June Update

I self published two books in the last year, two collections of poetry. Swannui and Cygnus was a huge learning experience in terms of what it takes to produce a book. Advertising was difficult and actually getting local businesses to sell or even put a poster in their window was both embarrassing and frustrating.

My business model of selling the book for £4, £3 of which would go to myself and £1 would go to the store, seemed reasonable to me. I didn’t ask for stores to buy up stock. With my model they earn a few quid and look good by promoting local endeavors. Despite this I was told quite a few times that “poetry doesn’t sell” and that “we need the space”, which apparently meant that a 210mm x 148mm book would crowd the place out. The town council office even told me that they wouldn’t put up my small poster as they don’t advertise businesses, despite the massive garish poster advertising a carnival 20 miles away. The staff seemed to take issue when I pointed out the irony of this.

In spite of this I managed to get my press release into a couple of local papers (of the 6 I messaged, 2 used the article and 4 entirely ignored my email). It was all a little disheartening but I sold 30% of my stock and took the whole thing as a learning experience. It was my first book and many of the hurdles I had overcame would serve me well when releasing a further one.

With that in mind, at the end of last year I released my second collection; Be All; End All. This time, I only ordered half the quantity of Swannui and Cygnus. I promoted it across my Facebook, Twitter and on here. I went around with posters to every local book shop I could think of. Across five towns I only managed to convince the public libraries of each to stock it (the library of my hometown, Beccles, even returned the books to me).

Other interesting comments I had this time round included

“Frankly, it won’t sell at all so I’d rather not”

“The trustees don’t want any clutter”


“Is it about Norwich, are the poems about the area?” to which I replied that, as a resident of the area, there is no doubt that the location has influenced me. Apparently that wasn’t enough. So for Hell Yeah; Part Three I will produce an alternate version with every third word replaced by “Norfolk” “Suffolk” “Norwich” or “Waveney”.

I appreciate  thatthis can all sound a little despondent. I guess it is. Staying positive can be tough sometimes.

10 thoughts on “June Update

  1. My mom has self published poetry books a couple of times. She’s had a few stores carry the books, but then she’s known locally as a poet and knows the store owners.

  2. I sincerely applaud you efforts in promoting your work. It is hard to get noticed in real life or on the Internet. As far as Norwich is concerned (I live here) even though it is a city, as you know with NUA in the centre and UEA on the periphery, culture is heavily outweighed by football!!

  3. Don’t be too dis-heartened. I am sure in time you will find a way to get your poems read by more people – and they really are good poems (at lest I think so!)

  4. You deserve credit for going out there and trying to make your dreams a reality. It’s not easy commercializing poetry, and you’ve got the right attitude. With time, things will change.

  5. Not to “Rome wasn’t built in a day” you, but I would love to be the one who gives you hope and patience! Sometimes, you do everything you physically can, and still nothing happens. Don’t forget that Some Times. you turn around and move on, only to find everything you Had Wanted waiting in line behind you!! It really can pan out sometimes! Besides, as one poet to another, I know some of writing is just plain cathartic, so keep it up, and don’t let your good art get away from you! Put yourself first (Hell, everyone else does!!)!

  6. It’s not easy to be self-published. You have to be famous first and then your books will sell, even if the writing is garbage. If your books are good (and you’re not famous), you have to work at the marketing and think of it as a very, very long road. Fortunately you’re young and have time on your side. I can certainly identify with all the experiences you’ve described, but don’t lose heart. You know your work is good, so keep going. It’s what you write that’s important, not what you sell.

  7. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s just luck finding someone who believes in you and wants to promote you. Keep at it, your poems are great stuff. The day will come, just keep trying and never give up.

  8. Keep at it! and most of all, keep *writing* ~ you’ve got a lot to say and a great voice, plus an awesome knack with words. I’ve been reading various of your poems for the last half hour or 45 mins (I’m not quite sure) now, and I like them.

    My self-published poetry has been through the same hell in the last couple years, but I’ve found that I always sell the most out of my bag wherever I am. It may not fly off shelves, but when people ask me what I do when I’m out anywhere (it’s what people ask when they meet you, isn’t it?) and I say I’m a writer, often they’ll show interest and ask me more, and the detail eventually leads to ‘well, I’ve got a small collection of my poetry with me, actually’. They’re priced the same as your prices – really reasonable! Be personable & shameless; without meeting people, online promotion will only go so far.

    Your poetry would lend well to being read out loud – very well I think. If you haven’t ever tried, find a poetry reading and get there, by hook or by crook, by bus or by bike, with 15-30 copies of your books at least. Festivals and whatnot are also good places to have a load of them with.

    Maybe you know all this or already do it, but it’s worth saying!!! 😉
    Best of luck,

    1. The bag idea is a really good one actually, nice pointer. Bit tougher for a guy as I rarely carry one but i’m not thinking of a satchel type idea…

      Thank you Kate!

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