Wednesday, June 27, 2012
After you introduce yourself, the bookstore owner or manager may buy a couple copies from you outright or take some on consignment. If the bookstores take them on consignment, face the possibility you may never see any money sent cross-country from their sale. Be humble. Just be content that your books have found an additional home where you can send interested parties you meet along the way. Also, different cities may have open mics where you can read your poems and sell your books to audience members who like your work. Or you might meet other writers who simply want to exchange your book of poetry for theirs. It’s a great way for you to expand your poetry tastes and personalize your experiences out of town.
You might also want to donate a copy of your book to the local library of the place you’re visiting. Introduce yourself to the librarian. Tell him or her why you’re in town, and personally hand off a copy of your book for their circulation shelves. You never know who might pick up your book and read it. One of my books “Swimmer’s Prayer” had found itself in one of the Los Angeles libraries. Turns out the poet Charles Harper Webb actually picked up, perused and checked out the book from the library. Before long, he wrote telling me he’d like to republish my poem “Deb at the Ham Slicer” in an anthology he was editing for the University of Iowa Press called Stand-Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology. Suddenly, I was being published in the same anthology as Billy Collins and Charles Bukowski!
See what I mean about using a book or chapbook as a calling card? The point is to bring your books along on your travels, but to lighten your load along the way. Force yourself to sell or give away every single book so you have none left by the time you wind your way home. You might become a Johnny Appleseed of sorts, but of poetry. Instead of planting apple seeds (and future trees) where ever you wander as Johnny Appleseed did, you will instead plant your poems along your traveled path. If they take seed, you will grow new readers, audiences, and possible future readings and publishing opportunities.
And if you don’t yet have a book or chapbook, then simply use a calling card. A business card that you either craft yourself from a template and print on a laser printer, or purchase from one of the “free’ services online that only charges postage is the “poor poet” way to go. The card should contain at least one url link: to your website, blog or other electronic page where one or more of your poems appear. It could provide a link to the purchase of your poetry e-book version, if you have it available for Kindle or Nook. Hand out this card to interested parties and/or fellow poets you meet in your travels who would want to read your poems. It’s also a way to make new Facebook friends and build correspondences with those who share your interests from other parts of the country, or world.