Monday, February 6, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: Adventures and Mishaps of Poetry Marketing

Welcome, dearest reader, to the first of what I hope will be many blog posts about the process of publishing my first chapbook.

I am the Chapbook Rookie.

Braiding the Storm was accepted in December by Finishing Line Press. Since I received that lovely email in my inbox I've steadily gathered information about the best ways to promote a small collection of poems. I have some experience with literary marketing, since I've been promoting Weave for almost four years now. But once you get the news, you might wonder, now what? Who do I tell? What do I say?

My first steps included a handful of tactics that (mostly) felt like second nature to me, but for the marketing rookie they might seem strange or uncomfortable. Worried you might sound like you are bragging? Don't worry, you are bragging. That's the point though. You are your own PR person. No one is going to brag for you. Besides, you worked hard and believe in your poetry. Shout it from the mountain tops, my friends. Here's the first promotion-type actions I did after getting the news.

1. Announced the news of my chapbook on Facebook, Twitter, and G+.

This was the first promotional thing I did, once I got the go-ahead from FLP. I also kept track of the people who commented and made sure I had their email address (more on that in a sec). It may seem small, but just letting people know that you have a book coming out generates buzz.

2. Started building an email list.*

Next up, I started to create an email list of pretty much every person I've ever known. Family, friends, coworkers, editors, book stores, libraries, reading series organizers, professors, teachers, fellow poets. You know that stack of business cards you get every year at AWP and then don't know what to do with? Get them out, add them to your address book, and add them to your mailing list. Now sure how to do this? Here's how to make a "contact group" in Gmail. Quick update: check out this new post I wrote about mailing lists and the legal issues related to spam.

*I will say that it's important to be careful about how often you lean on this list. Don't send an email announcing your chapbook to the mailing list right away. Wait until you have a link you can include that will take them directly to your publisher's website and they can click the "add to cart" button.

3. Emailed mentors and poet friends.

If you're part of a local poetry workshop, email this group with the news. Did you go to grad school? Definitely notify your department head. I sent an email to Chatham's MFA Program Director, Sheryl St. Germain and she sent a notice to the entire program. I got a bunch of emails from friends and professors congratulating me. I also emailed some poets I know through the interwebs who have FLP chapbooks. That has given me a lot of insights in terms of how long the process takes from acceptance to having chapbooks in my hand.

4. Announced the news on my blog.

Yeah I did that. Then I decided to write this series about publishing my first chapbook. Of course, I hope you'll find these useful and not just shameless self-promotion.

5. Keep talking up my chapbook!

I had a reading a few weeks after I found out about my chapbook. If I had been prepared, I would have announced the news at a reading, but I completely forgot. Sal said to me afterwards, "You didn't tell them about your chapbook!" So instead, I handed out my cards afterward and told people I have a chapbook coming out. I'll get better about this. I'm not used to have a chapbook yet. Teehee.

Well, those were my first steps. Of course, the first thing I did was call Sal and then my parents. That's important. No rush, just keep the news to yourself for a bit. Enjoy it. Have a glass of wine. Celebrate.

Next time on Chapbook Rookie: Chapbook Marketing Resources Roundup!


Jenny Rossi said...

Erm. How do you bring up writing stuff at work? I tend to leave the circles separate and distinct. Do you promote at work, or just outside of it?

Laura E. Davis said...

Hi Jenny!

My work experience might be a little different. I work as a copywriter, as well as a poetry teacher in the public schools. I do downplay my chapbook with my students since they are young (8-11 yrs old), but I did let the classroom teachers know about it. But my fellow poetry instructors, my boss, my copywriting contacts, and former employers/colleagues that know me were all kept in the loop. Unless there is something you really don't want a coworker to know, then sure, you can keep it private. However, Once something is in print it's out there, particularly online. Have you had problems with this before. One of my poems published online caused some problems in my personal life, but it has since smoothed over.

I know a writer who literally told every person she's known - back to high school even! Her hair stylist. Neighbors. She's have a big party too. But each of us have to decide where to draw the line for ourselves.