27 PM

I'm glad things went well for you for your book. It does have a nice cover. But you need to get an ISBN for your book (in addition to a bar code, LCCN, etc.) if you want it to be stocked and sold.

I don't want to go with a POD, though. Just a self-publishing company that gives you the books because not everybody I know can order off of the Internet and they still balk at getting an "Internet book" and not the real thing. (shrugs)

The search continues.

10-07-2003, 02:20 AM
have you talked to anyone at a local printer? they might be able to help you out. Of course, it's more expensive than kinkos, but the quality is something you can control...

10-07-2003, 11:24 PM
I did indeed. They want $900+ for a first run (200 copies) :eek

10-08-2003, 01:50 AM
Dear Greeny,

How many pages are you printing for each copy? Is there a link online that shows the quality you are trying to achieve? I 'm getting a good idea


aka eraser
10-08-2003, 04:04 AM

The last time rt had one of those I got some on my shoes.

10-08-2003, 05:06 AM

10-08-2003, 12:45 PM
Hi, rt,

The book has 70 pages (including a table of contents and title page). The only quality that matters is that it looks good and doesn't have a plain old cover, like white cover with black words. Also, not a saddle stapled book, either, because my first one was saddle stapled and I got some negative comments about its look. Oh, well.

What is this idea of yours?

11-05-2003, 04:20 PM
Was searching internet tonight, and came upon this website. Registered because I saw this conversation board.
Dawn, we have to talk re: publishing.
Please email me at playforpar@hotmail.com as soon as you can, to establish a contact base. I am interested in working with you, and publishing your work. I'll explain in greater detail shortly.
All rights will be retained by you, don't worry, I'm a writer too....If anyone else is interested in having their work published at a lower rate, but just as good of a quality, please contact me at that address. Subj heading:Publish my work.
I(we) intend to publish three books per month, beginning with poetry. A website is forthcoming.

07-30-2004, 11:31 PM
That didn't work out for me, folks. I'm just going to do it all myself and have Kinko's print them up, like I did with my mag. Good thing my sister's an artist! :)

pixie juice
08-01-2004, 10:10 AM
I'm surprised nobody mentioned a state-funded grant (unless I missed it). I think all states have an arts commission. And as long as you're not studying for a degree or certificate of any kind, you can apply. Google [your state] arts council, and lots of stuff should come up.

I think you just show the committee your work, and they'll decide to approve you or not. I remember my poetry professor mentioning that he got lots of grants when he was writing his book. I don't know how easy they are to get though. But I know a lot of writers use them to pay their living while they're writing their book. So I'm sure they'd help with publishing too.

Might want to check it out. That is, if you're still looking to publish.

08-02-2004, 07:00 AM
THANK YOU, Laura! :) That was very helpful. I'm definitely looking into it. There's a lot of resources there...

The only things I got a problem with are:

1. The cost of producing the books myself. Until I can get my hands on a certain software and a saddle stapler, I'm stuck with Kinko's. I'm not interested in going through a publisher, just through self-publishing. But printing companies cost too much for me.

2. Selling them through my Web site. Sure I can sell them through postal ordering, but I can't set up something where people can buy the books through PayPal, or something similar to it.

11-17-2004, 02:33 AM
What was the last book of poetry you actually bought? (Other than a classic collection?)

The truth is, people don't BUY poetry.

If you want a collection of your poetry to give or sell to family and friends, the cheapest route is a printer.

Honestly, I wouldn't bother with trying to self-publish and distribute poetry unless you are a known name. Poetry just doesn't sell.

What you might try, if you write rhymed inspirational poems, is the greeting card market--and that's a market that actually pays for poetry.

11-23-2004, 02:38 AM
Thanks, skylar. But I haven't decided yet if I want to get into the greeting card market.

The most common poetry books I've bought (especially recently) are the classics: Plath, Poe, Shakespeare, Yeats and Blake. Anyone else, it usually depends on if I know them.

12-04-2004, 08:39 PM
In an earlier thread, long ago, I said I had an idea and never told you what it was, sorrry.

I was negotiating for new equipment in my 10,000 sq ft POD as one of the departments in the business where I run the operations.
For a while I was pushing for harcover / paperback capabilities. In the end we stayed with glossy, brocure and magazine type quality because of the price of the equipment. Also, we are very expensive on purpose and my business won't cut me a break yet as we still pay maintenance on the equipment based on click-rate.