Poets face an interesting dilemma in the contemporary publishing field — while the rest of the industry is in flux, their lot remains mostly the same. Poetry will never produce huge runaway successes like fiction or non-fiction, but it has a devoted, loving fan base who show up in droves to see poets read as well as for the classes they teach.
And while the rest of the writing world migrates towards independent publishing, poets have been doing that for some time — they have produced chapbooks and other artistic distribution methods for as long as they’ve written. And because poetry is so compact and the poet so fervently believes in their material (as well as being more of a presence in their poetry than say, fiction writers) they are first-adopters of many new technologies, from the wonders of dial-a-poem to poetry in motion.
So eBooks are no different. Poet Susie DeFord self-published her eBook of poetry “Dogs of Brooklyn” after years of trying to get it published through a traditional publisher. She told Galleycat:
“I paid to submit to first book contests for almost two years, so I lost money and time trying to do it the old-fashioned way. I suppose that time spent revising/ editing/ swearing/ and feeling rejected made for a better book and some character building, but there are so many cool easy ways to self-publish and get your work out there from blogs to books. I think poets and writers in general should try to make their book the best book possible and not rush into publishing.”
While rushing a book out doesn’t help the work, knowing that one can publish their book of poetry and have it on hand for readings is a huge boon to poets, who often do much of their selling through readings and events.
But the switch to eBooks has not been entirely smooth. Because of the added formatting issues of poetry, a lot of poets have had issues when converting their verse to eBooks and eReaders. Because spacing and breaks are so important, and the viewing and formatting options of eBooks can easily be altered, poets are having a hard time getting their formatting right. Ira Silverberg, director of literature for the National Endowment for the Arts, told the Washington Post:
“Right now, we’re talking about conversion of print files to digital files and the greatest issue is in the poetry community. If you’re working on a Kindle or Nook or Kobo device, and you shoot up a page, you lose the line breaks depending on how you’ve formatted your preferences.”
Poets are trying to work out the kinks, however. Judging on the level of creativity that goes into a poet’s existence, we’re betting that they’ll figure it out.
What has your experience been independently publishing poetry? Have you had issues with your eBook formatting? How has it changed your life as a poet?