The Publisher is Dead, or, How to Make $40,000 a year publishing experimental poetry

Which is to say, there are many models out there on how to be a publisher, and more and more models are emerging as the technology, demographics, and economy changes.

Asking authors to donate $250 to have their books published is one model and has brought much negative attention to BlazeVox books. Personally, Iʻve admired many books BlazeVox has published over the years. Iʻve never been able to follow their catalog as much as Iʻd like simply because I canʻt afford to. I have no problem with their donate-to-publish model (authors can simply decline the offer), but I do think itʻs wrong that they didnʻt disclose this on their website.

One aspect that I want to highlight about this debate is the idea that you canʻt make money publishing books of experimental poetry–or any kind of poetry. Plus, I want to dispel the myth that it costs $2,000 to publish a book.

If you use the Print-on-Demand technology, such as LULU or CREATESPACE, it costs absolutely nothing to “publish” a book. All you have to do is format the book and cover and upload onto their website. Zero dollars. I know this because Iʻve used both LULU and CREATESPACE. It takes labor, sure, but not a single dollar.

Iʻve said on my facebook it costs $50…I said $50 because I usually have to order proof copies and there are sometimes mistakes, so I usually order a few proof copies, which can cost around $50. But one can also avoid this cost if one is an expert.

So how can you make $40,000 a year publishing experimental poetry? Like this:

1) Create a free acct at CreateSpace (or LULU)

2) Design covers, format, and upload onto Createspace

3) The book is automatically listed on Amazon and distributed by Amazon (zero distribution/storage costs, no post office runs)

4) For a 100-page book, the cost of production will be about $3-4 per book

5) Charge $16 for each book

6) Amazon takes the production cost and a cut out of the $16 a reader pays

7) You make about $6-8 profit per book

8 ) Most sales of a book occur during the first year…at the very least, even a bad experimental book of poems will sell about 100-200 copies (to friends, relatives, etc)

9) Each book will bring in about $600-$1600 that year

10) Publish/Upload 30 books. profit: 18,000-42,000 a year

11) Make a website, but direct all sales to Amazon from your website

12) Publish more and more books each year

13) in terms of labor, how long would it take to design, format, and upload 30 books? for me, it takes about 5-10 hrs per book. So about 150-300 hours. so if you do this full-time, you can have a yearʻs worth of books in about a month to two months.

Of course, this assumes that the publisher is not sending the author any royalties, free copies, or sending out any review copies, award copies, desk copies, etc.

Obviously, this is an awful model. And it isnʻt BlazeVoxʻs model. But i just wanted to show itʻs possible.

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4 thoughts on “The Publisher is Dead, or, How to Make $40,000 a year publishing experimental poetry

  1. Actually there is a per book fee to have works listed at Amazon per their POD wing, something like 100 per book, also there’s a certain amount of book one has to have to enlist in the program…

  2. Craig, I am a BlazeVOX author, and I must speak to the point you make at the end of the post: BlazeVOX does NOT, in fact, send any free copies to authors, at least not to me, nor were any review copies sent out–that is all on the author. As far as royalties go, they are only given for sales on Amazon, though as Gatza points out, sales there are rare, and the rest is really on SPD, for which the author pays the $20 fee to get a page up on SPD, plus the requisite 25 books (at over $3.50 a book), plus a $15 state tax, California I presume, plus shipping.

  3. The cynic in me says, “This is brilliant! I should try it!” The skeptic in me says, the assumptions are too optimistic. I suspect that most bad books won’t really sell anywhere near 100 copies, as there is a limited amount one can expect from the authors and their friends and relatives. Also, it’s hard to see what would draw authors to the press (as opposed to competing outfits or DIY), since the only things you’re providing are a little bit of service many of them could do for themselves, and a name; and the name wouldn’t be worth much if you’re just accepting whatever comes in.

    Even so, it’s a brilliant thought-experiment, and if someone tried it for real, I’ll bet they could make at least some money on it!

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