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.


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.

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.

44 thoughts on “Nanopress poetry publishing: Avoiding the publisher’s cycle of need”

  1. Thanks for saying this so well, Nic!

    I got the dead-tree-flesh version of your book in yesterday’s mail, and I must say the design is more than competent. The main thing I don’t like about Lulu is the insane amount of packaging. It’s also a little weird that they didn’t put your name and the title on the spine — there’s plenty of room. At any rate, I am very impatient to read it from start to finish but am trying to hold off until April.

  2. Nic, Thanks for articulating this issue so well from the point of view of poets.

    As a micro-press publisher, I want to respond a little from the other side. At Phoenicia I am trying very hard to take a hybrid approach and to share as much of the “profit” as I can with the writers, as well as to work very hard on their behalf to get books into the hands of readers. I’ve been a graphic designer and marketing professional all my life, as well as a writer and artist, so I hope I can see it from both sides – I certainly try. There is no “profit” — this is a gift I am trying to give back to poetry at a point in my life where I can afford to be generous with my time and my own money. As any publisher, self- or otherwise, soon finds out, there’s a huge amount of work associated with producing professional books and making them public, and there are real costs too. We try to break even; I pay myself nothing at all and I do the work of editor, designer and art director, PR and marketing professional, bookkeeper and accountant, as well as cheerleader and sometime-therapist. Publishing 4-6 titles per year has come to takes up at least half of my working time, for no monetary reward, but a great deal of satisfaction at a time when poetry publishing is threatened.

    So not everyone is out to squeeze money out of the nearly-dry sponge that is poetry publishing! The question is whether the efforts of “benevolent publishers” have value. And then there is the intangible value of having one’s work chosen for publication by someone other than oneself, which still matters to many poets – though I agree it should matter less than it does.

    Because of working closely with poets and other artists over the years, having a non-fiction book of my own published by a an independent press that was bought by a larger conglomerate rather than going out of business (Soft Skull) and following the changes that have altered the publishing landscape, I understand a lot of the issues you raise from both sides, and have tried to address them. While, as an artist and writer, I know what it’s like to feel that perhaps “the system” doesn’t have your interests at heart, it also hurts a little to feel as if all publishers are lumped into a single camp, when some of us are certainly struggling and working as hard as the poets themselves; I know that wasn’t your intent but I think it’s an important point to raise.

    Finally, should all the content of books be available for free? Dave and I have a longstanding disagreement about this. I continue to feel that while significant parts should be available, when we give away all of our content for free there is a danger of devaluing it. People are becoming used to getting artistic content for free on the web. Who does this serve? To some extent the artist, but primarily the consumer.

    In an ideal world, all art should be free but that would mean that society valued artists enough to support them fully. We are becoming further and further away from that ever being possible in the west, and the more we cave into the temptation to give away all our content, the more we are saying the capitalistic forces have won. Each of us needs to support other poets by buying their books, or trading for them, and commenting on the ones that matter to us. And we must always – in this very beleaguered economy for art of all types – remember that our own art has value.

  3. Hi Beth – thanks so much for your thoughtful engagement. I greatly appreciate it.

    I would like to underline that I come at this issue as both a poet and publisher, and as a publisher who works, as you do, in many different roles, for many hours a week, with no monetary reward. This is not about dissing hardworking poetry publishers and I repeat what I said above:

    “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.”

    It’s not the publishers’ fault the system is the way it is. Nor is it the poets’. The system just is. And it will continue to work for many, as it has for many years. What I’m hoping is that we can, as a community, take a critical look at that system as it applies *to poetry.* What I am proposing is not so much a destruction of the current system, as an addition to it.

    On your last point. You write: “should all the content of books be available for free? Dave and I have a longstanding disagreement about this. I continue to feel that while significant parts should be available, when we give away all of our content for free there is a danger of devaluing it.”

    Here I must fervently, and very deeply, disagree. This is applying standard commercial-think to poetry, and I just don’t think it applies. Giving away poetry content for free in no way devalues it. I give away many many hours of my own energy and expertise to poetry endeavors for free. I don’t feel that omitting a price tag in any way devalues my offering. The poetry market is not your standard commercial market. In the poetry market, fine content is consistently available across the board for free. In the poetry market, dollar signs are not markers of quality. In the poetry market, in fact, dollar signs are irrelevant to quality.

