Friends and fellow poets:
Some of you have questions about publishing your work, and I would like to share a little of my own experience with on-demand publishing with you in the hope that it might help you as you explore your options. This is something which has worked for me and for others of us here in our BrainMeta poetry community.
Over many years I have published a lot of music with traditional publishers, both in choral octavo form and gathered into books; I got to be an expert at the traditional music publishing business over the years.
I was working with a small music publisher with which I enjoyed a very close relationship, and we had the idea to do a book just of my poetry as a thing-in-itself, just the words as it were with no music. I had done original texts for my choral motets over the years, and I have always written poetry, so this seemed like a good idea.
Well, the music publisher was an elderly lady who was very, very conservative, and she began to take offense at certain of my poems! She became uneasy about the project, which had been for a book of one hundred poems called Existential Hot Dogs. My sense of humor got a bit past her, and some of it she thought might be at her expense. To make a long story short, she decided to bail out, leaving the book project high and dry.
By now the poems were really piling up, too; in addition to well over the originally agreed-upon hundred, I was well into my series of Transcendental Sonnets. I have 1403 of those so far, but it was the twenty-first one which really made her mad somehow. In any case, she didn't get my jokes.
I was really depressed. I had taken care of first my mother and then my grandmother as they sickened and died, and then when Grandma died I had a two-year legal nightmare with this crazy uncle who tried to steal my inheritance. He got away with everything but the house, and for that I had to fight four lawsuits and win them, which I did. But I was really drained and disappointed to lose the support of my publisher.
I was with Silke at the time, and she undertook to try to find me a publisher in Europe. She was sick, but did her best, and our friend Sander Maltelid shopped the book all over Sweden. He was getting very close, but then, tragically, died under terrible circumstances. He was one of our original forum members here.
So now it looked hopeless. I looked into options in new technology, in "on-demand publishing," or POD. I did a web search and found Lulu.com, one of many such companies which manufacture books on demand, which is to say that the book is printed after the order is received, made to order. This service is free, and the author becomes, actually, the publisher, keeping most of the profits, just as publishers have always done!
But you really have to be techno-savvy, which I am not, and my first attempt to gather all my poems together and upload them to Lulu to create a book had some problems. I found the computer-formatting which the process requires to be really hard, at least for me. Many people find this to be the case, so Lulu connected me with an editing company and an editor who solved my problem and made that first book turn out really nicely in the end.
While the publishing process is free and open, as a happy and tangible result and benefit of the digital revolution, one has to pay for an ISBN number and distribution. But the fees are relatively not that large; about two hundred dollars gets your book out there all over the world on the Internet, on the Amazons, Barnes and Noble, Blackwell's, and so on. Editorial services are more expensive. My fifth book, which should be ready by Tuesday, cost me about five hundred for the formatting and uploading, including the creation of the covers, table of contents and other "front matter," all the things which make a book a book. Lulu--and there are a number of other companies as well--can recommend great providers of editorial services, who will handle all the details of the publishing process.
I am doing my fifth book right now, and others here on BrainMeta have done books through Lulu as well, including Hey Hey, Kevin (Windowmaker), and Megan (Rosediamond), among several of us. I guess I was the Guinea pig! But it turned out well, and others have had good results as well.
I would recommend you do a web search of on-demand publishers. I know Lulu works for me; I am not personally familiar with the others, but there are several.
Poet in Residence