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Self-publishing has a long, proud history in poetry (for example, Walt Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass). Self-publishing gives the author complete control over the process; self-publishing also makes the author completely responsible for production costs, marketing, and editing (including copyediting). Poets & Writers has put together an excellent overview of the process (along with the potential pitfalls and rewards) here, while WikiHow has a breakdown of pros, cons, and available choices here. And former Writer's Digest publisher Jane Friedman has published a useful series of blog posts on the process here.
On this page, we'll outline some platforms and options for self-publishing, from individual poems to full-length collections.
Self-Publishing Single Poems Online
Huge numbers of people self-publish individual poems online. Some of the most public and visible online platforms for poetry include:
- Social media. The sky really is the limit here. Some poets use Twitter's character limits to experiment with short forms and to build popular followings; others post poems and visuals on Instagram; still others have built huge followings on Tumblr. Social media offers visually appealing, highly public platforms for poetry and other creative work.
- Personal sites/blogs. Some writers publish poems and other writing on personal websites and personal blogs, which can be set up using a large number of platforms. Search for "best blogging platforms" to get started. Some current options include Wordpress, Blogger, and Squarespace (along with Tumblr, mentioned above).
Who Actually Owns Your Content When You Post It To the Web
A clear and accessible breakdown from Gizmodo of the ways copyright and licensing usually work online.
Again, a word of caution: when you post content to the web, you are publishing it (copyright status is different from publication status). Most of the time, work that has been published in this way cannot be submitted to literary journals.
Self-publishing poetry in ebook format can be somewhat tricky because of poetry's extra formatting requirements (you'll want line and stanza breaks to be preserved across multiple device widths, for example). For formatting options, see links below.
What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books
A guide to the overall process of self-publishing ebooks from Publisher's Weekly.
How to Format An Ebook for Poetry Self-Publishing
Provides an overview/how-to for creating poetry ebooks using Kindle Create and Calibre.
Free, open-source software designed to help users manage and view digital texts in any format (particularly libraries of ebooks). Can be used to produce ebooks in epub format (readable on most devices) and mobi format (readable on Amazon Kindle).
For writers interested in self-publishing for Amazon Kindle.
Self-Publishing Print Books
There are many printing vendors available to assist with the production of self-published books. It's beyond the scope of this guide to review self-publishing print vendors individually; instead, we'll examine the questions you'll need to ask yourself to determine which vendor or platform is right for you.
Self-Publishing as Book Art: Make It Yourself
Finally, don't overlook the possibility of publishing printed work yourself in the form of a homemade chapbook or zine. Zines have roots in the subcultures of the twentieth century and a long history of amplifying voices outside the mainstream; chapbooks (in poetry, the term "chapbook" usually refers to a book that has fewer than 30 pages) are particularly easy to produce using standard household or office materials.
If you'd like to try your hand at making a zine, Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine? will get you started. This book is available in the Reference section of the Poetry Center Library.
Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine? by
Publication Date: 2006-06-26
A zine is a handmade magazine or mini-comic about anything you can imagine: favorite bands, personal stories, subcultures, or collections. They contain diary entries, rants, interviews, and stories. They can be by one person or many, found in stores, traded at comic conventions, exchanged with friends, or given away for free. Zines are not a new idea: they've been around for years under various names (chapbooks, flyers, pamphlets). People with independent ideas have been getting theirword out since before there were printing presses. This book is for anyone who wants to create their own zine. It's for learning tips and tricks from contributors who have been at the fore front of the zine movement. It's for getting inspired to put thoughts and ideas down on paper. It's for learning how to design and print your own zine so you can put it in others' hands. Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine? is for anyone who has something to say.
For the ambitious bookmaker, Alisa Golden's Making Handmade Books is an outstanding resource. This book is available in the Reference section of the Poetry Center Library.
Making Handmade Books by
Publication Date: 2011-01-04
In the digital world, books may seem like an endangered species, but bookmaking is more popular than ever. Thanks to the 100 ideas in this volume, the craft is now available to everyone. In as little as an afternoon, beginners will be on their way to folding, gluing, and sewing handmade books in a variety of shapes and styles, from rolled scrolls to Jacob's ladders, folded flexagons to case bindings. Complete with photographs of the author's own master books and statements by more than 40 established book artists, this collection is sure to inspire. Culled from the author's best-selling books Creating Handmade Books, Unique Handmade Books, and Expressive Handmade Books, these projects will fuel bookbinding adventures for years to come.