    1. of course, the whole idea of getting the poems for free has long been the standard of the public library system. although the book is purchased by the library, those who check out the books do not have to pay to read and enjoy the poems. True, they do not “own” the book/poems. but who really owns a poem anyway. plus they can cehck it out again and again if they wish.

  4. What an interesting discussion. Especially the issue of providing our work for free. I could not agree more with the idea that we want to be read. I figured that out for myself years ago when my first book was published in 1999 by a traditional press – in two languages, none the less. I sold enough books to make some money thanks to the library arrangements here in Norway; I got to say I was a writer and poet without feeling like I was stretching the truth. But I felt like no one really “read” it. I could continue publishing and writing and getting paid, but no one in Norway is really reading my poetry because they are reading the translations.

    In Norway, my colleagues do not even do readings for each other without getting paid. The professionalization of the arts that took place before the Renaissance is still in order here: the culture appreciates the arts and wants artists to have time to devote to work exclusively with art for the sake of the culture. Our ridiculously high taxes still make that possible here. Poets are generally NOT university instructors. They do hold to the idea of “You get what you pay for” – though not in a capitalist fashion. The union of writers saying they will not work for free, or for pennies, is an act of solidarity for the arts, not greed or posturing.

    I seem to get at least one email a day offering me a free novel and a link to lulu. I honestly don’t glance at them. I am almost ashamed to admit it because I wish I didn’t think that way – but I tend to and doubt I am alone there.

    I love the idea of the nanopress, and – actually – I think that the way Phoenicia Publishing works with authors is very similar. The difference is that there is (hopefully) a (minuscule) profit. But no one is exploiting the other. The publisher does the editing and the layout and all of that. I do not believe for a moment that my collected works would have been as good without Beth’s input on the ordering and choice of poems or the format. If we are lucky we will make enough money to cover our material expenses . It is unlikely we will be paid for our time, of course.

    I like the idea of professional artists: people who do not have to live in poverty because they want to communicate and make something of beauty or something sublime. Why should poetry be any less of an art than painting? That is where I agree with Beth that it can devalue poetry. Poets shouldn’t have to be economic martyrs – or work two jobs and not have the energy to turn out the best possible work they can.

    1. Hi Ren – once again, many thanks for taking part in this discussion. I am finding that my thinking is evolving moment by moment on this – love the energy!

      I can only repeat that I believe that poetry (am not talking ‘art’ in general) is inherently non-profit. It’s possible to extrapolate that belief out and assert further that introducing commerce into the poetry equation actually devalues poetry. (Am not there yet, but may well get there one day.)

      And I’m not saying publishers should not recoup their expenses, by the way. Aren’t there ways to get money other than charging for individual collections? A ‘donate’ button? Obtaining formal non-profit status and applying for grants?

      What I do question is whether [a] tightly controlling the format in which poetry is offered (ie only in book form) and [b] charging for that form are the best ways to get poetry read.

      And whether they charge for their product or not, I really do believe in this day and age poetry publishers should look at publishing their poets in more than just the one form — people like to read their poetry in many different ways. Some people love a physical book, and it is right to offer that. But some people prefer their e-reader, or to read online, or to listen to their poetry, rather than read it. Publishers who are serious about getting their poets read need to consider how readers like their poetry served.

      1. I think we fundamentally disagree on the social systems and the role of art, etc. But I think that is totally cool. I respect your point of view completely, Nic.

      2. Same here, Ren. It’s really really helpful to get a sense of how others perceive these dynamics. Thanks so much for your patience and participation! Best, N

    2. “I seem to get at least one email a day offering me a free novel and a link to lulu. I honestly don’t glance at them.” Just wanted to clarify… what I meant was that there is so much free content available now that “free” novel is absolutely not a “selling point” anymore.

  5. Fascinating conversation! As someone who is a poet who wants to be read, is a poetry magazine editor who gives many, many hours of her time for free as a labor of love (and wants her magazine to be read), and a woman who wants, at some point, to be able to have some sort of income again, these points are all extremely relevant to me.

