How to put your first poetry book together

If you are reading this, then most probably you have been writing poetry for a while now and feel kind of ready to bring your collection together. But how to decide which poems go into it and which don’t? And how many poems are enough? These are important questions and I will try to answer them below based mostly on my own experience as a self-published poetess.

Before coming to the moment of feeling ready to start putting the book together, I felt that everything was everywhere. I have been writing poetry for about eight years. Luckily, I had a bit of organisational skills which saved me some time. I had various files/folders in my computer and in my phone with ‘poetry’ in the title, so I could find them easily. Also, in the last few years I began writing in googledocx and I had one file open every year where I wrote down poems, tryouts, everything poetical. Also, I had a blog where I began publishing my poetry, and that was…besides the organisational aspect, a very important step into getting the book together. And so, while you are going through all your ever written poems, I would advise you to start publishing on your blog.

a) Publishing your poetry on a blog

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you have many followers, or any, on your blog. What matters is that you put your poems out. Why is it important to have your poems published (on your blog)? Because it offers you the possibility to read your poems from an outside perspective, that of a random imaginary reader, and then…as it happened very often for me…you see the typos, the mistakes, those sneaky little letters hiding from the writer’s eye.

Another good thing about publishing your poems on the blog is that it offers you the possibility to get over the fear of being read/exposed/rejected. It’s a block of feelings and it gets more loose with every poem that goes online. I did it for months until I was totally comfortable and even excited to check the stats and see the countries from which my readers came from…but still…if I didn’t publish for even a few days…the block would start solidifying again. Therefore, for a while, before the actual publishing of your book, it is advisable to constantly work through the fear of rejection by publishing on your blog. Make yourself public and work through your inner fears. It works wonders and also allows yourself and people who get to read you to pick on the fact that you are, indeed, a dedicated poet/ess. The poems I chose to publish were the ones I was writing on that day. I would write it and put it out. read it. See the mistakes. Edit. Done.

#beyourownreader #beyourowneditor

Another thing I did after a while of putting my poems up on the blog, was to share a link of the freshly published poem to my FB page and/or make a story with ‘new post’ on IG. I used these platforms in order to completely get myself out of the closet.

b) Start by selecting through your poems

What I did at first, was to open a new document and start writing titles of poems, one under the other, to count how many poems I might consider for the book. It’s a really engaging process of filtering and selection. At first, I had over 100 poems. I went through all my poetry files and began selecting everything that I felt had something in it. Something which I liked, enjoyed reading. Eventually, when I began feeling into the poems, I knew precisely which ones are meant to be part of the book. The poems which I selected were the ones that meant something, that my mind would go back to from time to time. They stuck to me and kept reappearing in key moments of my life. It was as if the words were imprinted in my mind. Or, to put it in another way, as if I knew the poems by heart. And beyond all that, those were poems in which I felt I was truly myself. I could stand their ground. I could speak about them. I knew their story.

c) The extra poems

I call ‘the extra poems’ the poems that have not yet been written (at the time of compiling the book), but will go into the book (once they will be written), or those that do not necessarily have a meaning but are maybe dedicated to someone you know. When I first collected the poems for the book, I was still missing a few, around five of them. Luckily, at the time I was doing the selection, I wrote the poem ‘The Paths We Travel Alone’ which also became the title of the book.

d) About the title

Don’t worry about the title, it will come.

e) Why self-publish

I decided to self-publish because of many reasons, the most important one is that I didn’t want to stress while having full control of the process. Also, I believe that self-publishing the first book can be a valuable experience because we learn about the steps of bringing a book out, we take the main decisions (the fonts, the placement, the paper, the cover etc) and therefore gain valuable experience in knowing more precisely how to go about publishing the next books.

And the most important part – You really start understanding the value of your work!

f) The feeling of completion

I realised I had a feeling of completion when I began writing poems in a completely different pace, tonality, rhythm. The subjects changed and the technicality of my poetry felt much more advanced. Therefore I knew, I am already writing the second book…which meant one thing – the first book was complete!

g) The first sample

I have to mention that once I decided to publish the first book, while already working on the second, everything went easily and smoothly. The pressure was off. I had the PDF, sent it to a typography/printing house and in no time I had the first sample. I finally read it from cover to cover. Thirty four poems. A perfect morning coffee companion. I decided to add another poem and, together with the typography, we decided to change the cover and adjust some minor details. Then came the next two big steps. How to get the money to print three hundred copies and how to spread them around. I will go into the details regarding these two steps in the next blog posts. Meanwhile, good luck collecting your poems…and trust me, the first steps are the easiest.

To pre-order my first poetry collection 'The Paths We Travel Alone' send me an email to cburdu@gmail.com
To pre-order my first poetry collection ‘The Paths We Travel Alone’ send me an email to cburdu@gmail.com #supportpoetry

Tips:

1. When starting to collect the poems and putting them in a doc/x, make sure to have as examples a few poetry books which you like or enjoy the way they look. Have them close, because they will help you decide on the small, mind-bogging, details such as: paging, fonts, spacing, what is and what isn’t ok, blank pages etc. Just feel free to steal from them.

2. Keep a personal journal. Write down your feelings and thoughts every day. Build your inner trust. Don’t write beautifully, or literally, or creatively, just write. Take it all out. This is the debris which is best placed in a separate journal rather than letting it weave through your writing. Be honest with yourself as a person first, and then you can be honest with yourself in your creative writing.

3. Don’t let others dictate you how to do your thing. See the book, visualise it and feel into it. The book will slowly come to life and you’ll be flexible enough to not get influenced.

3. From time to time, take your shoes off and go for a walk.

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