Self Publishing Poetry

Self Publishing Tower Blocks and Terraces

I’ll allow you a moment to overcome the reeling shock which may have encompassed you when you discovered I have actually written a blog post again (first time in around 3 years) Although I haven’t been writing blogs I’m sure many of you who have followed me are aware from my constant gushing posts on Instagram that I have been focusing on my poetry and am very proud to have published my debut book Tower Blocks and Terraces.

This post is all about my self publishing journey. I’ve been asked a lot about how Tower Blocks and Terraces was published and how it came about. Here’s my story!

Writing Poetry : I started writing poetry in my early teens although at that time it was most definitely “well uncool” so I would scribble away and hide them from everyone. I loved writing poetry and I loved reading it, I remember at school learning about the war poets of the World Wars and looking at all the hidden meaning behind the words and being obsessed with it all. It wasn’t until the lock-down that I dared submit my poetry anywhere. I joined many local writing groups and inquired on forums eager to find people to talk to about writing and poetry in particular. However this didn’t go as planned. At first each group I attended made me feel even more deflated about my writing. I felt embarrassed within some of them, an amateur. I was even asked at one to submit a request as they didn’t usually accept non public schooled writers. The advice I took away was that I’d be very lucky if my poetry was published anywhere, as it was peered over and passed around a table. I sat in my car after and felt like I had been slapped.

After a few days of generally feeling sorry for myself I shook it off. I searched the internet for submission calls and began sending my poetry out into the world. Within a week my first poem was published on Visual Verse. I was overwhelmed and fueled with a new confidence to keep writing, keep submitting and within a year I had 26 poems published in various magazines, online magazines and printed anthologies. I started getting people message me on social media asking where they could buy a collection of my poetry which spurred me to look at how I could publish my own first chap book. I have no idea why but I returned to question some of the original writing groups on self publishing/traditional publishing poetry. I was advised to submit to submission calls for chap books to which I did to no avail. I queried the group forums again if anyone else had any luck with their chapbook submissions – radio silence. Finally I asked if anyone had self published. The reply – no one self publishes poetry successfully. That comment right there was the deciding factor that I was definitely going to self publish.

Self Publish vs Traditional

Many people ask what the difference is in terms of self publshing and traditional. Traditional publishing is when a publishing company owns the rights of your work and its’ royalties where as self publishing the author owns them. So surely as an author self publishing is the most obvious preference? Here is some of the pros and cons of both:

Audience: With traditional publishing you are guaranteed an automatic platform depending on the publishing house. The links have already been made with them and other bookstores and chains and they have the connections to be able to get your book out there. Self publishing however relies totally on you. You need to sell and market your own book and be able to pitch to book stores yourself to have them consider your book. Bookstores often have exclusive deals with publishers and it is typically very difficult to be able to sell a self published book within a bookstore.

Outlays: Traditional publishing comes with a team of editors, cover designers, printers and marketers. Self published authors have to edit, search for cover designers, format, choose a printer and market entirely themselves which means potentially paying a lot up front.

My Journey

It was to be called Tower Blocks and Terraces. Growing up in East London this was our home. Lots of my poems were themed around my working class roots. I am proud of who I am and where I came from. It may be described as a s*** hole by many but it was our s*** hole all the same! I selected the poems I wanted in the collection. Anybody who knows me will know that I’m pretty indecisive so this was probably one of my most challenging parts of the process. Then once I had the poems I wanted I had to ensure they flowed right. Did they fit together? To perhaps anyone else this wouldn’t matter but to me it did and after reading countless self help guides on self publishing I know this was an imperative part especially if other poets/writers were looking over my work.

Next was to choose a cover design. Ali Handling who is a close friend of my cousins was suggested as a cover designer and I could not have been more happy. Ali is one of the kindest and most talented women I have come across. She asked to read some of my poetry and get a vibe as to what I was thinking. I felt a bit silly I didn’t really know I realised! I sent Ali a photo of my view from my bedroom window as a child and after a week or so she came back with the most stunning designs. It was all suddenly feeling very real!

I had looked a lot at different printing options and this was a tricky part as I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. I thought that would be it once I had chosen my printer… upload document and send. Alas no, the most difficult part was yet to come as I worked through the printing options. The different sizes, weights of paper, trim margins, page bleeds. I felt like giving up I’m not going to lie. This was the part I thought I would give up. Each poem had to be formatted to fit in the right position on each page. Suddenly my poem selections were all disjointed as the poems were transferred from A4 Word doc to the printers specific format. I felt like crying and had to go right back to the drawing board rearranging my orders and checking everything was uniform. I wouldn’t exactly say I was technically minded so this was definitely a challenging part of the process. Finally happy/terrified I pressed submit.

I ordered 20 to start with as I had no idea how it would be received. I had to revamp this website seeing as though I have left it derelict since the lockdown of 2020 #soz. Trying to sort payment buttons and forms for delivery was again another tricky task but eventually I had it right and placed a pre order form on a few days before my official release. To my surprise the 20 were pre ordered in less than 24 hours. Once the first batch arrived I got to work packaging, signing and sending. It felt so surreal. When they arrived I actually didn’t even open the books I was so shocked they were actually here and printed. My dad left one at Bethnal Green Station which I signed with a note reading “take me” and my insta name inside. A young lady from Italy found the book at Liverpool Street Station saying she was taking the book back to Italy with her!

My social media accounts helped a lot with sales and I am so thankful to all those who have bought a copy. After a few weeks I decided to do something which pushed me way out of my comfort zone. I approached a bookstore who have a small chain with stores across the country. I took some books and pitched to the manager. I suddenly felt way out of my depth and self doubt ebbed in but as I told myself it was worth a shot and what did I have to lose? I practically danced through the streets, my cheeks aching from smiling when they accepted.

That’s where I’m at so far. A book published and in bookstores across the country. I plan to pitch more bookstores and continue to market on social media. I have currently sold 100 books since July 1st. If anybody is wondering if they should self publish I would say to go for it! Yes it is hard work to a point but having created and produced my book entirely myself (with a big shout to Ali also of course) is a feeling like no other. Thank you for your continued support.

Meesh x

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