Does ‘look of the line’ = ‘meaning of the line’?

E-book formatting is not the same as print formatting and e-reader devices definitely require us to recalibrate our relationship to text. Doing this seems to have been easier for readers of poetry (who seem, by and large, a flexible and open bunch), than it has been for many writers of poetry. Many writers of poetry can separate the look of the line from the meaning of the line, but many absolutely equate the two and flatly negate the possibility of separation. If, as a poetry publisher, you admit the possibility of separation, then, as Gabrielle David emphasizes below, your central task is to ensure that, no matter how the e-reader or the human reader adjust text size, the meaning of the line remains intact. I much enjoyed the post below from Gabrielle, in which she made this and other interesting points. Gabrielle’s post first appeared on the WomPo listserv and is reproduced here with her permission:

“I have watched the rise of the ebook biz and the various devices (many of which have come and gone) in the past six years. I understood that at some point I would have to consider ebook formats (for both phati’tude Literary Magazine and 2Leaf Press), and have been tinkering with the design and format of the ebook for quite some time, before coming up with a “recipe” that would address poetry and the issue of line breaks.

When you are dealing with multiple devices coupled with the fact that the end user has the ability to change the size of the font, it is a foregone conclusion that the text is going to shift. For years, the issue was the conversion of text through Word and other word processing programs which exacerbated this and other problems. At the same time, there is no standard way to convert text to reading devices, everyone does it differently, so ebooks have had their share of problems, primarily just really bad formatting of text (including poorly designed books and horrible editing), but in recent years, as the devices have grown more sophisticated, the reading public has demanded more for their money. The large publishing houses have scrambled to get people who know how to code ebooks and work with the latest technology to produce them (which they can well afford), but for the smaller presses, it’s just another resource that’s not readily available to them.

Since I have worked in the technology field for years, I was at a greater advantage and understood what needed to be done, but was in no great hurry to do it because the industry was changing rapidly, especially in the past five years. Right now, we are down to four major devices: Kindle, iPad, Nook and KOBO, including Android and Apple phones. While there are different nuances to each device and a standard ebook format continues to develop, its safe to say that the format issue as it pertains to poetry will always remain an issue because the lines will always change from device to device and end users will always control how text appears on their device.

Since most poetry books are published by small presses and many do not have the resources to convert print books to ebooks, coupled with the “hysteria” of the poets, many have not taken the plunge. I think this is a huge mistake. Poets and small presses are precluding themselves out of a market and a built-in-audience of poetry lovers who would like to read poetry on their devices. The public is buying more ebooks than print books. It’s a market that you simply cannot ignore if you want your work, including your poetry to reach a wider audience.

And really, the lines are handled just as they are in print — if it’s too long, you wrap with an indent to show it is a continuing line. Most poetry readers understand that in print, so if they see it on a reading device, they will understand it as well. To be sure, poetry with gaps of spacing, poetry typeset as a visual centerpiece to the poem is more complex to convert into an ebook. Right now there are two solutions: (1) working with someone who has a total understanding of the technology who can figure out ways to work around it, or (2) publishing the ebook with the lines flush left, but even that may change in time as the technology continues to develop.

Right now, the best way (in my humble opinion) to prepare ebooks is to hand-code the text using XHTML. This solves a number of problems: you have better control over line spacing and the flow of text, and as the technology changes, you can go back to your original XHTML file and update it. People are big on apps right now and interactive text (click and a photo or illustration pops up; click and music comes on), which is becoming popular in the children’s and YA market, but it also provides writers some creative ways to reproduce their books on reading devices. So by hand-coding books, your work is able to grow with the technology.

What’s happening is that these reading devices are providing a new stage on how we communicate through text — the world is no longer flat, it’s round. In fact, we recently released three poetry collections by Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Shirley Bradley LeFlore and Tony Medina, with more to come. Jesus’ poetry has lines all over the place and we were able to recalculate the spacing so that the work is not falling off the page/device. On the other hand, Shirley has extremely long lines, so we had to code for the indent to show that it’s all one line. When the ebooks are viewed in normal size they look just like their print counterpart on all of the devices, however, if the end-user decides to blow-up the screen, the meaning of the lines remain intact. In the end, I think that’s what really matters, when you format poetry in ebooks, the meaning of the lines remain intact (repeated twice here for emphasis).”