    Here’s another nuance to consider, maybe: we want our poems to be read, but what sort of attention do we want them to receive? Does the physical fact of a book ask for a different kind of engagement from a reader? It seems to me that on a subconscious level, we are worked on differently by the two types of publications–what’s on our screen, vs. what’s sitting on our tables and by our beds. There can be advantages to both, but they feel different, to me.

    Please know I’m not dismissing online publications–you all know I’m active online, as poet and editor both. I value each. I still think there’s a difference, or differences, worth exploring.

    To Ren’s idea of a “professional” class of poets: A lovely idea, but we’re so far from it in this country! And poets are at a disadvantage in relation to painters, aren’t we?–a painter creates a work that is a single, solitary object in the world. A copy is…a copy. We create a poem that can be replicated again and again and not lose value. What do we have in our art form that is unique? The speaking/reciting of a poem, in time, in front of a unique audience? But how few of us get paid for poetry readings either–unless we move to Norway, maybe! It could be an advantage to work in an art that is essentially outside all market economies. We work, as Lewis Hyde wrote about in The Gift, in a gift economy, existing separately from the market economy, or interacting only at times. Does giving poetry away for free equal giving it away as a gift? I’m not sure that it does.

    I don’t have any answers, but I find the questions fascinating and worth wrestling with. I do believe that the micro- and nano-press models will be the future of poetry publishing (if not also other literature, too). There’s a necessity for community that comes with this–tiny presses will thrive when they are part of an active and engaged community of readers and writers. There are also some very interesting projects that involve cooperative groups of poets coming together to form presses, editing and publishing each others’ work (Sixteen Rivers comes to mind). The big publishing houses, and the big bookstores, have become too big to take risks on interesting, new work.

    I think more models and more possible avenues to getting our work out there is a good thing, and I love that you’ve not only published through a nanopress model, Nic, but that you’re encouraging us all to engage with the questions and the possibilities the model raises.

    1. Thanks for joining the discussion, Sarah. I hope you have not misconstrued anything I said to be anti-book?? As I said in my original post above (and in this one at the BAP blog), I believe publishers should offer poetry in multiple forms – print version, online, e-reader, audio etc – not that they should eschew print versions. I personally engage best with poetry via a physical book, but I know that is not necessarily true of everyone else (and not necessarily true of most, these days, it seems. As I noted in the stats at this post, of 50 copies obtained by readers of one sample collection, only 6 of those copies were of the physical book.)

      1. Hi Nic — No I didn’t construe your comments as anti-book at all. And I hope you didn’t think I was being anti- electronic publishing, etc. I like your idea of providing multiple formats and options for poetry audiences. My question was sort of a philosophical tangent, just wondering about the kinds of attention we pay to different media–not arguing one is better than another. Imagine me channeling Gaston Bachelard, or Elaine Scarry… (PS–your book arrived and it looks beautiful!)

  6. I’ll just interject a banal numeric relationship here: there are some 5 million native speakers of Norwegian, and some 350 million native speakers of English. All other things being equal, there ought to be 70 times as much new English poetry as new Norwegian poetry to keep up with. That may have more to do with why the literary market still works for Norwegian writers than anything the writers have done. I’m guessing that “keeping up” with Norwegian poetry — being reasonably confident you’re reading the best stuff being written — is a plausible endeavor. I know that “keeping up” with English poetry is not. Nobody is keeping up. We’re all reading some great stuff and some not so great stuff, but I think you’d have to be seriously delusional to think that you’re “covering” English poetry. It’s just not like that any more.

    The publishing models we grew up with assumed 1) a scarcity of good poetry and 2) a serious material difficulty in distributing it. Neither assumption is good, now.

    In a way this is tangential to the discussion here, but I think really it’s fundamental to it.

    1. Dale wrote:

      The publishing models we grew up with assumed 1) a scarcity of good poetry and 2) a serious material difficulty in distributing it. Neither assumption is good, now. In a way this is tangential to the discussion here, but I think really it’s fundamental to it.

