The book I forgot I wrote (a column on self-publishing)

Out of nowhere, my wife handed me a check for $41.82.

“Looks like people are buying your book,” she said.

I should take a step back. Years ago Haiku North America cofounder Michael Dylan Welch invited me to his poetry conference.

A few days before the conference he suggested I put a book of my poems together to have on hand, so I did. That night I made copies at the local FedEx store. This is the book that people have started buying from Amazon.

The book I uploaded to Amazon was a certain kind of book, called a chapbook. These days, only the most dedicated of poetry lovers know what chapbooks are. But initially chapbooks were the books of the common man.

In the Middle Ages. Peddlers went from village to village with these small books made of rag paper. Chapbooks were almanacs, they recorded history, told myths and stories. Even folk songs were preserved in chapbooks.

Because they were small and crudely made the common man could afford them. In an era when paper was expensive, chapbooks were sold for a penny or ha'penny.

"If you want to buy, I'm your chap," the chapmen would yell as they went from door to door.
Now think of the Kindle and self-publishing platforms like Scribd, Blurb and Amazon. Oddball poets who toil in obscurity (including yours truly) can now be spread from computer to computer.

Of course all of this puts small presses in a bad spot and I’d be remiss if I didn’t insert a caveat here about Amazon’s undercutting publishing costs so it could become a ubiquitous giant that sells anything and everything (soon to be delivered by drones).

But when poet extraordinaire Jane Hirshfield wanted to share her thoughts on poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) she turned to Amazon. And it was a hot seller (for a poetry book). So I decided to give it a whirl and I put my book there as well. Then I forgot about it.

Fast forward a few years and we are back to me standing there dumbfounded by a check for $41.82. At a price of $.99 and only getting 35 percent of that, that meant about 120 people recently bought my chapbook, which by the way, is called “Night with Too Many Stars.”

It was an encouraging moment, a moment that has lit a fire under my butt. Once again I am culling new poems out of hundreds of pages of notes.

Imagine if I had done some publicity for it on Facebook, Twitter or on this blog!? 

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