As a sort-of-shameless plug, my wife’s poetry press is about to release it’s next 3 books. The one of most interest for this post is: Jill Essbaum’s new book – Harlot (look, a cock!). Jill lives out of the country but has read for one of the wife’s reading series events. The other two new releases are Myth of the Simple Machines (by Laurel Snyder) and Shy Green Fields (by Hugh Behm-Steinberg). Laurel will also be reading in a few months in DC.
What is interesting isn’t necessarily that the books are being published, though that is nice, its that you don’t have to try to use a big press like Random House or Simon & Schuster to publish a quality looking book.
Essentially over the last 2 years the wife has built a small business in using a print-on-demand printing company (Lulu Books) to be the printer and distributor of the books she wants her press to publish. Each book gets an ISBN so it can be ordered through Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any local bookstore. She puts details and purchasing information on notellbooks.org to make it easier for people interested in the titles to get them.
Poetry books don’t sell very well (shocker?) so the traditional print business which requires a large print run to be done initially never makes money on poetry titles. The print-on-demand method allows the publisher (wife) to find authors they like (Jill, Laurel, Hugh, Shafer, PF, Bruce) layout the titles and produce a PDF file that is then uploaded to Lulu for printing as people request copies of the books. There is no up-front print run and no costs aside from ISBN and artwork. This makes publishing smaller sales items much more sensible, and profitable.
There seems to be a resurgence or increase in use of print-on-demand for smaller presses now, that’s a positive thing, it’s moving the power of publishing back into the hands of the people. Large print houses have to satisfy their share holders. they do this by spending little and making lots (obvious)… Poetry titles don’t do that, relatively speaking the cost a bunch and make next-to-nothing (save a few specific examples). Large publishers don’t have the need to publish first poetry books because they aren’t profitable, print-on-demand reverses that problem and lets people become publishers of content they want to make available to the masses.
I think the things the wife has done with No Tell Books and her poetry journal No Tell Motel are pretty revolutionary because they are doing things the ‘old school’ publishing industry is unwilling or unable to do, and being successful at it. No Tell Motel gets more visitors every day than most printed poetry journals get in a single year, she’s accomplished this by generating loyal readership, subscribers.