A reader recently wrote in to LDS Publisher asking, “Is there any hope of selling a poetry collection to any publisher?”
The answer, of course, is: No.
LDS Publisher puts it more diplomatically, of course:
The only way you’re going to sell a book of poetry to an LDS publisher is if it’s a gift book, a children’s picture book, or part of an anthology (like Especially for Mormons)–but even those are tough sells.
In my comment, I point out that even though Signature stills publishes about one volume of poetry a year, if you are simply looking to publish Mormon poetry, then Dialogue, Irreantum, Sunstone, Segullah and BYU Studies are really your only options.
My first thought was that (and now I’m quoting from my comment at LDS Publisher) there are several Mormon poets out there who have published several poems in several of the journals (Darlene Young and Patricia Karamesines, for example), but have no way to take the next step. Since neither the AML nor BYU nor any of the periodicals seem to be interested in taking this step, I think some of the poets should consider forming a co-op to publish chapbooks. With enough sales (which will be very small), grants and fundraising, such a co-op might just be able to publish two chapbooks a year and break even.
After looking back at Kent’s posts form 2006, I see that he is interested in hearing from Mormon poets. Of course, he is hampered a bit by being based in New York. If he is still interested in publishing chapbooks, I’m sure he’ll let us know in the comments.
But here’s my idea for chapbooks:
Poetry is perfect for the Web because it’s generally short and easy to read on a screen. However, as I discovered with Popcorn Popping, it’s also difficult to publish well on the Web because HTML code just isn’t set up for creative line spacing. It’s doable, but it takes a lot of extra work. These days, though, almost anyone can do a decent layout in Open Office and publish it as a PDF with the touch of a button. There are also utilities that will allow users to publish MS Word documents as PDFs. And there’s some very cool Web apps that allow for easy, interesting layout creation, for example Format Pixel.
There are also some great Mormon graphic designers out there who might be willing to donate their time and take the layout a step further.
So I think that the way to go about publishing chapbooks (because as Kent points out, they tend to be very hard to find, often only appearing at conferences and local independent bookstores) is to create them electronically and publish them on the Web either for free or for 1$ per download (to cover hosting costs). Of course, e-publishing is fine, but there’s paper is still better for those of us who love to read. So you then sign up subscribers (and here we’re going old school e.g. 16th/17th century) for the art-book, paper-based version of it. Set a subscriber threshold and a time limit and if you reach the threshold then put the thing in to production. If you don’t, refund the money and at least people have their digital copies. And, of course, if some individuals want to be generous and donate at a level above the subscriber rate, you list them as patrons in the back of the chapbook.
What do you all think?
Finally: If anyone out there has published a chapbook of Mormon poetry in the past couple of years or knows of one that has been published, please contact me at [my first name]@motleyvision.org. I’d be happy to post about it.