I am about to have my fifth book of poetry published, or sixth if one counts ‘Awful Alvin,’ the little collection of poems for children. On September First, ‘Fields of Summer’ will see its official release. As always, it will be showing up here and there in both print and ebook form before that date.
Aside from, perhaps, the children’s book, none of these are ‘chapbooks’ — not in the strict sense. They are a bit too long, though still fairly short books. How long should a true chapbook be? Some say as many as fifty pages, some say no more than thirty. At 36 pages, ‘Alvin’ might make the cut.
As might my very first collection, ‘Pieces of the Moon,’ at 48 pages. Barely — the others are all longer and ‘Fields of Summer’ will be the largest poetry book yet, at 98 pages. I would be unlikely to do a collection larger than that, unless it were a book that pulled together two or more collections inside one cover, or a ‘best of.’
Originally, chapbooks were published because of the lesser cost. This was especially true for poets who self-published or very small independent presses. Indeed, until recently, more than a few little poetry books were actually printed and assembled by the poet. Improved printers, and then computers, made this feasible. I first put out ‘Pieces of the Moon’ that way, using a laser printer, but a couple years later went to the print-on-demand approach and set up Arachis Press (though it was called Nihil Crocodile Press for a while).
No great advantage comes from putting out a really small book, a true chapbook, now. There is not much in the way of savings; indeed, one sixty page book would be somewhat more economical than two thirty page books. Of course, at times, the material might be suited to a more limited number of pages. The content is always the most important consideration. A book should be as long as it needs to be.
I could see Arachis Press publishing chapbooks but I would rather see longer collections. Not that we have been publishing anyone’s poetry lately but we are always open to the idea of doing so. But that should be something I talk about at the publishing blog!