About Gabrielle:

I am the executive director of the Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc. (IAAS) (www.theiaas.org), a NY-based nonprofit organization that promotes multicultural literature and literacy.  I am a lover of poetry, and have been reading, writing and studying poetry since elementary school through college.  I became involved in the NY poetry scene during the 1990s doing poetry programming at the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center in Queens, NY, booking artists like Maria Gillan, Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Sonia Sanchez, Shirley Bradley LeFlore, Louis Reyes Rivera, among others. This program prompted the creation of phati’tude Literary Magazine (www.phatitude.org), and later on, the television program phatLiterature (http://www.youtube.com/user/gdavid01), which was videotaped at the Library and aired nationally on college networks and public access outlets. We recently launched our imprint, 2Leaf Press (www.2leafpress.org), which promotes multicultural poets and writers. 

Poetry finally joining e-book revolution

Over the past two years, publishers have been steadily filling one of the largest gaps in the e-book catalogue – poetry.

Adrienne Rich, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes and Wallace Stevens have been among the poets whose work recently became available in electronic format. And Random House Inc., W.W. Norton and several other publishers now routinely release new books in both print and digital versions, including last month’s Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, Sharon Olds’ “Stag’s Leap.”

from the Associated Press, more here.

About time.

multi-format poetry publishing, cont’d

Check out this awesome web-page. This is how poetry should be published!

We blogged about Dave Bonta’s Twelve Simple Songs before, but there’s more now. From a single online location (Dave built a dedicated page for the publication), you can read the poems via Issuu on the web, download a PDF of the poems, download an MP3 file of the author reading the poems, or purchase (at cost-price) a print edition of the poem. You can also watch an awesome videopoem someone made based on the poems, read for the video project by someone else.

Poetry publishers take note. It doesn’t get better than this!

Other relevant multi-format publishing posts from the Very Like A Whale archive:

- multi-format poetry publishing!
- Want poetry readers? publish in multiple formats, some free
- Multi-format poetry publishing – production steps

multi-format poetry publishing!

I am beyond thrilled to see this great initiative from Dave Bonta. He has collected twelve very romantic poems into a chapbook called Twelve Simple Songs, and has made it available as:

- regular PDF download
- an Issuu digital chapbook
- an MP3 download
- and coming up: in print from a new POD service, Peecho

How awesome is that?! We, as potential readers, are asked ‘how do you like your poetry served?’ and we get some choices. I, for one, went for the regular PDF download, because honestly, I find Issuu aggravating to use. The chapbook looks really beautiful on my iPad in my iBooks reader, and is a breeze to read. Others will prefer the Issuu version, others the MP3 audio download, and others still, the upcoming print version. Some may want more than one version. By catering to all these different preferences, and by eschewing the profit motive (digital versions are free and the print version will be sold at cost), Dave has exponentially increased his poems’ chances of getting read.

A quick suggestion: Dave might at some point want to consider putting together a mini-website for Twelve Simple Songs, a place where he can consolidate the links to the different formats for future traffic and search engine huntings. As I mentioned in this 2011 post entitled another advantage of multi-format publishing, the beauty of a website for a chapbook or collection is that you can add things to the work as they happen – if someone writes a review, for example, or expands both the work’s content and its modes of expression by making a videopoem based on one or more of the poems.

Congratulations, Dave, on this tender collection and thanks for sharing it so generously.

Other relevant multi-format publishing posts from the Very Like A Whale archive:

- Want poetry readers? publish in multiple formats, some free
- Multi-format poetry publishing – production steps

poetry book sales survey: results

I’ve closed the informal, unscientific survey on poetry book sales after running it for a couple of days. I was pleased to get a total of 74 responses to its three questions, which were:
 
1. How big was the initial print run for your book or chapbook? (possible range presented was 50 to 2,000 copies. In hindsight: should have included a ‘print-on-demand’ option, and possibly a ‘more than 2,000′ option.)
 
