Would you rather publish a book of poems that would attract 2,000 readers, or publish those poems in newspapers, magazines, and elsewhere to attract 20,000 readers?Just now, the results were showing that out of 213 voters, 53% had chosen "publish elsewhere" for maximum exposure while 46% wanted to publish an actual book, even if that meant few readers.
Here's what prompted the survey:
During a recent trip to New York City, Joseph Bednarik, the marketing director of Copper Canyon Press, noticed something while riding the subway that got him thinking about the ways in which poetry is distributed. “I watched an elderly man read one of our Antonio Machado translations off a PSA Poetry in Motion placard. ‘How wonderful,’ I thought. ‘Machado’s readership is growing before my eyes.’”
So he began an informal survey. He asked poets whether they would prefer “a beautifully produced physical book, with the guarantee that it would find two thousand engaged readers” or “no physical book, but the guarantee that, through various means of publication—anthologies, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and so on—the poems would find an audience of twenty thousand engaged readers.” Bednarik included the following caveat: Either choice has equal effect on job security and advancement, review attention, and financial rewards.
“To be honest, the results were startling to me,” he says. “Everybody I talked to early on wanted a physical book and was content with a finite readership. I simply couldn’t believe it, because my impulse is to expand readership.”
I am equally surprised. Isn't it the hunger to express ourselves and reach others with our ideas that drives us to write? Are so many of us actually willing to settle for an image of success rather than the real thing?
Has the importance of readership been overshadowed by the book as status symbol? What is a poet’s priority?
I'd love to see some fiction writers weigh in on this question. What's more important to you: seeing your name on a book or knowing you've touched people through your writing? Anonymous comments are allowed, so go ahead and spill your guts. Then drag a couple of your writing pals over here to spill theirs.