I Hate Chaps
Well, chapbooks. Yes, that's right, I think online publication of pamphlet and chapbook length material has completely replaced hard copy chapbook publication, except for a few edited, relatively high visibility, longstanding chapbook series (Seeing Eye, Belladonna, Diagram, Slapering Hol, Center for Book Arts, etc., and btw, I would include effing, the old Meow, the fine letterpress stuff, Ugly Duckling, uh, Chris Reiner's old series, etc.) and what I will term "ephemera" -- chapbooks made by an author and given out at readings, etc. Guess what, I think self-publication is vanity publication, including self-publication of pieces long enough to be bound with a spine, and I believe that it is a waste of time for serious poets to attempt to turn a profit from vanity publication.
I view chapbook publication to be the "open mike night with cover charge" of the poetry world, i.e., a way that struggling writers who don't know any better soak their friends and loved ones for $5. for what should be given those you care about / care being read by for free.
Scott Pierce of effing press writes:
"You are talking about a production value that doesn't have anything to do with the work therein."
I'm not talking about production value. I'm talking about the work generally inside. And I think I'm being pretty honest when saying that I have no desire to purchase any chapbooks ever; those I have purchased, I have purchased the entire series, such as Belladonna's, or subscribed to, such as Seeing Eye's.
"Chapbooks in fact preempt those glossy glue-bound books."
Actually, they generally come before a writer publishes a book. They should be taken less seriously, and I do take them less seriously, than books. Most of my own chapbooks and "e-chapbooks" get rolled into full length mss. when they mature or contextualize. [Although I will say that I have a couple catch-all mss. that basically roll together series of chapbook or pamphlet-length projects.]
"You are stuck on production values and spitting in the face of a lot of micropresses that take the format seriously."
Nope, I'm not. I'm stuck on the fact that dozens of my former students have wasted serious amounts of time and in some cases THOUSANDS of dollars printing chapbooks which they then tour open mike nights to sell. They call this their "poetry career," and confuse this vanity effort with DIY publishing or an actual, serious pursuit of writing and distributing poetry.
On the other hand, my business manager insists that my poetry BOOK PUBLICATION and traveling in some cases to readings is a vanity effort.
But again, my objection is not about the format. It's about the work, the poetry.
That's why, if no one but yourself will print it, it is important to ask yourself, "why" before handing over your credit card at kinko's to print the stuff youself.
"And by the way, SPD is not necessary for all micropresses. And also, chapbooks do sell. They sell quite well."
I'm glad to learn someone's selling poetry. I personally haven't sold very much of it, chapbook or no. To get people to read my books I have to give them away! I thought perhaps with so much of my work available free (online), the stuff that was in book form would be more salable. It isn't. And even when I sold books (before moving) at Amazon and years ago on Half.com, plays sold, comp books sold, fiction sold, non ficiton sold best, and poetry -- didn't sell a book. Not one poetry book did I sell. So I completely understand why stores won't sell it, and specifically, why they have prejudices against certain formats (they only want full color 8 1/2 x 11 magazines or spined journals, too, I know) that display well enough to sell.
The truth of the matter is that vanity publications, poetry, and chapbooks only sell when "hand sold." But I don't think one should pursue such "hand selling" BEFORE pursuing some sort of less merchantile relationship with the poetry community.