Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Publish?



1. of, pertaining to, or affecting a population or a community as a whole: public funds; a public nuisance.
2. done, made, acting, etc., for the community as a whole: public prosecution.
3. open to all persons: a public meeting.
4. of, pertaining to, or being in the service of a community or nation, especially as a government officer: a public official.

verb (used with object)

1. to issue (printed or otherwise reproduced textual or graphic material, computer software, etc.) for sale or distribution to the public.
2. to issue publicly the work of: Random House publishes Faulkner.
4. to make publicly or generally known.

    By the above definition, the word "publish" would not apply to anything directed at a subset of the public, even if it is technically available to everyone.  A poetry collection that we know or should know will only sell to friends and relatives is no more "published" than our family newsletter or our personalized holiday greeting cards.  Tomes targeted at other poets or at a teacher's class (including books that sell thousands because they are required reading) would not qualify.  Thus, we could argue that not one book of poetry has been published in generations. 

    Put another way, if a company releases a book without promoting or supporting it are they publishing or merely printing it?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #72
Fortune and Fame:

    The two main reasons to publish are money and exposure.  Since there is little recompense from royalties, "money" translates to a job teaching poetry or, perhaps, winning an award.  Both require a recognized publisher;  submissions to judging committees from indies or self-publishers are often relegated, unopened, to the circular file.

    If looking for exposure, do you want to use the most or least convenient, segmented and expensive medium?

     It's not a trick question.  If audience is your desire, top quality ezines like "The HyperTexts", "The Pedestal", and the defunct "Autumn Sky Poetry" and "Shit Creek Review" are the ticket.  People can't link from social media¹ to a page in a book!

     So why not avail yourself of Print On Demand, vanity and other self-publishing options (e.g. cross- and cooperative publishing², nanopresses, etc.)?  Well, unless you have some special marketing ploy such as performance contest or limited edition marketing³, there may be an insurmountable problem:  you likely wouldn't have the wherewithal to reach the broader poetry market even if it existed.  Which it doesn't.  In other words:  Self-publishing is an oxymoron.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #93
     If you are going to "self-publish" I'd urge you to do so online, perhaps using a blog like this one.  In addition to the worldwide access and linkage mentioned earlier, along with saving yourself a lot of bother with print formatting, you will have full creative control at zero expense to your wallet or the nation's forests.

     So, is there any good news here?  Believe it or not, yes, there is.  Not only is poetry being [mostly self-]published but, in one of the largest outlets around, it competes surprisingly well against fiction (though not against music).



¹ - While on the subject of social media, have you had this experience?  The editor of a prominent magazine posts Tweets or Facebook entries of Letters of Complaint regarding one or more poems they've published.  (Can you say "catty"?)  Sure enough, a flood of sychophants start going all Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show on the critic.  What is remarkable is that not one of them refers to the underlying piece.  Unlike them, you made the mistake of reading the work being criticized.  Bad move.  Seared your corneas.

² - Crosspublishing and cooperative formats involve two (crosspublishing) or more (cooperative) writers forming an organization to edit and publish each other's books.

³ - Limited edition marketing exploits collectors' fetishes by publishing a very few copies of volume and using that rarity as a selling feature.  For example, an author might print up one autographed copy of a book each month or year and auction it off on EBay.  There is usually a cover story explaining the paucity of copies.

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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