      Absolutely. To No. 2, I would add “serious material difficulty in publishing and distributing it.” The physical process of publishing used to be risky and expensive. No longer. Now, publishing technology is freely available and all you need is time. These facts underpin the nanopress model, which in turn underpinned the start of this discussion. Thanks for joining in, Dale – good to hear from you.

    2. Excellent point, Dale. I was just trying to say how the role of poet as artist/artisan works here and why it colors my thoughts on the devaluation of poetry. I wasn’t suggesting that the same system would work in the US or necessarily should. The funding is based on socialist thinking and that would never fly :-)

      1. Yes, it’s hard to imagine public support for poetry on that scale in the UK or (even more) America, at any rate. But I do think that sheer numbers and accumulation have radically changed the game in a number of ways. Publishing is adjusting, slowly and painfully, but the academic world has not budged an inch.

  7. Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Nic. I too am here via Dave Bonta. I share poems for free on my blog all the time (well, roughly one a week, most weeks); my most recent chapbook of poems, “Through,” is available as a free download and audiobook as well as in print form (I made it available via Lulu at cost, so about US$4.90.) That said, my latest collection of poems — first book-length collection in print — was published by Beth Adams at Phoenicia and retails for about $13.

    Beth has never objected to the fact that many of the poems in 70 faces are archived in draft form on my blog; I think she would agree with me that having shared them on the blog is part of how I built (and continue to build) enough readership to get people to want to buy the book in the first place! I think there’s a happy medium between making work available for free and, occasionally, creating something beautiful and wanting not to lose money on having made it. A friend of mine created a limited-edition hand-made edition of “Through,” the chapbook I’m otherwise sharing online for free, and I love that it exists in both forms — a free digital version for those who want that, and a beautiful tangible version which I can either sell or can give away to friends who need it.

    Anyway, I’m rambling — mostly I just wanted to say that this is a fascinating thread and I’m enjoying the conversation a great deal.

    1. Hi Rachel – thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. As I said in the original post, my recommendation is to find ways to “publish your complete collection in multiple forms, at least some of which are free” – so it seems we agree! One of my hobbies is bookbinding, and I definitely feel there a few things more satisfying than physically constructing a book by hand, so I hear you.

      I’m all for a profusion of publication formats — each person has a different preference for how they like to take in their poetry and my sense is that a wise publisher will recognize the need to deliver poetry in multiple formats.

  8. If I haven’t participated much in this discussion, Nic, it’s because I find that you’ve already said most of what I would have liked to say, and more articulately than I could’ve. I do want to respond to one point:

    And whether they charge for their product or not, I really do believe in this day and age poetry publishers should look at publishing their poets in more than just the one form — people like to read their poetry in many different ways. Some people love a physical book, and it is right to offer that. But some people prefer their e-reader, or to read online, or to listen to their poetry, rather than read it. Publishers who are serious about getting their poets read need to consider how readers like their poetry served.

    This is true, but I think at the moment the e-publishing landscape is shifting rather rapidly: the iPad is, what? Two years old? And the Kindle three? And we’re being told we must design for them, or risk losing readers? And as you’ve discovered, good information about how to properly format poetry for the welter of different e-book formats is not yet widely available — though you’re certainly doing your part in changing that. Inevitably, I think, publishers are going to play to their own strengths, because it’s hard to keep up with all the changes in technology. Print itself has undergone a digital revolution of its own, for example. And look at audio: as recently as five years ago, Real was the gold standard. Five years from now, are you prepared to convert Whale Sound and all its audiobooks to whatever replaces Flash and MP3s? And I notice you haven’t even mentioned production of videopoems, although video is perhaps the single most popular web medium now (and is currently undergoing a format-shift of its own, from Flash to HTML5). How much time and energy can publishers really be expected to devote to migrating the content of their catalogs from one format to another on practically a yearly basis? The current media landscape seems to favor the nanopress model, since it’s hard to imagine anyone but the authors themselves being willing to keep abreast of these developments. But I am pessimistic about any but a small minority of poets ever developing the interest to learn the technical aspects of self-publishing, unless MFA programs start including this kind of thing in their curricula.

    1. My view is that none of it is hard. That each new thing builds on the previous version and tends to take into consideration what it takes to transform from the older format to the newer. That all it needs is the will to keep up.

