The Self-publishing Dilemma

It’s easy for a poet to publish a book these days. Desktop publishing and other technologies give pretty much anyone access to a way to publish whatever they have written. The Web and blogs give people another quick, easy route to publication.

But is that really a good thing? Is such instant gratification conducive to good poetry? I like the idea of an editor far away reading my poems and getting a look of epiphany on his or her face, then declaring, usually aloud, “Yes! It’s so good. Where have you been all my life?”  OK, so that’s a little far-fetched, but the point is that having someone else judge your poems is a good thing, usually a bit bruising to the ego, but good nevertheless. Many of my poems have improved vastly over a dozen years or more because I’ve been able to take a more unbiased look at my own work and because editors I have submitted to have suggested improvements (although this is far too rare an occurrence). And I’ve been glad to have that time to continue to work on them and see my skills as a writer and editor develop.

A few years ago, I thought I was ready to self-publish. I had tired of the rejection slips, and I had been working on the manuscript for far too long, I thought. But another poet talked me out of it, citing the credibility of having someone else deem your work ready for the world.

The chapbook I had published by FootHills Publishing earlier this year had been evolving for a decade, and some of the poems in it will continue to morph, I’m sure. I think years of rejections made it a better manuscript than if I had self-published right away. Sometimes it takes a poet a long time to be able to read his or her own work objectively. Easy publication cuts short a poem’s and a poet’s opportunity to develop.


~ by ericedits on October 22, 2007.

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