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Self Publishing for Poets

Should more poets self publish? We caught up with poet Susie DeFord to find out why she chose to self-publish Dogs of Brooklyn this year.

In an interview with GalleyCat, the poet shared the unique problems poets face when self-publishing. For years, this poet has built her Susie’s Pet Care business while writing poems about the furry, funny creatures she works with every day.

DeFord reflected on her choice in the interview: “I probably wouldn’t wait so long to consider self-publishing. I paid to submit to first book contests for almost two years, so I lost money and time trying to do it the old-fashioned way. I suppose that time spent revising/ editing/ swearing/ and feeling rejected made for a better book and some character building, but there are so many cool easy ways to self-publish and get your work out there from blogs to books.”

Our complete email interview follows below–what do you think?

Q: How did you put this book together? How did you find people to help you?

A: I wrote for two years about the dogs I worked with, Brooklyn, and New York in general. Then I revised/edited and submitted the book to first book contests for almost two years. Barbara Hamby, the poet was my undergrad poetry professor and was very generous in helping me with the order of the book. It’s really hard to organize a book of poems and be objective. I asked friends and family, writers and non-writers to read the book and give me feedback. The fun thing was several people said, “I normally hate poetry, but I like and understand yours!”

Q: How did you deal with formatting issues–line breaks, editing, photographs or eBook design?

A friend of mine, Kate Travers, introduced me to Claudean Wheeler who is a very talented book designer. I hired her and we went back and forth on the design for a few months. Some of the issues we ran into were whether to include Dennis Riley’s awesome photos or not because we were unsure how the picture quality would be with Create Space. I also didn’t want to drive the book’s cost up with color photos and make it unaffordable for people to buy. So we included some of the photos in black and white.

I think it turned out rather nice, its fun to be reading a book about dogs and suddenly get to see the dog that’s being written about in all their goofy glory. As for eBooks- Kindle totally screwed up my formatting. I have to go back and re-edit it to get the lines and pages correct. You can’t submit a PDF to them and have it not go crazy formatting-wise.

You have to go back into WORD and put your manuscript into an HTML format. Even then you have to edit that so I haven’t had a chance to do all that. Poets are pretty particular about line so until I can get the format correct it won’t be an eBook. I have yet to embark on other eBook formats. I’ll be looking into that soon.

Q: Now that you’ve been through the whole process, what would you do
differently? Any advice for poets thinking about self-publishing?

A: I probably wouldn’t wait so long to consider self-publishing. I paid to submit to first book contests for almost two years, so I lost money and time trying to do it the old-fashioned way. I suppose that time spent revising/ editing/ swearing/ and feeling rejected made for a better book and some character building, but there are so many cool easy ways to self-publish and get your work out there from blogs to books. I think poets and writers in general should try to make their book the best book possible and not rush into publishing.

The fun part is the actual writing. Publishing and promoting your writing isn’t that much fun, it’s a lot of work actually. I, and a lot of my writer friends, thought that publishing was sort of the climax of one’s writing career and that then we would have “made it.” I have a very good friend who published a book with a big publisher and she still had to do a lot of the promotional work herself. Whether you publish with an established press or self publish you’re going to need to do a lot of the publicity work on your own regardless.

Sadly books, no matter how good they are, don’t sell themselves. So enjoy being in the
cocoon of creation as long as you can.

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