Self-publishing Your Poetry Book or Broadside

Book
Kamil PorembiƄski /Foter

How can I arrange to have my book printed / published?

There are various ways to go about it. You can put together a small book by hand, or have a local printer publish some books for you. Or, you can buy a publishing package from a “self-publishing” or “print-on-demand” company. They are all viable options, depending on your budget, needs & preferences. Read on for some options.

What are the different types of books I can publish?

stapled chapbooks

Many poets, both beginning & seasoned, publish chapbooks. They’re typically printed on 8.5 x 11 paper, folded in half (making the finished size 5.5 x8.5) with a cardstock cover, and stapled together.

Here’s a photo of The Lithic Review #3, which was created in 1991 with a primitive word processing program (little more than a typewriter), clip art & glue stick, & printed at a local copy shop.

Chapbooks of this type are simple & inexpensive. And, you can easily make more if the need arises.

A chapbook can be as short as 4 pages (one page folded in half & printed on both sides) or as long as about 48 pages (more than that is usually too thick to staple).

Just lay out the pages & cover on your computer. Embellish them with illustrations if you like. Your local copy center can copy, collate, fold & staple your chapbooks from a digital file or hard copy. Or, make them yourself with a copy machine (or computer printer), and an oversized stapler.

Another way of formatting a chapbook is to use the whole 8.5×11 page, then get some cardstock covers and staple it all together at the left side, without folding it. It’s less common but very easy to do and works especially well if your poems are long or you have large artwork for the cover.

more substantial books

Want a slicker presentation or more pages than a stapled chapbook can offer? You’ll want to find a printer or self-publishing / print-on-demand company that will print your book for you. Check the links below, or look up nearby companies under “publishers” or “printers” in your local yellow pages.

broadsides

Here’s another thought: why not publish one or two of your poems as a broadside? A broadside is a single sheet of paper (or cardstock) upon which your poem is printed. 8.5 x 11 is a common size, some are larger, or even as small as business cards. Depending on layout, they can be flat (most common) or folded.

You can print them out on your computer, photocopy them, or have your local printer make them for you. You could even publish a different poem each month, or issue a new broadside for each season. Or, send them as holiday greetings. The sky’s the limit, since broadsides are so inexpensive & easy to create.

As an example, here’s a broadside by Cheryl Burket, “Mac’s Bait & Tackle.”
It was offset printed (by a printer) two to a sheet, on 8.5″ x 11″ cardstock, which was then cut in half. It would be just as easy to do this on a copier.

Designing Your Book

You can cut & paste, use a standard word-processing program, or even a typewriter. But specialized software makes it easier. Adobe’s PageMaker is one (albeit rather expensive) option. A good alternative is to use Self-Pub.net’s inexpensive Book Design Wizard, which puts your book’s pages into Microsoft Word document format. It’s about $25.00. (By the way, I don’t have any connection with Self-Pub or the Book Design Wizard – it just looks like a good tool.)

A Word on Quantity

Don’t get pressured into printing more books than you need! Really, two or three dozen, and certainly less than 100, is usually an ample amount to start. Many poets are overly-optimistic when it comes to estimating how many books they may sell. Figure how many you’d like to keep for yourself (one, or several), & how many family members & friends would like a copy. Then add a few more if you think you can sell them at poetry readings, etc.

One fun thing to do, especially if the number of books is very limited, is to number them in sequence. Why not, for example, make a limited edition of 50 copies, numbering each #1/50, #2/50, etc. Limited editions such as this are very common in the world of small-press poetry.

Remember, even in mainstream publishing there’s a small market for poetry books. Even established poets don’t sell thousands of books – maybe not even hundreds. For example, I know of one very well-known poet whose latest collection was brought out by a small, well-respected publishing house in an edition of just 600 copies. Another highly-regarded poet’s work was published in a chapbook in an edition of 300 copies in 1999, and some copies still remain unsold. That’s not unusual. Many poetry books – even by famous poets – are published in limited editions of as little as 26 lettered copies, with numbered editions 100 or 200 being fairly common.

What are the various types of publishers or printers?

If you aim to self-publish, there are various types of companies you can work with. See the links at the end of this page for some online resources.

copy centers

Your neighborhood copy center is a convenient place to photocopy your chapbook. Do it yourself, or ask them to do it for you. They can also collate, fold, & staple it for just a bit more. Some copy centers can even create a perfect-found (flat-spined) book for you. It pays to comparison shop – in addition to Kinko’s, independent copy centers or a store such as Office Max offer those services too.

local printers

Check your local yellow pages for printers; look for the ones who advertise that they print books. They will have the expertise. They can advise you about how to prepare your files for printing, and advise you of all your options. They can make any number of books for you, whether half a dozen or a thousand..

self-publishing companies

Self-publishing companies specialize in publishing your book for you. You pay them to publish your book for you, and in return you’ll receive a predetermined number of books. Most offer a variety of packages in varying price ranges. This is an easy way to get a professional-looking book, and you’ll be able to make choices about covers, binding, & other aesthetic issues. Some companies of this type offer marketing services as well.

print-on-demand

Much the same as a self-publishing company; as a matter of fact some companies offer both self-publishing & print-on demand services.
But there’s a difference. Instead of printing a number of books up front, the print-on-demand publisher prepares your work for printing, & will often print one copy for you. But then, no more books are published until someone (could be you, or someone else) orders one. When a book is ordered it is printed and shipped. There is an up-front cost to prepare the book for printing. After that, you (or whoever orders the book) just pay for each book as it’s printed. This way you don’t wind up with stacks of unsold books in your hall closet.

further information

Whether you make your own chapbooks, or have them printed / published for you, make sure to check out the helpful self-publishing links at the bottom of this page.

Your Own Website

Instead of putting your work into a paper book, why not start your own website? The cost is comparatively low, and your site can easily be updated at any time.

A website allows you to reach a worldwide audience, so your audience isn’t limited to the number of books you print.

Empty Mirror can design & host your site for you. Just email Denise with your questions, or get more details here.

Another option would be to start your own blog. Websites such as Blogger.com offer this service for free. It won’t be custom-designed for you but you can get your work online quickly & easily.


What are some helpful self-publishing websites?

informational resources

self-publishing, short-run & print-on-demand publishers

  • CreateSpace Print-on-demand service, owned by Amazon.com.
  • Lulu – Self publishing / print on demand publisher. Very popular.
  • Cafe Press – Self publishing / print on demand publisher. Also popular.
  • XLibris – Self publishing / print on demand publisher. Also widely used.
  • Instant Publisher – Affordable book publishing services, from 25 copies up.
  • Art Book Bindery – Self publishing company since 1951.
  • Big Table Publishing – Publishes chapbooks. Not a self-publishing company; accepts submissions for publication.
  • Wasteland Press – Publisher / self publishing. They publish & give you some copies, plus royalties on any books they sell.

There are many more self-publishing & print-on-demand publishers, too – a Google search will turn them up.

Note: Empty Mirror Books has no affiliation, or personal experience, with any of these companies; we only know them by reputation. These links are not endorsements; they’re provided for your information.


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About Denise Enck

Denise is editor of Empty Mirror, as well as a writer and designer.