Friday, October 24, 2008

Payment for your Poetry

Fiction writings have an agreement up front with publishers for a certain percentage of the revenues. I'm curious how many of my poet readers have had the same offer for their poetry books, chapbooks, or just published poems. A friend of mine who's able to sell a lot of his book has had contracts for his books for a share of the profits, but he works hard with readings to bring in the publisher's costs and then some. Most people with chapbooks don't get a share since, to be honest, either the chap barely makes the publisher's costs, if that, or else the book is print on demand.

In the Fray is one of the few journals I've been in that pays for a publication. I know that Pedestal does, too, both unusual for online zines and both have funding from elsewhere.

What is your experience?


Annie Wicking said...

Pris, I would be very intersted to know myself too. Will all writing be POD soon, do you think?
As there doesn't seem to be as much money in writing as one is led to believe.

Best wishes, my dear friend, ((Hug))


Pris said...

I hope all writing doesn't go Ipod for two reasons...1)I don't like to have my books or poems read to me. I have a hearing loss and also I speed read novels, so don't want someone else setting the pace or the way I scan a page and 2) I just plain LIKE stretching out with a good book, feeling it in my hands, flipping back a few pages if i want to.

There are those new readers that Amazon sells where you can download a book and then read it on a screen that looks like a book page, but primo prices for your books. If I don't get my books in the library, I look for them used on Amazon, then donate them to the library after. Again, I'm talking novels here.

Collin Kelley said...

I have made money on my poetry, esp. on "Slow To Burn." We worked out a deal on splitting the profits 50/50, so the publisher recouped her cost and I had a little jingle in my pocket as well. I'm still getting royalty checks for "Better To Travel," so that's always a bonus. As for publication of individual poems, I've only received payment twice.

Lyle Daggett said...

In forty years of writing poems I've made no money whatsoever from publishing poems in magazines.

I've sold copies of my books, though I've generally given away more than I've sold. I've made maybe as much as $50-$60 in my life from doing poetry readings. I've made, I think, a total of $135.00 for essays and articles and book reviews I've published. So unless I'm forgetting something, that's under $200 I've made from writing in my life so far.

I don't necessarily believe that all publishing will go the way of print-on-demand, I just think it's a useful new wrinkle.

To my thinking, a good approach to publishing poetry -- or any type of writing that's not likely to make much money -- is some type of collective arrangement. For instance, a group of poets get together, they all kick in some money, and publish a book of poems by one of the members. (We'd probably be talking about something chapbook size, to keep the collective cost manageable.)

After a little time has gone by (to give the book some life in the world), they each put in some more money, and publish a book by another one of the members. They keep doing this every so often until they've published a book by everyone who's taking part. You could decide who gets published in what order by mutual agreement or by lottery or however else.

The key to this kind of approach succeeding is the commitment of all the members of the collective to stick with the project for as long as it takes to publish everybody who's taking part. Little by little the group can invite more poets to join and take part.

It obviously helps if some of the people taking part have knowledge and skills to do typsetting and design and other tasks -- a way of reducing production costs.

Pris said...

Hi Collin
For a publisher to agree to 50/50, he or she must've had a strong feeling that you would sell enough to recup costs. How did that happen? Was it on the strength of your track record selling, your agreement to do a number of readings, etc??

That's an interesting idea. The poets would have to believe in the strength of the other poets' work in the collective for certain and yes, as you say, some skills for cost cutting would help. With people who knew each other in person I could see that happening but too many people on the internet just disappear for me to feel comfortable pitching in for a book then feeling certain that my turn would come around before somebody bailed. Thanks for sharing your earning history. I think it helps give added perspective.

DeadMule said...

Hi Pris, I think I've been paid twice for poems.

Pris said...

Hi Helen
Poetry doesn't pay. Seems pretty clear.

Lisa Allender said...

Hi Pris, I've been paid a few times for poems published. And I had an offer--literally from out-of-the-blue--from a publisher who asked me to submit enough poems for a chapbook, and I have not done that, yet(said publisher found three of my poems, online in various venues).
I've also gotten "freelance" jobs via my blog--two different people I did not know, referred me to write articles(for good pay), based on what they read at my blog!

Lisa Allender said...

Oh, I meant to add, if I may speak for Collin Kelley--he does indeed have a "great track record" in terms of sales. His first collection of poems, "Better To Travel" sold nearly 1,000(that's right one-thousand)copies within the first year.
Typical "good" sales for a book of poems--usually around thirty copies!

Pris said...

Hi Lisa
You make a good argument for posting our work on our blogs...and congratulations!!! As we've discussed before, more journals don't want poems that have appeared anywhere on the internet, including websites and blogs but each of my three chapbook offers have come because a publisher saw my work on my blog here or on myspace and wanted to do a chap.

As for Collins' 1000 sales. WoW!!! I know Scott Owens sells a lot of his books , too. Both get out there and give their books a lot of exposure and both are excellent poets, which helps. I have both of their recent books and list them among my favorites.

Pris said...

Btw, if you check back, did you intentionally disable comments on both of your blogs or is that a blogger blip. You have some excellent posts but I couldn't comment to tell you . I really like that dream about Obama.