The chapbook was created around the nineteenth century. It was named after writers who would peddle their writing collections on the street. Writers would simply print and write their poetry, ballads and stories on paper, fold the paper in half and sometimes design a sheet of paper with hand drawings and use that as a cover for their book and sell them.
Nowadays, it’s much more advanced. Chapbooks are anywhere from 16 to 40 pages long. Anything over 40 pages is considered a full length book. There is software you can purchase for desktop publishing which allows you to make the chapbook yourself. However this can be very time consuming and if you are not computer savvy, like me, it can be a daunting task.
There are chapbook publishers who can either offer you publishing alone or offer contests which require an entry fee but if you win the contest they will publish your chapbook. I personally am wary of these contests. First, because you need to send a reading fee which is usually pretty steep ranging from $20 on up and if you do not win, you’ve just thrown away the fee you’ve paid. I would say do some research online and find chapbook publishers. There are many out there so see what they have to offer. The one most important factor for me when I was researching publishers for my chapbooks was the control issue. I wanted as much control over the entire process that I could possibly have. I wanted to use my own artwork for the cover, I wanted to choose my own font and style and basically wanted to have a choice for the entire book. In the end I went with Shadow Poetry and there are many others as well. You can also go with Lulu.com who also offers publishing and prints the books as they are needed.
Now publishing a chapbook is not something you should even be thinking about until you have some publication credits under your belt. Of course if you have written some poetry and don’t intend to have anything published but rather a nice little book with your words which you can give as gifts to family and friends, then by all means check out publishing your own chapbook.
If you’re a poet who has some publishing credits to your name such as being published in 10 to 20 different publications then you may want to think about publishing a chapbook of your best work. Chapbooks are great for poetry readings and using to establish yourself within the poetry world. However most bookstores unless they are independently owned do not carry chapbooks. What you can do though is contact your local small bookshop and offer to do a signing of your book in their store and sometimes they will allow that because it creates a buzz for their store. You can also check out local cafes and see if you could host a poetry reading. The bottom line is chapbooks are a good first step in getting your name and work out to the public.
Check out my chapbooks here. Enjoy!