In a recent article, Main Street Rag Editor M. Scott Douglas defends a new policy of his press to put, in their book contracts, a stipulation that the author will not publish with another publisher for at least nine months after publishing with Main Street Rag. His reasons for this can be found here.
It's always interesting to get a publisher's point of view, especially if that publisher is a poet themselves, on the business end of poetry and poetry sales. Also, I think Douglas makes some good points--trying to get a manuscript or book published everywhere as quickly as possible, especially when it comes to independent presses, not only hurts the poet, but also hurts the presses themselves. Douglas explains this more thoroughly than I can, so check out his article.
However, I think there are some things that publishers can do on their end as well. I remember speaking with a former teacher of mine who had been offered a contract by Knopf, and was debating leaving Greywolf. His issue was that he would get lost in the shuffle at Knopf, and while the money was there, the investment in the poet wasn't. I think independent publishers have this same issue, and it's pretty clear that for many publishers, there's a "here's your book, no go read and sell it" mentality, with little concern for how to advance the poet, the book, the readership, etc. Even something as basic as sending out press releases to local newspapers or information to bookstores seems to be lost on a lot of publishers, much to the detriment of the poets and the press itself.
An alternative to this is limited runs, but this brings up a different set of issues. How does a limited run affect the poet on the long term? Once they churn through that initial batch of 25, 50, 100, etc.--an easily accomplished task with tools like Facebook and PayPal these days, what happens? Is there a second release? Do they call it quits on that book until a "New and Selected" comes out? Do they collect three or four chapbooks and try to cobble them into a manuscript? Do limited edition chapbooks encourage machine gunning more than long term investment in a poet and their work?
As many readers of this blog are published poets, I'm curious to know how their publishers went about promoting their books, and the sort of relationship built up between publishers and poets. What do you think could be done to increase book sales? What do you think poets need to start doing? What do publishers need to start doing? What do the two of them need to start doing TOGETHER to change the game itself?