Q: How would I go about publishing an original one-hundred-page poetry book? Generally how much would the profit be from such a book?
A: You have quite a few options and potential paths when it comes to publishing. Before you decide to self-publish or try to sell a book to a publisher, first you must know your goals and assess your abilities. My fifty-minute seminar on CD called “I Finished My Book; What Should I Do Next?” covers the decision-making process, so you’ll know which way to go, whether you want to self-publish or attempt to find a publisher, and if you self-publish, whether you want to use a traditional printer, print-on-demand (POD), or a company that helps in the publishing process. I crammed the seminar with information and included many pages of supplemental printed material, so you can understand why I can’t answer your question in detail in only a few paragraphs.
Here’s a little information to help, though.
If you already know you want to self-publish, your next step depends on whether you want to handle all the pre-printing details, such as editing, internal and cover design, ISBN numbers, and finding a printer, or whether you prefer to rely on a company that handles those details for you—for a price. Read a good book on self-publishing and learn all aspects of it before you make your decision. Also carefully scrutinize the company you choose as a printer or publisher—know there is a difference—and carefully ensure that the services the company provides are the services you need.
You also asked how much profit to expect. Let me first ask a question: When did you last buy a poetry book? If you are like most Americans, you have not bought a single poetry book in the last ten years. Although millions of people write poetry, not many write it well, and even fewer buy poetry books. Poetry books rarely make any profit at all.
Although few Americans make much if any money from poetry, it is the highest form of literary art. Once writers master poetry, they can apply those skills to their fiction and nonfiction and increase their chances of making money with their prose.
My news should not discourage you, however. If you put a great deal of time and effort into marketing, you might make some money after all. At least one poet I know used POD for his books and travels the country giving readings. He writes excellent poetry and performs it well, and he has sold close to a thousand copies of his book. He chose POD, which gives him less profit per book than if he had chosen a traditional printer, but he did not have to invest a huge amount of money up front or store thousands of books, so the tradeoff suits his needs.
As you can see, the answer to both questions—how to go about getting a poetry book published and how much you might profit—are the same: It depends on what you are willing and able to do, and none of the paths are simple. Educate yourself first and then decide what works best for you.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at http://www.zebraeditor.com.