We’re mixing up the New Writers Column with a two-part guest post by poet Sandra Marchetti. She gave me the push I needed to start submitting in 2011. Read about her chapbook here. Marchetti has published or will publish poems in Ohio State U’s The Journal, Nashville Review, Gargoyle, Flycatcher, and elsewhere. She is poetry editor at Minerva Rising.
Here Marchetti offers publishing tips for the year after publication.
Keep promoting your book– long after publication
Things I Learned in the Year after Publishing a Book
In March of 2012, Midwest Writing Center Press published my first short volume of poems, The Canopy. The Canopy was the winner of the Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest. The book is comprised of Midwestern landscape poems and also some domestic (interior) scenes. Press releases announced the publication in newspapers and I went on a short book tour throughout the Midwest to promote the book. The publisher recently sold out the first print run and more copies are on their way. So what did this process teach me about my work? About the publishing industry? About my goals after this first publication? Below are some lessons I’ve learned in the year after publishing my first book.
1. Keep Promoting Your Book Long After Publication.
As soon as I found out that my book would be published, I scrambled to find venues that would host me for a reading or a signing. I read at some great places: St. Ambrose University in Iowa’s Quad Cities, Elmhurst College outside of Chicago, at Anderson’s Books in the Chicago suburbs. In the first few months after publication, I did a few readings a month, especially during April for National Poetry Month. However, after the summer was over, my reading schedule thinned. I didn’t schedule as many events once I started teaching and readings have been sporadic since. I’ve now learned that I need to promote year round! To sell copies or even meet important people to give copies to, be out there. I read at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago last month and participated in a panel presentation at the AWP Conference in Boston this month.
2. Bring Books and Business Cards.
I have talked to at least five people who wanted to buy my book on the spot but couldn’t— because I didn’t have books with me. I didn’t want to be the author who carried books in her car and goaded readers into buying them. Even if you’re out of books, keep business cards with you that list your contact info or the website where books can be purchased.
3. Go to a Writers’ Conference.
The year after you publish a book is the perfect time to go to a writers’ conference. I applied and was offered a spot at both the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference during the summer of 2012. I went to Sewanee. It was an intensive, amazing experience and built connections that turned directly into publications. A writers’ conference is also one of the only places where it is perfectly okay to hand out copies of your book as free party favors (with a business card tucked inside, of course!). Why wouldn’t I want to give a copy of my book to Mark Strand?
Take Advantage of the Unexpected Ways Book Sales and Further Publishing/Writing Opportunities Come About
4. Seven Degrees of Publication: Marshaling Connections into Opportunities.
I got to know the writers who worked for my press, the people I met while manning the AWP booth, and the Sewanee participants I sold copies to. I friended them all on Facebook. I talk with many of them every day and most have read my work. These folks post contest and submission opportunities, run magazines, and write recommendations. How do I use this to my advantage? When I submit poems to a journal, I immediately go to the masthead and recent contributors’ pages. I ask, “Who do I know?”, “Who encouraged me to submit to this journal?”, “Who can I mention in my cover letter?” If nothing else, I receive much sweeter rejections. However, I’ve published at least three pieces this year as a direct result of my connections with Sewanee writers and the MWC Press.
5. Your Friends and Family Generate More Sales than Indie Bookstores.
My mother-in-law ordered copies of The Canopy to give out as party favors at my engagement party. The word of mouth and excitement your loved ones can generate is more than your average indie bookstore can do on its own (especially for poetry books). Set up readings at bookstores, and support those stores, but know that the royalties may come from your Mom’s best friend and the stellar reviews your MFA buddies left on Amazon.
6. Your Small Press Publisher Will Help More Than You Think.
My independent, nonprofit press was, and still is, dedicated to my book. It is an extension of a community organization, The Midwest Writing Center, in the Quad Cities on the Illinois/Iowa border. They invited me to participate in a reading series, set up a signing/reading at a local university, and announced my prize-winning book in print and online. They are dedicated to printing as many copies of my book as will sell, and have invited me to read at more events than I can count. God bless the small press!
See more of Marchetti’s post-publishing tips in Thursday’s continued New Writers Column.
Marchetti currently teaches writing & literature at Elmhurst College outside of her native Chicago. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing–Poetry at George Mason University in 2010. Sandra was named the winner of the Midwest Writing Center’s 2011 Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest for her volume, The Canopy. Her full-length manuscript, “Confluence,” was a quarterfinalist for Able Muse’s 2012 Book Award (Open Competition). She was also a finalist in Gulf Coast’s 2011 Poetry Prize and Phoebe’s 2009 Greg Grummer Poetry Contest. Read more on her blog.
Previous posts feature world traveler and Go! Girl Guides founder Kelly Lewis and short fiction writer/Pushcart nominee Doug Silver. Robert Brewer arrives later this month. The Writer’s Market guru and brain behind MNINB and annual Author Platform Challenge, which kicks off in just a couple weeks.