Tuesday, March 29, 2016

So...You Want to Write a Poetry Book? Pt.2


 In our last blog, we left off at selecting the poems you are considering for your book, choosing a theme, and working on the editing process. If you are still working on that, no worries! Editing is a long process that can't be hurried, and poetry editing is particularly tricky. If you know that you're not a great speller, it would be best to get someone who is proficient in finding spelling errors to go through your poems and find any mistakes that you overlooked, and pay them for their services. One of the biggest complaints about self-published books is that so many of them are poorly written. But, before we go any further with the book-writing process, it's important to talk about the "B" word...Budget.

    You need to determine a specific budget for your book publishing goal before seeking out a publisher. There are many companies and operations offering their services on social media, some for very hefty fees. Shop around and ask many questions before signing up with any of these businesses. There is the question of whether a first-time author should seek out a traditional publishing company or opt to self-publish. The reality of that is, only you can decide what is best for you. If you are seeking to establish yourself in the academic world, know that there are many in that arena who don't acknowledge self-published poets as legitimate. Although some feel that their stance is elitist, if you want to be recognized by that group, seeking traditional publishing may be the best choice for you.

     I chose the self-publishing route, working within a specific budget along with the company I chose after doing extensive research and speaking with other poets who had also worked with them. I looked at what different publishing companies were offering for the amount of money I had to spend, and made my choice after carefully investigating all of their claims. I came out under budget with an excellent product, and have since recouped my original investment. From now on, any books I sell out of hand will be profit minus my wholesale cost. Another point to consider is how you will raise the funds to publish your book? Will you:

  • Set aside an amount weekly/monthly/bi-monthly towards your goal?
  • Borrow the money via personal loan or credit card?
  • Crowd funding?
    Only you can determine which method will work best for your situation. Take your time, then decide.

    What items should you include in calculating the cost of your book? For starters, consider these bullet points:

  • Book Cover
  • Draft Printing (for copy editing)
  • Editing
  • Copyright (optional but recommended)
  • Formatting (if you are not an expert with professional formatting)
  • Bookmarks (optional)
  • Proofreading (recommended)
     Formatting and Book Covers are the most expensive parts of your book, but they can make the difference between getting the attention of a potential buyer, or losing their interest before they ever know what you have to offer inside. Prices for Editing and Proofreading vary, even if you know how to do it, it's a good idea to have a professional eyeball it and give you his or her honest opinion of what works and what can be improved upon. 

    That's all for now! Your homework is to: Determine your budget; research potential publishers, (meaning go to their websites, make comparisons on what they are offering) A caveat---beware of any publishing company who contacts You, or has extensive monthly payment plans that run into thousands of dollars. You will have to overprice your book to recover the money you spent! Also, think twice about any publisher who offers to act as a middle-man between you and the printer, says they can help you get your book published, or says you need no money up front You stand to lose lots of money.  In the next blog, we will talk about Formatting and Book Covers. Until then, keep writing!

Friday, March 4, 2016

So...You Want to Write a Poetry Book?Pt. 1

    If you're reading this, it means that you probably are curious about publishing a book of poetry, or would like to get started and need some ideas of how to get started. Well, you've come to the right place! I recently finished my first poetry book, 7 Blocks...and Two Stories Up and would like to share some of the things that worked for me.

    One of the first things to do is to go through all of your poems, and find the ones that will best represent the type of book you would like to publish. If you don't have a theme or a title yet, that's OK. The collection of work that you decide on will guide the title and theme for your book. Go through all of your journals, notebooks and computer files, and create a new file where you will put the poems you are considering. A good idea is to save your work on a flash drive, cloud, or e-mail to yourself in case of a computer crash. It's OK if some of the poems you select are unfinished because as you work through the creative process, you can finish them or they may become part of another poem. Remember to take your time and not rush the process. Don't be distracted by other poets who are publishing books ahead of you. You don't know their process or how long they have been working. Focus on creating a body of work that will represent your best light as a writer.

    A good number of poems to start with is 50-75. This number may decrease or increase as time progresses. Go through the poems you are considering, and read each one as if it were written by someone else. Step away from the poem as you know it, and read with a critical eye. Look for areas of repetition that are not deliberate. If spelling is not your strong point, or if you are not sure of the meaning of a word, use an online dictionary such as webster.com or dictionary.com. Look for words that can be more descriptive to replace "dead" words. Look for lines that are vague or unclear. Be sure that each thought is fully stated. This is the part of your publishing process that will probably take some time, but pace yourself and remember that you are creating a masterpiece that will have your name on it. If you know someone who is great at proofreading, hire them to help or barter services with them. Be honest and truthful in your work. Never plagiarize another poet! It's not authentic and it's a quick way to lose respect. If you can't write your own words, you're probably not ready to publish a book.

   Once you have gone through the collecting and editing process (which will probably take several weeks or even months if needed), you may notice a theme or through-line that is consistent in your poetry. You may still have some unfinished work that can be combined with another poem, or can stand alone as a lead-in to another poem.  At some point, you can start organizing your poems into sections if you have several that fall under the same topic, or you may have a collection of unrelated poems for your book. Remember that there is no set way to do a book of poems, but your final product needs to be carefully planned and well-written. Your book can start in one place, and take your reader to another, or be stationary and build interest from a single point. If all of your poems fall under a single theme, make sure that they don't all read the same way. Your reader will put the book down after the first few pages, and never pick it up again. Be open to new ideas!  It's all up to your creative process, so take your time and make friends with your work.

We will share more points in the next blog. In the meantime, keep writing!