Self-publishing your poetry - is it for you?

Article Image 1. Do you really want to get your work published at any cost?
Have you tried publishers, and made sure that your work is as good as you can get it before submitting it? If so, then it might be worth considering self-publishing.

2. Before deciding to go for self-publishing, you should think through what is involved.
Self-publishing is hard work and you will be responsible for everything. In particular you will need to think through how you are going to market your book.

3. The arrival of print on demand means that self-publishers can now publish their book for a few hundred pounds. Print on demand machines can produce one book at a time and, although each copy costs a bit more than if you ‘batch print' (which might mean a few hundred or a thousand copies in one run), you are in a much better position as you have not had to raise the money to finance printing the books and neither do you have to store them. The stock risk, which over the years has dogged publishers, leading to overstocks and remainders, can be a thing of the past. You can order one book at a time if that is what you need.

4. Anyone can order your book. The advantage of self-publishing is that you can set up your book for print on demand and, once it is published with an ISBN, anyone who wants a copy can go into a bookshop and order it, or they can buy it online. The order will go through the wholesaler to the print on demand printer and the book will be printed and supplied in the same sort of timeframe as it takes to get a copy of a book from a publisher's warehouse.

5. You should note that there is an absolute distinction between self-publishing and vanity publishing.
In the former you are the publisher and you make the decisions about pricing and orders. It's also up to you to do the marketing for your book, unless you have paid someone to work on this for you. Vanity publishers charge up front for printing the books. You never have the confidence of knowing whether they have actually printed them and you certainly can't check whether they are doing any marketing. It's best to avoid vanity publishers altogether.

6. Only you can decide whether you want to take things into your own hands and self-publish.
If you are successful it will help to kick-start your career as a poet and possibly enable you to find a publisher. If you are less successful, at least you will have the pleasure of seeing your book in print and the opportunity to take things into your own hands and to sell it. Poetry lends itself well to self-publishing because you can sell your book or pamphlet after your readings, and if you are energetic this can amount to a decent number of books.

Chris Holifield is the Director of the Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Bookshop Online. She is also the co-founder of Writers' Services, the largest writers' website in the UK, which offers a range of information and services for writers.

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