      That’s my view, anyway.

    2. On e-books, too, there are sites like Smashwords, which invest a lot of money staying ahead of technology and offering conversion services to authors. All you have to do is master the demands of one platform (in their case, Microsoft Word), format it according Smashwords specifications, and they do all the conversion for you. You don’t have to worry about staying ahead of the technology curve, because they do it for you. And I’m sure they’re not the only ones out there doing that. They are the e-book version of Lulu.

  9. Revisiting this thread a day later, I just want to say how fascinating it is, and to clarify a couple of points. I agree with you, Nic, about the need for poetry publishers and poets to make their work available in different formats. doing audio has been a big deal for us at qarrtsiluni, and I’m so glad that we decided to make it intrinsic to the magazine, because it adds so much. I’m considering making Phoenicia titles available as .pdf downloads, because as a Adobe PDf files we will be able to maintain the formatting that is crucial for so many poems, but still problematic or impossible for e-books. I really want to offer a digital alternative, but not one that compromises the integrity of the poems themselves, as the authors want them to be read. I’ll be very curious to hear how your .pdf option is received.

    As for the “free” issue — Dave’s “Odes” are available online, as are Rachel’s Toral Poems. And I’d hate to think just how many words of prose and poetry I’ve written on my own blog in the past eight years, all for free, without giving it a second thought, except to see it as a joy to have that option and know that loyal readers were reading it! Perhaps I am wrong about this and keying off the music model, where if people can get the songs for free, a very large percentage of them simply do not pay. If that’s the case with poetry too – and how can we tell? – then maybe the days of small-press publishing really are numbered.

    My motivation has always been to help poets be read, and to help collect and preserve good work so that it can be read in the future. I’m sure we can all agree that there’s no one way to do that, and that the richness of today’s many forms and the possibility of sharing our poetry widely, for free or for not-very-much, and to find a community of supportive fellow writers, is a whole lot better than much of what went on in the past.

  10. Beth – thanks for coming back to the conversation. You wrote: “Perhaps I am wrong about this and keying off the music model, where if people can get the songs for free, a very large percentage of them simply do not pay.”

    I think this is absolutely accurate and is the basis of my original post in this thread on ‘the publisher’s cycle of need’. Obliging people to pay for poems necessarily means less readers for the poems. How many less? I have one specific case to hand — my own collection, which was published earlier this week under the nanopress model in multiple formats (online text & audio, both free downloads as PDF & MP3; free e-book version; print version and CD version for sale at production price). I published its stats after the first five days here . Here’s an update at the end of its first week:

    e-book downloads – 32
    PDF downloads – 23
    Print edition sales – 6
    MP3 downloads – 4
    CD sales – 2

    So 67 people obtained a copy of the collection in its first week, presumably with the intention of reading it or listening to it. Only 8 people obtained it in a form that required purchase. If the collection were only available as print version for sale, only 6 people would have obtained it. That would have reduced the number of copies distributed by 90%.

    Of course, this is just one sample with many potential variables (e.g. if it were available only for sale, might not more people have bought it?), but still, there is definitely a staggering fundamental disconnect between “I want my poems read” and “I must sell books to recoup costs” to which poets should pay attention.

    You also wrote: “I’ll be very curious to hear how your .pdf option is received.” As you can see from the stats above, the PDF option is second only to the e-book version for popularity.

    Thanks again for being part of the conversation, Beth. And of course, at the end of the day you are absolutely right – there is no one way to do anything! We all do to the best of our ability what we think is best.

  11. Here’s another note on poetry and money: We’re going to debut a poetry vending machine on April 1–turn the dial, get a poem and a piece of candy. When I was ordering the vending machine, I had a choice between 50 cents per spin, or free. I thought people might have paid 25 cents for a poem, but probably wouldn’t pay 50–so now it’s completely free.

    I know it’s a sort of quirky side note to this conversation–but it is about publishing and payment for poems, and figuring how to get the poems into the hands of readers.

    1. This is a real vending machine, or a virtual one? If the former, where did you get it? I know a bookstore/coffeeshop where people would probably pay, if the candy were fair trade and organic and the poems were good.

