How to Publish a Poetry E-book in 7 Simple Steps

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:


 

P*TAG:

Gift Tag:

 
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.

Goose Lake

 

The Late Bird

Poetry Rocks:

 
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.
 

Recent Comments

  • Greg Pincus
    April 18, 2012 - 12:53 pm · Reply

    This is great stuff, Janet (and not just the pretty picture of my book, for which I’m most appreciative!). The process of making the book wasn’t as hard as I’d expected. Not that it’s without bumps in the road. But the end product of having something there to sell is a pretty nice reward. You and Sylvia raised the bar high and have helped seed a whole new market. I’m grateful, as my own efforts were informed by what you two did first AND benefit from the market you’ve helped create.

  • Izuzu15
    June 6, 2013 - 8:18 pm · Reply

    This is great advice and it would work for any type of book, right?? If I ever get around publishing an ebook (which I hope I do) I wouldn’t publish poetry I’d puiblish a children’s or teen book.

      • nobert Goodsman
        December 14, 2017 - 3:05 pm · Reply

        Katie, please can you help me publish my poems online or suggest another publisher to me…l am in Ghana, Africa

        • Katie
          February 5, 2018 - 6:43 pm · Reply

          Nobert, why don’t you publish them yourself? If you’re going to do it online, that is what I’d suggest. I hope that helps…

  • caroline obrien
    August 25, 2013 - 8:12 pm · Reply

    Can you suggest a way to get partial print paperbacks and partial ebooks, I would like to do both.
    Thank you

    • Katie
      August 26, 2013 - 7:04 am · Reply

      Caroline, what do you mean by “get partial print”? Are you trying to publish yourself or buy out of print books? Sorry – it’s early here! LOL. Also, if you could leave this as a question for my podcast, I could answer it for the show and the answer could help many, many more people (I would email you when it is on.) If you decide to do that, you’d go to speakpipe.com/katiedavis and just hit record and start speaking!

  • yvette castellanos
    January 27, 2014 - 3:00 pm · Reply

    I am interested in publishing my poetry book, but i dont know how to put it together. Where can i get pictures and all that kind of stuff to add too pages?? can i pay someone to help me? I have the poems but thats it.

    • Katie
      January 29, 2014 - 5:06 pm · Reply

      Hi Yvette, you can absolutely pay a freelance illustrator, or buy stock images. There are many, many places to get content for your book. I highly recommend hiring a professional editor, too. They can be costly, but if you are self-publishing and take your writing career seriously, it’s the way to go.

  • elvira davis
    November 20, 2014 - 6:26 am · Reply

    Dear Katie,
    I am reluctant to contact you regarding publishing my poetry, having been burnt by spam-doers who fleeced me of quite a deal of money for my publications, only to have it mercifully refunded after my daughter set up legal action for a refund of monies. All this has left me slightly paranoid in being able to trust business people in the arts. I still enjoy writing poetry but it is for my private enjoyment and to share with friends who are interested and like-minded. It would be nice, though to be able to have a self published ebook to share with my friends. I am not interested in vanity publishing as I already have self published one poetry book that was well received. Please contact me with your ideas and info. Thanks, Elvira Davis PS I am not wealthy. I am retired from the workforce but like to keep my mind active.

    • Katie
      November 20, 2014 - 7:53 am · Reply

      Elvira, there is nothing worse than having your trust crushed. I’m so sorry to hear about the scammers.I particularly hate the dream crushers. You say you don’t want to self-publish and you have little budget, but you are interested in getting published and being safe while doing so. I can think of no better advice than joining SCBWI.org though you don’t say whether you’re writing for children or adults, and they are the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you’re writing for adults, I would head over to Writer’s Digest and check out some of their listings. Also bookmark this and check it before signing anything with any agent!
      As for marketing and platform building I highly recommend my very reasonable Writer’s Business 101 which is a month-long and meets once a week, which you can check out here.

  • Clarence Oliver
    April 7, 2015 - 6:25 pm · Reply

    Great read. I am definitely planning to publish ebooks. I currently have a self published book online at Amazon and other online sites. What are the hurdles involved in converting it to an ebook/ digital format. The title of the book is What Are Love’s Boundaries?

  • lori macdonald
    July 13, 2016 - 11:56 am · Reply

    I am 44 yrs old and have lived a rough life needless to say..I am a recovering addict and i have written since i was very young..Just recently i have been reading some of my poetry at meetings and have been told how touching they are and that i could really help people with my words..I would really like to publish a book of my poems…I have many and i also draw…I have no clue where to go to make the first step in doing so…please any help would be greatly appreciated..I would really like to make something good out of alot of bad in my life and if i could touch just one person with my words it would be a blessing… Thank you..

    • Katie
      July 25, 2016 - 5:22 pm · Reply

      It sounds like you have a lot to share, Lori. Writing is such a healing and powerful thing to do and I’m glad to read it has been there for you since your childhood. As for your first step, there are a few different ways you could go. If you want to hone your writing craft first, then start to submit to publishers (magazines and books) and wish to take writing courses with professionals, you might want to consider Institute For Writers – it’s 47 years old, you can get your writing assessed, and then if you pass, take a course with an instructor, one-on-one (I am now the director). You can learn on your own by reading the many fantastic books out there on writing and publishing, there are also podcasts directly aimed at writers. I don’t know if you’re writing for children or adults so just go through iTunes and browse. If you would like my book How to Write a Children’s Book (free) you can get it here – https://www.instituteforwriters.com/rx-for-writers/ it’s in the sidebar. You can self-publish and get your work straight to your readers, and there are many ways to do that, too. This site has a ton of free info about all of this. And http://instituteforwriters.com also has a lot of writing advice.
      I wish you all the success in the world, Lori. It sounds like you’re on your way since you’ve already touched me with your words, and it was a simple blog response. 😎

  • Brandon Martin
    January 9, 2017 - 8:30 pm · Reply

    I found this post to be very informative, and I want to express my appreciation and thanks. I have been writing for years, only to hold myself back with fear and self doubt. After reading here, I am eased to feel the inspiration you have given me. I am left with not one single question especially after seeing a link to your resources in the comments section. I can not wait to blow the dust off of my old note books and put my old composition to good use. Stumbling across your page has been the best thing to happen to me in a long while. A very long while.

  • A. G.
    June 11, 2018 - 8:44 am · Reply

    Dear Ms. Katie,
    Thank you for your kind regards! I want to publish my poems as an ebook with Kindle Direct, but I’m not sure if I have done the right things. I formatted them using Kindle Creat, but have problems as I reside in Iran and the name of my country is not among the country names for me to complete my registration. Do I need to do that? if not, what can I do with the case of payment and the royalties I may want to receive out of their sale?
    Thank you again.

    • Katie
      June 26, 2018 - 3:54 pm · Reply

      You’d be better off reading up at my friend Dave Chesson’s site at kindlepreneur.com. If it’s not there, he’ll probably know the answer! Good luck.

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