An interesting post on print runs and another one here. Would someone tell me the size of an average poetry print run? Have zero clue. This thread suggests that a first print run of 300 is standard in the UK; and that selling out a print-run of 2,000 in the US puts a poetry collection in the best-seller category.
Any additional information appreciated!
Update: Just found this thread at the Magma blog. In the very long comments thread, a representative of Ward Wood, a UK publisher, talks about print-runs and publishing poetry. I have excerpted these observations from her remarks. (For the whole context, including original post and other comments, please visit the Magma URL. )
I have to say that for me, this discussion further demonstrates the concept of the ‘publisher’s cycle of need‘.
“I think the main question in the UK is how to help publishers at least break even on the print run. It’s very hard to sell poetry – about 200 copies is pretty good and more than that is excellent. A bestseller is still in the hundreds rather than over 1,000. 200 copies only really pay for the print run, so publishers and editors are often doing all the other sides of the work without any income at all.
If poets are to keep finding outlets for their work – if they want it to be published – then they/we do have to find ways to make people aware of our writing and to tempt them to buy a book. Publishers also have to help with this and it’s all very hard with so few sales to pay for the time needed to work hard at trying to promote poetry…. I do believe that it’s possible to make people aware of what they’re missing, and I also believe more copies of certain poetry books should sell. So we’ll all keep trying.”
“If we want to have publishing outlets for poets, and keep the independent publishers going that we already have, then we have to work really hard at promotion just to get the necessary sales to pay for the print runs.
When I say ‘break even’ I mean ‘pay for the print run’ and other necessary expenses like the postage to send off the required number of review copies. About 200 copies will cover that but that does mean the publisher and any editors and book designers working without an income. Sales of 200 copies is normal for poetry so that’s the problem – and that’s a normal sales statistic even with the poet helping by giving readings.”
“To be more clear – the amount of sales needed to break even would depend on the size of the print run. So, as an example, on a print run of 200, the first 100 sales would break even by paying for the basic costs like printing and postage, and the second 100 would pay for the next print run. So there’s little or no income from it.
You need to get into higher sales to do more than break even, and that’s very hard in poetry. I’m not the business expert in our company by the way but this is my simple understanding of how the figures work out!
Some publishers have turned to print on demand, but we don’t use that method so we need to promote our authors to pay for our costs. Some publishers are using printers in other countries, such as Poland, but they tend to ask for large print runs of 1,000 at least.
Publishers do need to be helped by some of their authors championing poetry. I do understand writers who aren’t comfortable performing though and it certainly wouldn’t stop me selecting them.”