Awful, awful dreams last night, the kind where people wind up dying and I wake up screaming. There's always a moment in these dreams where in the midst of panic, I realize (or hope) it's a dream and trick myself into waking up. Still scary, though, and these sorts of things are probably never good omens. Not quite so dire, but endlessly annoying, my b&w printer was also being fussy and the paper light keeps flashing at me like an evil little eye and won’t print. I may chuck it out the window before the day is over. Plus I just got the blue screen of death a few minutes ago. Do you think it's all related?
Earlier, I was reading a rather good discussion about chapbooks over at WOMPO. Someone had asked about the whys and wheretofores. As a publisher, I like chapbooks because I can make and sell them relatively cheaply and in the process get a lot of peoples work out there. Some of these people are publishing their first chaps, some already have many and this is just one more. Some poets are just starting their careers, some are in the thick of it. There’s also an immediacy that you don’t get with books that can take years to find a publisher and ultimately get into print, even if they are snatched up immediately.
Chapbooks also tend to have a focus and compactness I like as a reader. I buy a lot of chaps, some for design samples, but also a lot by authors I like. I could easily wait for these poems to wind up in a full-length project, but I’m all about the instant gratification. I want it NOW dammit. I’m also a hoarder of books and myriad papery things, so the more the merrier. At WOMPO, they were discussing the whole issue about readers feeling ripped-off when they buy a long book that they’ve already seen some of it as a chapbook. I hope not, though it does raise an interesting point. Also whether the publisher of any given collection should be worried about sales when the actual content has already appeared elsewhere (not counting journals) or will appear elsewhere in the future.
Though I’ve published (self and otherwise) certain segments of the longer book manuscripts as chaps (with the exception of feign, which is still available from NMP and at the hotel andromeda, which is dwindling) most of those books aren’t available anymore or soon won’t be anywhere but the longer book. With in the bird museum, you can easily find segments of it in shorter collections; errata, feign, archer avenue, the Cornell poems. Hell you can also find a lot of them on the internet as well. If you own all those chaps, and read new work I publish in webzines, you probably have read most of in the bird museum and can save yourself some cash in December (though there are also an entire series of phobia poems that tie the whole project together that have only seen daylight a couple times, so that alone is worth forking over for, don’t you think?) Really though, it was important that I bring all these things together under one cover, one big book, and give them some sort of unity. Read together they have more impact than separately. It was important to have them be presented not as the scattered, limited edition chaps they once existed as, but as parts of a whole body of work exploring the same themes. The big book also feels like a final edition, all the poems revised to the best version they can possibly be. And available indefinitely and more widely in this case since Dusie uses Lulu. It’s nice to have little limited editions collector items, but I also want my work to be available to anyone who wants it, whenever, wherever.
Of course, there’s also a part of me that feels a little uneasy to always be shoving new projects in people’s faces and saying “BUY IT! BUY IT!” when they just bought something else a couple of weeks ago. Which is why I like to give and swap as much away as I can. If I can afford to give it away for free, I probably have. Or will very soon.
At WOMPO, someone also brings up the issue of trying to sell both side by side and are you obligated to say they share content. Well, yes, I imagine if you want to be upfront and honest, but I think there’s more than room for both. If you’re poor like most poets, chaps are a much better option. Also if the author is new to you, they are a good way to dip your foot in the pool. If you have a paper fetish and are seduced by you are going to naturally gravitate toward the shorter collection. However, if you are in for the long haul or like slick glossy things, then you’ll go for the big book. I don’t think they need to be seen at odds with each other. Of course if you’re like me and madly collect things and are really into a given author, you’ll be willing to pay for both. And the broadside. And the napkin the poet scribbled notes on at lunch.
For dgp, if a book is soonly on the horizon, I’ll try to space the chap a few months to capitalize on pre-book excitement. I find people, even with an impending book on the horizon, have no problem handing over $5 or $6 (about the cost of cocktail) for a little taste of what’s to come We have a couple forthcoming authors where this is the case. My experience is that there’s typically a big spike in sales just after release that eventually tempers off to a more even level, so by the time a longer book comes out, we wouldn’t really be competing much with them anyhow. And then there’s always the factor press loyalty—some dear lovelies buy everything we publish, no matter what else is out there. And I imagine this is true for other presses, as well.
In regard to my work, this is the one reason I like the idea of branching out beyond the dgp sphere and not just self-publishing everything I want to release, which I could do and probably save some cash on book/chapbook contests and postage. I’ve pretty much given up on the whole trying to prove I’m a “legitimate” poet based on who publishes or doesn’t publish me, and moreso being legitimate on putting work out there people want to read. I’m psyched to be affiliated with other presses who have their own spheres (though often overlapping) of readership and getting my work into more hands. Placing myself in different readership circles, among different factions of community who may have never encountered my work. Indeed, this whole notion of career, oft debated and ridiculed, I think is really more about that, getting books into hands, however you do it, whether through traditional channels or untraditional ones.