Publish A Book
This entire page is just advice for publishing, writing, formatting, and performing. You may find your own preferences.
I assume you already know how to write, so take these as ways to improve, as everyone, including myself, has room for growth.
- My influences are songwriters. Songs use rhyming and rhythm patterns. Study them.
- Learn the rules of grammar. Learn forms. Break the rules.
- Learn new words. Make up new words. Learn multiple languages.
- Read a lot. It doesn’t have to be poetry. Read magazines, comic books, nonfiction, fiction, research history, read the news, turn on captions on films, etc.
- Find what you love to talk about and read about and then write about it.
Useful Online Tools
Poetry Book Compilation
- I dictate my poetry into the notes app on iOS.
- I sync notes to my gmail account, so it will automatically be backed up under the Notes folder. (Gmail syncs when you check your email. This ensures that if you accidentally delete the note, unlike iCloud, there is a copy in your All Mail folder.)
- I then copy/paste as plain text each poem into one word .doc, slowly compiling over several months. At this stage, I format only the title heading, so the TOC can be updated since I often perform my poems and need access to them prior to publication. (In the past I have just compiled into a plain text file or hand written notebooks, but that makes formatting more of chore. It is far easier to compile and format as you go.) I keep my formatting very simple.
Microsoft Word Formatting Specifications
I edit and format my own books, and generally use this same, simple template for each book. The poetry should speak for itself.
- 5.1” by 7.8” is the book size that I print in. I use .3” top / bottom margins. I use .7” left right margins.
- My poems are at a 10 pt font. All poem text under paragraph options should be single spaced, no automatic indentations.
- The book title itself at the very beginning is an 18 pt font.
- My titles are at a 12 pt font. My headers/footers are at a 9 pt font.
- I set up my poem titles (except for the first one) under paragraph options to automatically page break before and keep with next.
- Your first page should be an odd number if you look at the total page count.
I have created a poetry template that includes all of this. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for it, and I will send it to you.
- For easy access while performing on a stage, I sync all of my books to the File Manager Pro app. Every document has a clickable TOC, so I can be most efficient in finding a poem. This allows me to carry 1,000 poems in my pocket and access them quickly, rather than using up valuable time fiddling with papers or books.
- If you can memorize a song, you can memorize a poem. Repeat it until it feels natural. Record yourself and listen ad nauseum. If you forget a line, don’t worry, because most times no one else knows the words anyways.
- There is no one right way to read a poem. Some poets read fast and passionate. Others read slowly. Find what sounds good to you. Just vary your intonation to emphasize importance, and look up at the crowd on occasion.
- Read your work over and over and over again out loud, to your self, to a friend or best yet, to an audience.
- Spell check. Spell check. Spell check.
- If you are not strong in spelling and grammar, have other people read your work before you publish, and again after you publish. (Listen to people who have constructive criticism, but ignore those who flatly put you down. Above all listen to your heart.)
- Write as many poems as you can and only include the best in your book to make it worth your reader’s time and money.
- Put your favorite poems at the beginning of your book, so that your free sample draws in readers.
- Use Google and YouTube to find specific technical advice. Use quotes around your search phrase for best results.
- Keep tweaking. And tweak some more. But don’t tweak yourself out of a meaningful poem!
- There is no such thing as a perfectly edited book, but too many errors can throw the concentration of your reader off, so do your best to minimize formatting inconsistencies as well as unintentional misspellings. (We’re poets, not perfectionists, and breaking the rules should be an artform, not the norm.)
- Learn the rules, so that you can break them in a smart way. Break the rules too often and you may be mistaken for a bad writer.
- There are no bad writers, only inexperienced ones. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation count, but don’t let them be the bane of your existence! Poetry is more about the soulful message you intend than conforming to form. Do not let perfectionism keep you from publishing.
Depending on whether I am going for a paperback or an ebook, the instructions are slightly different.
Publishing a paperback
The downside and upside to self-publishing is that you have full control.
Pros of self-publishing: Low environmental impact due to print on demand, cheap copies to resell, higher profit than using a publisher, you continue to own your own work, and have full creative control (i.e. freedom.)
Cons of self-publishing: Mistakes are on you, so edit well or hire a professional. Due to common quality issues, self-published books may be ineligible for many bookstores, first book contests, and most magazines and anthologies won’t reprint that which is already published. (If you have been already published, you usually can reprint your stuff in a book, as long as you acknowledge first publication.) It’s up to you to promote yourself since you won’t have a publishing company to do that for you.
There are other ways to self-publish, but vanity printers usually want hundreds or thousands of dollars, and I have never had the money to do so, so this is totally DIY. If you have that kind of money, spend it on promotion!
If you’re going to self-publish a poetry book I recommend using createspace.com. You can format your own manuscript in Microsoft word, convert to a pdf, upload it, design your cover, proof it, and have a book readily available around the world online. You’ll have an ISBN and be automatically put into online retailers and eligible for library catalogues.
They do provide services for marketing, formatting, and professional cover design, but I’ve never used them.
For the purposes of publishing on Createspace there are a few steps:
- Compile your poems into a word document.
- Sign up with createspace.com and follow their instructions for an ISBN, cover, description, BISAC (category), and choose how you want it distributed.
- If you want an LCCN you need to purchase one prior to submitting for a proof.
- Be sure to add your ISBN number, copyright notice, and LCCN (if you purchased one) to your manuscript.
- Convert your manuscript to a pdf and upload it to Createspace.com
- Proof your book either online or using an actual proof copy.
- Go to authorcentral.com and customize your author page.
I’m personally not happy with the default ebook that Createspace puts out, as they don’t have a proper TOC. I have not found an automatic free conversion service that converts poetry properly. I prefer DIY. Often times there are problems with spacing and indentation that need to be fixed in addition to linking the entire table of contents. There is also the risk of piracy, and I have had my work stolen before.
Formatting for Kindle within Microsoft Word
- Save a new copy of your word .doc of your manuscript and then do the following.
- With the Tables and Index tool, edit the TOC to be without page numbers and have the hyperlinks box checked. Have both Heading 1 and 2 included. Here is a video explaining what it looks like on the Word screen: youtu.be/LvhnIiEIV1A
- Remove the page numbers from your footer since Kindle doesn’t have proper pages depending on the reader’s ereader settings.
- I made all of my poems Heading 2 and any section titles Heading 1. This can easily be changed by selecting one of your titles and right clicking “Select Text with similar formatting” and then change the style to Heading 2 instead of 1.
- Doing this may change your paragraph settings, so if you are using “Page Break Before” you might need to recheck that by right clicking and selecting the Paragraph option while all of those titles are selected.
- Right click on your TOC and click (Update Field)
- Then just follow the instructions and upload the .doc at kdp.amazon.com
- It can be priced between .99 and 9.99. I no longer enroll in their Kindle Select exclusive program, as I like to share my poems on other websites, but I have in the past and that allows for free giveaways which can boost chart rankings. You can also set it up for pre-order and have it be released as late as three months from the date you upload.
If you want to distribute an audiobook: www.acx.com/
Also check out www.poetrysuperhighway.com for a lot of resources. It’s run by Rick Lupert, a fabulous funny poet.
If you have published a book, you may wish to check out www.blasty.co which helps authors file DMCA requests against websites that publish pirated ebooks, or use your book title to lure folks in for scams.
Lastly, this website is www.poetryebook.com
I am not tech support. Please do your research.