2. How many print copies of your book or chapbook were sold? (range same as above, also included a ‘don’t know’ option)
 
3. Was your book or chapbook published in any other formats? (options were PDF download, website, e-book, audio or ‘no, only print’)
 
Click on graphics below to see larger versions.

Size of print run: a topic of interest to me since writing this post way back when. The numbers from the survey pretty much confirm the range discussed in that post and exclude the multi-thousand runs of real best-seller poets. According to this survey, nearly 80% of initial runs are less than 500 copies; close to 50% are less than 200 copies; and 35% are less than 100 copies. Our world is indeed a small one…
 
print run survey results
 
Number of copies sold: 74% of respondents reported selling less than 500 copies of their book; about 50% reported sales of less than 200 copies; and 27% less than 100 copies. These numbers are skewed, however, by the ‘don’t know’ category, which represented 15% of responses. In reality, each is probably a few percentage points higher.
 
copies sold survey results
 
Publication formats: This was the real surprise, although perhaps it should not have been. Almost 90% of respondents said their book had been published in print only. Five respondents (7%) reported PDF downloads as well; four respondents report e-book publication too; while two said their poems were published on a website, and one said it had also been published as audio.

I’ve gone on at length about the advantages of multi-format publishing in previous posts, and will do so again, now that this survey is done. Watch this space…
 
publishing format survey results

New audio chapbook: ‘Abrupt Hybrids’ by Felino A. Soriano

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks is delighted to announce the publication of Abrupt Hybrids by Felino Soriano. This is Whale Sound’s seventh audio chapbook and one that, like all those before it, was selected because it represented an opportunity to explore an aspect of reading cool poetry that was new and/or challenging to me.

As readers of this blog know, one of the reasons I started Whale Sound was to push my own boundaries and feel what it’s like to read all kinds of poetry. The first time I went way out of my comfort zone was with a poem submitted by Dave Tomaloff, who writes in the experimental vein. (I had a long conversation with David about poem-as-page and poem-as-voice here.) David then pointed me towards Felino Soriano’s work, and I solicited this poem of Felino’s for Whale Sound. Later on still, we featured one of Ann Bogle’s pieces as a group reading.

I don’t know how to technically characterize my experience of such poems as these – what I feel is an absence of that concrete (dare I say ‘emotionally guttural’..?) image-ruled poetry universe in which I was raised. In that universe, abstractions and ‘Latinate’ words are to be approached warily, if at all. In this, very different, universe it’s all about abstractions and Latinate words and it feels different – like language talking to itself but pulling all sorts of conceptions unsettlingly after it. The experience is more in one’s brain than in one’s senses but, paradoxically, reading these poems aloud, I feel much closer to words as words in themselves, than I do reading what are more ‘usual’ poems for me. Usually the connection with what the words represent is as strong, or stronger.

Anyhow, I don’t think I really can explain myself properly, so I’ll stop. I’d like to offer my warmest thanks to Felino, both for entrusting his work to me and for giving me the opportunity to feel and begin to think my way through experiencing poems such as those he writes – it’s been wonderful and eye-opening in many ways.

My favorite piece in this collection is most definitely Booker’s Garden. The title is the name of a track on the album Rabo de Nube by Charles Lloyd (you can hear a short clip here). Knowing Felino is a big jazz aficionado, I downloaded the album when I first started working with his poems and saw the reference to Charles Lloyd. I would have loved to have recorded the reading of the poem using the album as quiet aural backdrop, but copyright issues made that impossible. Instead, I recorded two MP3 versions of the whole chapbook – one without soundtrack and one using a lovely jazz piano improvisation by Serge Robinson, who has an amazing amount of work up at Jamendo. A big thank you to poet, painter and photographer Duane Locke for letting us use his work as cover art.

So do go take a look/listen at Abrupt Hybrids. As usual, it’s available as free downloadable web-based text & audio; as free downloadable ePUB version and in print version for sale at cost-price at Lulu’s.

how much money does a mid-list mystery writer make from selling books?

Wow. This author has fifteen mystery novels published and makes $18,000 a year from them. (Hat tip: Collin Kelley.)

