more about poetry publishing and Lulu

Received a few queries in the wake of this BAP post about audio chapbook and other publishing, including this one from Poet X:

I’ve been approached by a good poet who doesn’t live in the USA about becoming a partner in a publishing house. A popular concept, I realize (!)….I am wondering if you’ve been satisfied with working with with the production of your Whale Sound chapbooks. Am I understanding it right that they take your doc file and convert it to epub? and were you required to order a certain number of print books, or is it truly pay as you go?

You’ve done so much homework and I don’t want to take advantage of your work to save me mine. but I am checking with a few other journals who have been using to determine if that might be the outlet we’d like to go through should we step into this publishing house notion.

Dear Poet X:

I want you to take advantage of my homework. I want us all to take advantage of each other’s homework, especially if it moves this publishing equation into some more productive dynamic than the fruitless ‘print books are dying; oh no, they’re not; yes, they are; oh no. they’re not’ exchanges we have been seeing everywhere for so long.

All that’s happened to print books is that they’ve lost their be-all/end-all holy grail status and are simply having to take their place in the very varied line-up of current methods of poetry delivery. They’re still alive and well, otherwise.

As are online text and online audio. And PDF downloads. And MP3 downloads. And e-books. And CDs. (As we said, How do you like your poetry served?)

You only need three building blocks to generate a whole slew of poetry delivery options via Lulu – 1) your edited manuscript, 2) your recorded/edited audio, if you’re into audio and 3) your cover art (needs to be high resolution).

With the above on Lulu you can produce perfect-bound collection size editions (production price for a 70-page book is about $5.98); or 20-page stapled chapbook editions (cost-price about $4.98); and/or a CD, cost-price about $5.50).

Lulu provides templates into which you place and upload your edited word document. I have been working exclusively with 6” X 9” paperback size, which is working fine at the moment. You get to choose your font and font size, but everything else is pretty much set. The diciest part is the cover design (mostly because you have to please both yourself AND the poet), but Lulu lets you design and save as PDF, using a bunch of different design templates, so you can share your cover drafts with your poet. With all publishing options you can order one copy or 5 million – the system doesn’t care. You get discounts if you order larger quantities, but you are not penalized for ordering just one copy. What I find works best so far is to publish a book or CD as a private operation, order one copy, and then edit the project if there is anything you don’t like about the one copy once it arrives, and only then publish the project as ‘general access’ (Lulu allows you to keep a project completely private, just make it directly available by URL, or make it generally available and searchable via general access.) The preview copy plus shipping will cost you roughly $10 – not an obligatory expense, but one I feel comfortable meeting on a one-time basis per project, as the publisher.

We’re assuming that many/most people will go for the free download options at Whale Sound, rather than paying for a book or CD, and that’s absolutely fine. As we said, we’re not trying to sell books or CDs, we’re trying to get poems read. (In addition I, as publisher, want a print edition and a CD to keep on my publisher’s boasting shelf, and it’s worth it for that goal alone to do the upload/design/publishing work at Lulu. Add to that that your poet will definitely want at least one print edition/CD for their mom’s stocking at Christmas and probably at least a handful more to use at readings, and there you have it. Any additional print or CD copies bought by consumers is gravy that has pre-cost you nothing, and delightful therefore.)

Remaining challenge: We do format our chapbooks via Lulu as free downloadable e-book PDFs, but one area we are still exploring is the more formal and more universal e-Pub format. Lulu charges for the e-Pub conversion service and we’re not yet comfortable enough to go for it. We’ll keep you posted.

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

5 thoughts on “more about poetry publishing and Lulu”

  1. This is a really interesting and helpful post. It is something I have thought about doing when I get to the point where I am free of working a day job – and it sounds like the experience has been a positive one for you.

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