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Poetry Publication: Chapbook VS Collection

Hello all~ First off all, I hope you had a wonderful New Year/Lunar Festival/holiday. Try not to read too into your horoscope for the year!

As I'm in China at the moment, people have been sending what the temples say each Chinese zodiac's year will be like:

Welcome to the year of the rabbit! WE MADE IT GUYS!

I thought this was pretty cool when I saw it, as I've somehow missed this in the past four years until now. I assume 2019 was predicted as red for everyone.

It looks like dragons are going to have it rough. I'm not quite sure what a 'broken year' is, but let's hope it's better than 2019-2022.

And no, I have no idea what a 'safety button' is.

Fun fact: According to the Chinese zodiac, if it's your year, you need to do kind and good deeds as you're inherently unlucky during your year. Lots of people wear red underwear during this time as red is seen as a lucky color.

Now, onward to today's topic!

When I write these blog posts, I tend to try to write about things I know about or recent things I've been learning. This way the information is true and (hopefully) relevant.

Recently, and by recently I mean for almost the past year, I've been trying to get my poetry collection picked up. When you finish an MFA, you typically have a publishable work completed as your thesis, and I went into the world thinking my thesis was going to be snapped right the fuck up because I am amazing. Obviously. (/s).

But it was not. Not yet anyway.

In my research as to why my poetry manuscript still sits on my computer and not on your desk, I have found that many writers cut down their first poetic work and make it a chapbook. Even during my MFA professors were mentioning that we may need to cut down our finished product and publish a chapbook with a small press. They said it was easier and the most common way to get published as a poet.

I promptly decided I wanted the biggest thing done first. And now I find myself here, pondering whether or not to cut down my collection to a chapbook. First I had some questions:

What's the difference between a chapbook and a collection?

Why should I publish a chapbook instead of a collection?

How can I ensure I gain readers from publishing a chapbook?

How can I even publish a chapbook?

And of course, the nastiest question of all that we are told not to ask as writers: Will a chapbook make me money?

Well, I have answers!

From what I've seen, a poetry chapbook usually contains 15-40 poems, and don't often extend past 40 pages. Note Writers Digest suggests no more than 40 pages, Masterclass says 20-40 pages, and TellTellPoetry says 15-30. If you check out Goodreads poetry chapbooks, you'll notice that the top ten span 16-38 pages.

Does that mean that most poems in a chapbook are one page? Nah. But it does mean if you are like me and have a collection of 40 poems spanning 50 pages, you're going to need to wean that on down to 30-40 pages in total.

But why bother with a chapbook? Well, apparently if you're a self-publishing type of person, this is a cost effective option. Now, if you're like me and hope to teach creative writing on a collegiate level one day, you probably want to be published by a small press instead of self-publishing. Lets not pretend there isn't a bias.

Also, it allows you to get your name out there. And, in all honesty, it might be easier to publish a chapbook as well.

If you want to gain readers from your chapbook, you better win a chapbook contest or be prepared to go to readings and events self-promoting yourself and your work. If you happen to live abroad, in a totally different culture, you might be just a bit fucked. You can still make it work if there is a poetry scene in your language where you are, but mostly you're going to be depending on a small publishing press and/or winning a chapbook contest.

Lets get to the nitty-gritty. Money. We all know society states we need money to survive and most of us would like to make money doing something we enjoy. Unfortunately, the poetry money-pool is pretty small. could you recoup your costs from publishing your chapbook? Sure. Will you be able to quite your day job? No. Will you be able to pay a bill? Not likely.

If this is depressing to you, know that you are not alone. There are millions of us out there, struggling to achieve our writing dreams. If it makes you feel better, check out this BBC article which states "The incidence of mood disorders, suicide and institutionalisation was 20 times higher among major British and Irish poets between 1600 and 1800." Here is a famous list of writers who suffered from depression. Tennessee Williams and Virginia Woolf are both there, isn't that comforting? No? Well, best write about it then.

Basically the idea here is publish the chapbook and then, if you get some recognition, go for a collection.

The competition is fierce, and while we need to support each other, we also need to give ourselves the best means to succeed. In this case, that may mean taking baby steps towards a larger goal. I wish you all the best of luck! Let's get the new year started off right! Best, Mea Andrews

My writing in-progress links:

To check out what I'm writing: Drone Girl: (Hiatus)

Where Nightmares Roam:

To support the author (me!):

My Patreon:

Some photos of what I've been up to for the holidays:

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