Seems like a good moment to link to poetry – an inherently non-profit activity?, a post in which I argued that no-one has a hope in hell of making any kind of a living from selling books of poetry and should seek to gain readers instead through multi-format publication which includes free provision of some of those formats.

(Related post: Nanopress publishing – avoiding the publisher’s cycle of need

Other Very Like A Whale posts on poetry publishing)

Multi-format poetry publishing – production steps

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks just published its sixth title – Fishwife by Jennifer Jean. There’s a music soundtrack and extra illustrations in this one – yay for collaborations!

Wrapping up this project and working on my own latest nanopress project (a chapbook this time), I took the time to write down the various steps for multi-format publishing. It looks like an awfully long list, but all the stages can be worked in parallel, and each is actually not more than 2-3 hours of work. I figured that, if I didn’t have to periodically stop work to get clearances from my project partner, I could publish a chapbook manuscript in all the formats below in one day — a long day, but it would be manageable. The MOST work is in the first three steps: 1) editing the manuscript – which can go a really long time; 2) recording and editing audio; and 3) identifying and getting permission for cover art. Once you have those three elements in hand, the rest of the process is a relative breeze. Thus:

MS
• Agree with editor or poet (‘partner’) on final MS

Cover art
• Agree with partner on cover art
• Obtain permission from artist to use art

Audio
• Record audio in MP3 format

Misc
• Get bios and any mug-shots or statements from partner & contributing artist(s)
• Compile list of acknowledgments, if any

Website
• Establish private blog, select website theme/design
• Upload & format cover art
• Upload & format poems, bios, mug-shots, acknowledgments & any statements
• Upload & format audio
• Format internal links
• Clear all site content with partner
• Add links to other formats (PDF & MP3 downloads; e-book; print edition & CD)
• Switch site from ‘private’ to ‘public’ on formal publication date

PDF download
• Format MS in A4 size
• Clear A4 MS with partner
• Convert to PDF format
• Upload and link to website

E-book
• Format MS per Smashwords style guide
• Design e-book cover
• Clear Smashwords MS & cover with partner
• Upload doc & cover to Smashwords
• Publish e-book on Smashwords (24 hrs before overall publication in case fixes needed)

Print edition
• Format MS as 6X9
• Clear 6X9 MS with partner
• Upload MS & design cover online at Lulu
• Clear cover with partner
• Publish book (keep link private until formal publication date)

CD
• Upload audio at Lulu
• Design CD label & contents insert online at Lulu
• Design CD cover online at Lulu
• Clear CD cover with partner
• Publish CD (keep link private until formal publication date)

want poetry readers? publish in multiple formats, some free

Those familiar with how we publish at Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks know our mantra – publish in multiple formats, some of them free. We publish as free web-based text & audio, free e-reader edition and free PDF download; with CD and print editions for sale.

Looks like Poetry and the Beloit Poetry Journal are embracing this philosophy too. Both are now offering their entire content free online, while maintaining for-sale print editions. (Hat tip: Jessica Goodfellow)

Why does Whale Sound publish like this? Let’s share some stats.

(Note: Our stats are not scientific. We can’t track everything and it’s never clear what a click on a link actually means, at the end of the day. We don’t count individual readings or listenings to of individual poems at the website, for example. And how do we know that a download or a purchase means actual reading of the chapbook or collection? We don’t. But, broadly and anecdotally, this is what we have found:)

- the free e-reader editions represent far and away the largest numbers of all copies obtained: between 40% and 60%.

- the second most popular edition is the free PDF download, which represents between 25% and 35% of all copies obtained.

- consumer preference is heavily weighted towards reading poetry rather than listening to it (which makes us sad) – audio copies obtained only represent betwee 10% and 20% of all copies obtained.

- Finally (and most importantly): sales of print version and CD version combined represent the smallest number of copies obtained – only between 5% and 10% overall. (Big hint: if you want readers, selling poetry may not be the way to go…)

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PS I should also mention Moria Poetry e-books – you can download every e-book there free and you are also given the option, if you prefer, to purchase a paper copy of the book. Nice, Moria!

back when editors & typesetters, not poets, broke lines…?