      1. No, it’s a real, shiny red and silver counter top vending machine. I ordered it online–you can find anything online! We partnered with Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf and issued a call for poems around the theme of “luck.” PJOS selected 30 poems from something like 800 entries, and we printed 40 copies of each poem. The poems will also appear in Verse Wisconsin’s summer issue, online (July 2011).

        Unfortunately the candy is not fair trade, just your standard assortment…

        Maybe if people get these poems for free, it will turn them on to poetry and they’ll be more likely to read it? Since we didn’t know exactly where the Verse-O-Matic might end up, we weren’t sure if we’d have a paying audience. I love the idea of a coffee shop/bookstore where people would dig the change out of their pockets for a poem a day.

  12. Nic,
    Thanks for a very interesting discussion. I’m still mulling some of the comments. In the meantime, I just want to say that I hope you’ll keep posting your stats and comments on how it goes.

  13. Fascinating discussion. Like Marly, I’m still pondering a lot of this, and have been for a while especially as I’ve been following your nanopress posts and your e-formatting for poetry posts with great interest as I try to figure out what I want to do with my own short collection. I really like how the nanopress idea splits the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing, especially because it seems that more and more the author is expected to be the main advocate for a book anyway so why not embrace it (something that really jumped out when I read Dave’s comments about formats changing… yikes) but I’d be curious to see how multiple delivery options work in the context of a self-published book, as in do readers even care about the model under which a poetry book is published (self-, traditional-, indie-, nano-, etc.), especially if it’s free or of little cost. Whatever the answer to that, I really admire the way you’ve jumped into every possible format and your willingness to share what you’re learning. It’s more helpful than you may realize.

    1. Hi James – thanks for joining in. As I keep saying (just call me a stuck record!), I don’t think traditional commerce-speak applies to poetry. We in the web-active poetry community are used to seeing fine poetry available for free in huge quantities — look at the number of quality online journals out there. You couldn’t read all the excellent free poetry out there in journals if you started now and read solidly for a year. Free or not free is simply no kind of indicator for quality in poetry. What is clear to me, and is becoming clearer every day, is that free = more readers and what I want, as a poet, is readers. I believe poetry really is priceless. What people do care about in published poetry is ‘quality control’ – hence the concept of an outside editor in the nanopress model. Best, Nic

  14. I LOVE the idea of having the work in multiple formats all at the same time. Silly me–I’ve been thinking that I have to choose one or the other or two at most.

    Like Dave, I worry about how very quickly technology changes. I have a box of discs for various computer and word processing systems back through the 80’s, and even though the discs can’t be read anymore, it’s hard for me to throw them away. I also have paper copies of all those documents–those I can read still.

    I’m committed to books on paper for all sorts of reasons, but there seems to be a permanence to paper thus far–as long as the book is protected from fire and water, it will last (presuming, of course, humans that treasure it). Plus, I know that books are more valued in the developing world where electricity is spottier and Internet access almost impossible–but books can be shared and read by candlelight, if that’s all you’ve got. The Theological Book Network site has a very interesting take on paper vs. technology (

    Of course, worrying about 3rd world readers is probably low on the list of most poets, who are having trouble getting their books published and into the hands of readers who have all sorts of technology. I’ve been feeling fretful about having to choose which technology, should I go the self-publishing route–thanks again, for reminding me of the possibility of choosing ALL.

    Now, about my computer skills . . .

    1. Now, about my computer skills . . .
      I was going to suggest to Nic that, even if her nanopress model were widely adopted, she could still find herself in high demand as a paid consultant to self-publishing poets and poetry micropresses, what with her rapidly developing skill as an audio, e-book, and print publisher. Then I remembered: most poets are broke.

      1. Most poets are broke, but MFA programs could be interested in bringing in someone like Nic as guest speaker/presenter, no? At Bennington, they had someone from the publishing world at each residency. Sometimes the editor of a press, sometimes an agent (not so applicable to the poets). I think Nic would be a fantastic choice to talk about alternative publishing models for poets, the pros and cons, and the realities of being a poet post-grad school.

      2. Thanks for your vote of confidence, guys! My position is that I don’t take money for anything I do related to poetry, though. I’ll let you know if that changes!

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