On finding (poetry) readers

Writing poetry isn’t for the money. But every book sold means another reader. Circling Rivers does its best to sell our writers’ books, including sending out a couple dozen ARCs and over 100 pitches to book reviewers, and featuring the book and published work in our newsletter. Mostly, though, poets who aren’t on a par with Wendell Berry or Amanda Gorman have to sell their own books. I realize it’s a “character builder” for writers to “sell” their own work so following are some tips. 


Do what you can. 
Don’t fret. 

Readings / events

If you do a reading at a store, do your best to ensure that they will sell at least a dozen or so books. 

Leaves Books has an excellent page on book events

If you need to order books from Circling Rivers for your event, try your best to give us at least 4 weeks notice.

Beyond (and including) bookstores

If your book has an orientation that would fit with, for example, a museum gift shop, you might be able to place books there. A local writer or a book with a theme that relates to the store (Spoon River Anthology for the Spoon River Gift Shoppe; activist poetry at an activist bookstore) has more of a chance. It might help to bring a tip sheet (CR writers can download one from their book page at the CR website) to the store you’d like to see your book in. (Write your contact info on the tip sheet so the store can get in touch with you.) 

Most booksellers who agree to carry your book will want to do so under consignment. Following are basics, with the understanding that each store will have its own way of doing consignment. 

You leave several books with the bookseller. They don’t pay up front. You check in when they tell you to check in, maybe a week, maybe a month after you drop off the books. Ideally, they’ll have sold some books and will then pay you the agreed-upon split. They may require you to take back books not sold within three months or whatever their time limit is. Some will want a written agreement with you, most don’t. 

You may or may not need an appointment to offer your book for consignment. Most booksellers do not like (ie, are downright irritated by) authors who walk in to pitch their books. Best call in ahead of time or check their website to see how they do it. 

Be sure to write down, for your own reference, how many books you leave where, what the split is with the store, and when they want you to check back in. 

One more thought: Obvious as it may be to say so, be sure you make some money, or at least that you don’t lose money, on your split with the bookseller. The average split based on list price of the book is 60% author / 40% store. 

Following are some links to bookstore consignment arrangements, just to give you an idea of what is involved. Note that most booksellers want books with spines (title and author legible when shelved). There are exceptions to the rule, however, including poetry in chapbook form.  

Waucoma Bookstore
Sykesville Bookstore
T Leaves Books

You can also sell your books on your own website, at readings, or out the trunk of your car. (No kidding! You never know when someone may want a copy. Just keep in mind that in hot weather, the binding glue can melt if you leave them in there.)

For Circling Rivers writers with forthcoming books: 

When you get the CR announcement that pre-orders are open for your book, forward that email to every friend and family member you can think of. (Do not be disappointed or take it personally if they don’t buy your book. My advice: don’t even ask.) 

Include a personal (to the point) message. Something like – “Hurray! my book is available to order, signed by me…” or whatever works for you. 

BUT – If your friends / family might attend an event where your books will be sold, tell them time and place of event and suggest that they get their signed copies at the event instead of pre-ordering. Then, the bookseller will be more inclined to host your reading when your next book comes out.