This is very interesting from an e-poetry publishing perspective. Is the e-reader the new Gutenberg in this regard, and have we come full circle…? Wanda Coleman at the Poetry Foundation:

Does the (ah-hem) neophyte poet emerging in this century know that poets didn’t always break their own lines? Who broke them and how? Are those so-called lines and “enjambments” that some professors of poetry wax so eloquently about, truly the work of the creative writer? Or rather an editor with an eye for graphic design? Or a creative book designer? Or, more likely, a creative typesetter of eras past? Does the student or lover of poetry realize that those sainted breaths set in today’s literary stone, weren’t necessarily the work of said poet? Isn’t it tragic that amnesia regarding the art and attitude of printing poetry (we shall skip China and pick it up with Gutenberg, forward) allow many contemporary poets to mistakenly or deliberately take credit for their “appropriations” of old-timey line breaks authored by those long dead book designers and typesetters? Is it known that, occasionally, there are writers and poets who disdain the grunt work of breaking their own lines? Is it understood that they leave that literary labor to others—others who become invisible over time and prolonged worship?

showing off

This is what you get when you enter your home-coded ePub file into the validator here and it’s a valid XHTML ePub document. Probably doesn’t look like much to you, people, but let me assure you it was a deeply welcome sight after endlessly multiple repetitions of ePub hugely crossed out with giant red crosses…

e-poetry: hanging indents – success!

Yes! Went way out of my comfort zone on this, but it worked!

I downloaded eCub (thanks again, Mr. Bonta…), which calls itself “a simple .epub creation tool” and it actually is, although I have to say it probably did help that I have a least a smattering of a background with html and CSS. All you need with eCUB is an html file of your poems, a CSS page to govern it, and a cover image. The software actually generates a CSS page for you, but I fiddled with it to add Dave Bonta’s hanging indent magic. And it worked!

I worked with Chrissie’s Cloud Studies first, because I felt like a completely evil publisher for having touted hanging indents which didn’t work on a Kindle. Well these do, Chrissie! That is, the MOBI file definitely works on the latest generation Kindle. And since it was converted using Calibre from the EPUB version, I’m pretty certain the EPUB version is good too. But would some kind person reading this test the EPUB file for me on their iPAD or Sony Reader or Nook…? Both versions work beautifully on the Calibre built-in readers, of course, but I no longer trust them for details like this.

Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow me to upload either type of file for easy linking here, so I’ve had to put them in a bit of a weird place (it’s free and rather manically ad-filled, I’m afraid) for the moment while I figure how best to store them online.

Cloud Studies in EPUB
Cloud Studies in MOBI

Upsides:
- The hanging indents work!
- It’s much quicker than Smashwords, which can take many hours to crunch your Microsoft Word doc upload on a busy day.
- I was able to create the EPUB first, then convert that to MOBI using Calibre – very easy.
- You can test fixes and work-arounds in a few seconds, publishing and unpublishing while working between eCUB and Calibre. With Smashwords you upload and wait for several hours before you see if your fix works.
- With Smashwords, uploading = publishing, so although you can upload as many revised versions as you want, you always risk having an imperfect version out there being downloaded for several hours before you can upload a fix.

Downsides:
- The coding is time-consuming – but I’m not yet sure whether it’s less or more work than Smashwords formatting.
-Smashwords is also an amazing packaging and distribution platform, which jazzes up your product with its own personal web page, blasts it out into the ether, allows people to post reviews on it, and keeps track of downloads, etc. It doesn’t do all the marketing and promotion for its authors, but it sure gives them a good initial leg-up.
- You can’t use your own home-made e-files on Smashwords – it only works with e-books produced using Smashwords technology.

So that’s that for the moment… Still much to think about and always many more publishing challenges ahead.

the hanging indent saga (cont’d)

Variety truly is the spice of life. After vigorously shaking my virtual fist at and foaming at the mouth over Harriet and Publishers Weekly yesterday, I approach them today wearing sack-cloth and casting ashes on my head. Why? Because they were lamenting the fact that long lines of e-poetry in e-reader flowing text wrap to the next line hard up against the left margin and look wrong and untidy. I insisted that the simple solution was to use hanging indents, as suggested by an intrepid WOMPO reader, who noted that print publishers use hanging indents for over-long lines, so why not e-publishers?

