Questions of publishing and after–selling

How do you find a publisher? Do you submit to contests? Or open reading periods? Or do you look for small presses that fit your work? What’s the best route?

Better yet, what’s the best route for you and your poems?

Jeannine Hall Gailey has (yet another) great post up–this one on choosing a publisher and weighing the benefits of contests, open reading periods, and other options. She asks you to think about what you want from your publisher–whether it’s distribution or marketing or a great writer-publisher relationship, to name a few. Jeannine then outlines the benefits of finding and supporting a smaller press. I’ve been fortunate to work with three independent presses and to have ongoing relationships with each.

But here’s another thing to ask yourself: Do you want to sell your book? Are you ready to promote it?

I feel that when you ask a publisher to publish your books, it’s your job to get out there and help your publisher sell books. Partly because you want your poems out in the world, and partly because you want to support your publisher. Buying poetry books is a great way to support small presses–and so is selling your poetry book.

How do you do that?

Readings are a great way to connect with people–and they’re fun. But readings are often more about listening and enjoying than buying or selling. Then there are the stories of people who sold their book out of the trunk of their car. Because I don’t drive much, I’ve substituted my purse for the trunk. But I haven’t sold many books out of my purse.

That’s because it’s hard for me to say, “Hey, do you want to buy my book.” Or the subject will come up and I’ll show someone my book, but I’ll neglect to mention that it–the very copy they’re holding–is for sale.

But it’s also because selling stuff–for many of us–is hard. While I’m selling poetry books, my husband’s selling wine. You’d think wine would be an easy sale! It’s easier than poetry, but it’s still hard. (I’ll be working at the tasting room on Saturday and hoping someone will come buy wine or poetry or both.)

Fortunately, I find buying poetry much easier. I can keep supporting presses that way.

How about you? After you have that book you’ve waited so long for, how do you get it out into the world? How do you support the press that published it?