Monday, January 24, 2011

Publishing: So What?

Now that you've published, what do you do? I'll confine myself to those who self-publish with the intention of giving copies to valued friends and family since I've done that and suspect that many others also do so now that publishing is so easy. The answer is:

Buy envelopes and postage, address the envelopes, affix the postage, toss them into the nearest mail box and FORGET ABOUT THEM.

Once they've been posted they're on their own and expecting anything from your loved recipients is an exercise in self-love that won't be satisfied. It was two weeks before my wife, worrying that the “Ten Short Addresses to My Grandchildren” may have been lost in the mail, asked one grandchild if she got it and she said “Yeah” and spun out of the room to beat her little sister with a toy rabbit for sticking her tongue out at her. One friend emailed “Thanks for the pomes (sic)” and he's a poet too. I told my wife to not ask. The point is that not many will care much about your poems and those who do won't worship you our your work unless you are on your death bed our you slip a c-note into the envelope.

Keep in mind too that poems given to your family, written to/about your family probably aren't your best anyway-- and don't waste your best on them. Go smugly forth knowing that they won't get them, as in understanding them (or you), and that you have better places to place your best work. As I said before in an earlier entry, one of the first exercises for beginning poets is to understand the size of the audience that doesn't care

When it comes to publishing, win contests, submit poems to legitimate presses and magazines, accept the rejections as better than what you'll get from your family and friends and learn to write better. It is possible but rare to self-publish and sell a million (or even a hundred) copies. If your work can't pass muster with contests, presses, magazines it's not likely to pass anywhere else either and I am duty bound to inform you that if it passes muster with those contests, magazines, etc it still may not be very good, just accepted.

So jaundiced a view about publishing begs the question: Why write? Why publish? Write for the truth. Publish for vocational identity in public as a poet. Don't hide your light under a bushel. In fact, publish all you can without expecting anything from it and don't let your desire to publish affect your art beyond the writing lessons you'll get from even the most scurvy editor. If your effort to publish saps the art, feed the art, quit the publishing.

So long for now.

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