I thought I had worked out a way to incorporate hanging indents in e-poetry files via Smashwords technology. And indeed, the end product, as MOBI and EPUB files, looked heartbreakingly beautiful and worked exactly as intended on the various e-readers provided as part of the Calibre e-book manager software I use to test e-files.

Not so much on the actual Kindle reader. It turns out. After getting emails from two alert Kindle-owners (thank-you, guys! so cool – the whole internet is a laboratory) I tested the MOBI files today on two Kindles – the 2nd and 3rd (latest) generation.

Sadly, my alert readers are right and the hanging indents do *not* work on the actual Kindles, of either generation. As Harriet and Publishers Weekly rightfully asserted, the lines do indeed wrap hard up to the left margin if the lines are too long for the screen.

So here I am, formally wearing sack-cloth and casting ashes on my head. Sorry, Harriet! Sorry, Publishers Weekly! for cursing you out unneedfully.

(PS – However! There is a solution out there – I know there is. Onward!)

there are problems with e-publishing poetry, but not these

There are problems with e-publishing poetry, but they are not the ones identified here and here. I left this response at Publishers Weekly (I guess no one can comment at Harriet any more…)

First of all – and I am glad to see your article makes this clear — there is no difficulty with specifying hard stanza breaks and hard linebreaks when formatting EPUB and MOBI files.

The problem arises — as pointed out in the example used in your post — when lines are too long for the screen. This could be because they are just really long lines; or because the reader has chosen to enlarge her e-reader font so much that the lines no longer fit on the e-reader screen. In either case, the too-long line will wrap to the next line, hard up against the left margin. It will look both wrong and untidy.

What do print publishers when a line is too long for the page? The resolution for e-publishers in this dilemma is the same as it is for print publishers — the hanging indent.

There is a poetry collection here (http://bit.ly/hSOG43) and a chapbook here (http://bit.ly/ht3Ydv), both of which have been formatted using the hanging indent – which involved essentially formatting each line as a *potential* hanging indent paragraph. You can download these e-books either as EPUB or MOBI files (as you know, the two e-formats that together support most popular e-readers). I invite you to do so and test them on your e-readers. In both final e-formats, the lines wrap with a hanging indent *if* the font size used makes a line too big to fit on the screen, but appear whole on one line without indent if the font used is small enough for the whole line to fit on the screen.

There are other, real problems with e-book formatting for poetry, but they are not those identified in your post.

Nanopress poetry publishing: Avoiding the publisher’s cycle of need

What is the publisher’s cycle of need? Some evolving thoughts on poetry publication, springing from the nanopress experience:

Poetry publication is a difficult field – more difficult than any other kind of publication, I’d submit – because publishers so rarely make money at it. There really is no money in poetry.

I believe that where we (the poetry community writ large) go wrong is that we persist in trying to make poetry fit the traditional publishing paradigm. We look primarily to publishers who are trying to make money to publish our work.

And there is of course nothing at all wrong with trying to make an honest buck. But, again, there is no money in poetry. (Per the Mastercard ad concept, it’s priceless.) Poetry publishers, large and small alike, rarely recoup expenses, let alone make a profit.

The weakness in the system, in my view, is that (despite the hopelessness of trying to make money from poetry) the publishers — whether through contracts or through a sense of moral obligation — hook the published poet into their cycle of need: must make money to recoup expenses and/or make a profit; therefore must carefully prevent these poems from getting into any hands except those that shell out bucks for them in book form; therefore must pressure the poet to help sell, sell, sell books.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is there really any poet out there (the very few Mary Olivers & Billy Collinses of the world aside) who seriously pays or hopes to pay bills using poetry royalties?

What most poets want is to be read (or heard, as the case may be).

Poets should not have to be in the business of selling their book. Poets should be in the business of getting their poems read.

Offering a collection of poems to readers in a single limited form with a price tag on it is so antithetical to the larger objective of getting your poems read that it blows me away just to contemplate the staggering disconnect. You have an overall objective (get my poems read) and a tactical action purportedly taken to attain it (sell them in a single tightly-controlled format) that could not be more at odds with each other.

