This morning I surfed sites for printers for a self-publishing venture. I feel the need to write at least one chapbook, and perhaps three. I always have this fantasy that some new service will arise that will take my prosaic poems and poetasting prose and render it in chapbook form, for minimal cost, with minimal fuss, with gorgeous layout and design. I am often impressed by how much better other peoples' work looks than my own.
I keep thinking that someone holds the key to avoiding the sweat and agony involved in designing one's own product. As is often the way, I have not found so far anyone who can do the job at a mark-up which is reasonably appropriate to my needs. I like to keep my production cost at under a dollar and fifty cents a copy, while folks in business understandably want three or four dollars a copy. When I do the math (I spend a lot of time doing multiplication in my head), there's precious little profit in printing other people's chapbooks. I think I need to bite the bullet and print up my own chapbook(s) again.
I have this mental image of a chapbook that looks as cool as "Gardening with Terrariums and Sand Sculpture", by Rex Mabe. It's a 48 page five by eight saddle-stitched glory, with an illustrated picture of two terraria on the front. Although nearly thirty years old, this little chapbook remains a sturdy joy forever. I want a chapbook that looks as cool as that. I do not think it's that big a challenge, really. Maybe a heavier bit of paper, and some work on graphics in the booklet.
Part of my vanity in vanity publishing is the desire to have an ISBN number and a listing on Amazon.com. Some middle aged men want a new trophy wife. Some want a luxury sports car. As an aside, I find that one of life's rules is that no man owns a really great sports car until he is too old to look anything but absurd driving it. But I am showing my age-ism in my old age, I suppose. But I'm not looking for trophy spouses nor fancy cars. I'm just looking for a little legitimacy.
I got a great jolt back into reality this morning. A poet named David Alpaugh has printed up some 1500 chapbooks for other poets. His website points out, correctly, that as most poets don't need an ISBN, as most merely hand out their books to friends or people who attend readings anyway.
As the only place I ever believe I will sell a book of poetry is on eBay, I think that I can again forego an ISBN and an Amazon listing. It's funny that those two things symbolize legitimacy to me, in ways that a publishing contract never could. They symbolize spunk and small business pluck and a kind of publishing savvy I don't have. I know, it's just a matter of going to RR Bowker and plunking down 225 for an ISBN, buying a barcode on line for 10, and then sending a copy or so to Amazon. But it's the idea of being a "real" author that draws me in.
In addition to actually using a print on demand company for my novel, I plan to write another book of chess poetry to market on eBay just as I have done. But I have two other things in mind. It might be fun to write a chapbook which tackles non-fiction topics similar to this weblog. It might also be fun to write something practical, like a "how to" guide on something. I wonder if there is anything I know "how to" do?
I think I'm resolved, though, to keep this hobby on a shoestring potato. I always liked the way that shoestring potatoes come out of a can, and yet are so salty, real and bite-sized. I do not have "War and Peace" in me, but I might have a miniscule chapbook. We'll see.
The key is to move beyond the planning. Planning is great. Planning is good. Planning is the way you see the way beyond the wood. But I don't want to merely plan. I want to do.