Thank you, Janet Wong, for being today’s guest poetry poster, especially since I messed up the post originally!
Now, finally, the correct post from Janet!
One year ago Sylvia Vardell and I launched our PoetryTagTime series of original poetry e-books. Why e-books? We wanted to make poetry affordable—less than a cup of coffee and a scone—and the only way to do that was through e-book technology (and the grace of poet-friends willing to contribute poems for practically nothing).
PoetryTagTime became an “impulse buy” for many people who said this was their first poetry purchase or their first e-book. Sylvia and I would like to think that we’ve helped to expand the audience for poetry and also the venues for it: with a poetry book on your cell phone—and the average children’s poem taking less than 30 seconds to read—poetry now can easily keep you company on the bus, in line at the post office, and while waiting for soccer practice to begin.
Here at Katie’s blog this month we’ve been inspired to write petku, bite-sized sonnets, pantoums, false apology poems, and more. Chances are if you write 100 poems you’re going to love at least 10 of them. What to do with these gems that you’ve written? Poetry is, unfortunately, “the hardest sell” when it comes to finding a “regular publisher.” Even established poets often have difficulty selling a collection unless it fits a publisher’s marketing needs.
So: how about becoming your own publisher? Put your poems into an e-book! You needn’t consider it a “vanity” exercise. If self-publishing a book for your own gain makes you uneasy, maybe you can pick a favorite charity—your local school or library foundation—and donate your e-book royalties to it. Or how about collaborating on an anthology with a bunch of friends and using your e-book royalties to buy the food for your monthly meetings?
Here are seven steps to follow if you want to publish an e-book:
1) Read some poetry e-books. Become familiar with formatting and other e-book issues by studying “born digital” poetry e-books. Some excellent examples: David Harrison’s Goose Lake, Greg Pincus’s The Late Bird, and Poetry Rocks 2012, an elementary school anthology (fundraiser) compiled by teacher Ken Slesarik.
2) Write your book. One great thing about the e-book format is that your book can be as short or as long as you like. Using Microsoft Word will make the e-book conversion easy using Mobipocket Creator (for Kindle) or Sigil (for the EPUB format used by the Nook, iPad, and most other e-readers).
3) Create a cover. You can do this yourself or hire someone to do it for you. You’ll want a 300 dpi jpg; 600 x 800 pixels is a good size.
4) Pick a price. Price your book from $2.99 to $9.99 and you’ll earn a 70% royalty from Amazon, minus delivery costs (approx 15 cents per MB); price it lower or higher than that range and you’ll earn 35% (but won’t pay delivery costs). For a $3.99 book with no pictures and 45 poems, you’ll earn around $2.75.
5) Decide on DRM. When you upload your book at the various online retailers, you’ll need to decide whether to “enable DRM” or not. I chose to go “DRM-free” (not to enable it). This makes piracy more likely, but also makes it easier for honest people to read my e-books on their various devices.
6) Describe your book. Whether you choose to go with Smashwords, a professional formatter, or yourself—more on that below—you are in charge of writing your book description and choosing search keywords and categories (required fields when you upload your files).
7) Contact a professional or do the formatting yourself. The two main paths are: a) using an aggregator (such as Smashwords, which distributes your e-books for you); or b) managing your own e-book accounts at Amazon , BN.com, and any other online retailers that you choose. Spend a day exploring the Community boards at Kindle Direct Publishing. You’ll also love the archive of articles at eisforbook.com (where, incidentally, you’ll find a post on Katie’s terrific How to Promote Your Children’s Book). If you want to manage your own accounts, you have two paths: a) hiring a professional e-book formatter; or b) doing the formatting yourself. Sylvia and I used professionals (ebookarchitects.com and VasicBooks.com) for our PoetryTagTime, P*TAG, and Gift Tag books (at a cost of $200-$450 per project), but I formatted Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year by myself. If reading this Kindle summary causes your eyes to glaze over, then you might want to hire someone to do the formatting.
Follow these (lucky) 7 steps, and let us know in the comments here—next week or a year from now—when we can celebrate your own poetry e-books!
Janet Wong is the author of 21 books published the traditional way by Simon & Schuster, FSG, HMHarcourt, Candlewick, and Charlesbridge, but her proudest accomplishments are the 7 e-books that she has published herself, including Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year.