As I said, I don’t blame poetry publishers for trying to recoup expenses and make an honest buck. Most poetry publishers, especially small and indie presses, work extremely hard and are deeply passionate in their commitment to poetry.

I’m just not sure it’s in the best interest of poets to buy into the publisher’s cycle of need.

Look at the stats here. So far 50 people have obtained this collection, presumably with the intention of reading it/listening to it. If it had been published and offered in single form – the conventional print-book-for-sale-only way – that number would be 6.

So what do I think is the best publication answer for poets who just want to get their poems read?

a) Find a publisher who will publish your complete collection in multiple forms, at least some of which are free.

or

b) Become your own publisher, with an outside editor, under the nanopress model and publish your complete collection in multiple forms, at least some of which are free.

Forever Will End On Thursday – stats for first five days

Just reviewed stats at the Forever Will End On Thursday website and at Lulu & Smashwords, five days after launch. In addition to 955 overall views at the website, this is what I find:

ebook downloads – 25
PDF downloads – 16
print purchases – 6
MP3 downloads – 2
CD purchase – 1

Of course there is no way to tell whether obtaining the collection = actually reading the whole collection or even part of it, but still, the evidence indicates that 50 people have obtained the collection since it launched five days ago on March 21, presumably with the intention of reading it or listening to it.

I like those numbers, and I like even more the fact that they result from the ‘how do you like your poetry served?‘ publication package & philosophy we used for the collection, which specifically recognizes that different people like to read or hear their poetry in different forms, and that delivering the poetry in several different forms maximizes its overall chances of being read or heard. I’m particularly pleased at the e-book numbers – it was a lot of hard work and trial & error to get the e-book formats to a satisfactory level of quality, and am now so glad of that investment.

Warmest thanks to all of you who have taken the trouble to obtain a copy of Forever Will End On Thursday, in whichever form you chose….

e-readers & poetry – solution for line-wrapping with long lines

One e-reader poetry problem is that lines that are too long for the screen wrap to the next line hard up against the left margin, and look both wrong and untidy.

In an exchange on the WOMPO listserv, Catherine Daly suggested using the hanging indent to resolve the problem, noting it “is what print publishers do with lines that are too long for a printed page.”

I tried this at Smashwords and it worked! I set my guinea-pig poetry chapbook up in Word – essentially formatting each line as a potential hanging indent paragraph – then uploaded to Smashwords, which transformed it into EPUB and MOBI formats, the two e-formats that together support most popular e-readers.

In both final e-formats, the lines in the poems wrap with a hanging indent if the font size used makes a line too big to fit on the screen, but appear whole on one line without indent if the font used is small enough. Woohoo!

Note: There was also some pro- and anti-hanging indent commentary on the list, with the anti-camp arguing that hanging indents are, in effect, line breaks and do, at the end of the day, make poetic statements not intended by the poet. I do share something of this reservation, but comfort myself as an e-publisher by recalling that ‘lines too long for the page’ are not an issue limited to e-readers – it’s something that print and web publishers have to deal with as well.

More posts on e-publishing poetry.

e-poetry publishing happiness

Ha! Figured out the format fix for MOBI files, so now have beautiful EPUB, MOBI and PDF files up at Smashwords for the guinea-pig chapbook. Add that to figuring out how to disable the various other dud e-formats, and we’re sailing pretty close to perfection here, people.

Have also been trying out various ‘make your own EPUB files’ mechanisms available on the web (do a Google search, there are quite a few) and so far all have fallen short of the Smashwords standards. The most promising was saving the formatted Word doc as an RTF file and converting it to EPUP/MOBI via Calibre. The result was certainly usable/readable and looked pretty good throughout – except for links. All the internal and external links got somehow deformed and de-activated. So I’m still swearing by Smashwords.

e-publishing awesomeness!

I actually read the Smashwords style guide to the end and discovered you can de-activate any dud e-book versions you don’t want your book downloaded in at Smashwords. So I’ve disabled everything except EPUB, MOBI and PDF at the baobab girl Smashwords page. MOBI still needs a small format fix, but I think I now understand why the first-line indent happened.

All this makes me a very happy poetry publisher!!