Sunday, July 24, 2011

Giving Away Poetry

In general, I like John Gallaher's poetry and music blog. It's almost always thought provoking and, even oftener, liable to raise to a few hackles. The latest from July 22nd didn't disappoint, "It's time for a new publishing model (give it away)"

In it, Gallaher advocates giving away written work for free. Not all work, but some it, a lot of it. He begins by citing another writer named David Pogue who also talks about giving away versions of work online. In Pogue's case, it's books on computers. In Gallaher's case, it's poetry. Here's a quote:

Amazon is set up for a version of this sort of thing (showing excerpts of work), where one can browse a few pages from many books. It’s probably about as far as Amazon can go. But publishers and authors can go further. In the way that music labels give away free samplers of their current releases, and individual artists usually have a few mp3s up for free on their websites, I think publishers and/or authors should post PDFs of a good chunk (if not all) of books of poetry. 

I kind of like the idea of giving away poetry. Perhaps because my book didn't sell so well (though outside the world of Billy Collins and Mary Oliver's whose does?). But I also get how free stuff brings in new participants, or at least because of price, doesn't lock them out. I know I've found quite a few new composers, musicians, largely through free of music. 

The biggest problem, at least for me and probably for others, is that the publishing world brings other benefits--some small recognition, access to marketing and readings, and, if one hopes to use their work as access to other kinds of work, a kind of validation. What would be best is if the publishers agreed to allow a certain portion of the work to be posted as a pdf, given away. I'm not talking about one or two poems, but a big chunk. If the examples Gallaher cited are to be believed, this probably wouldn't negatively affect sales. In fact, it might drives sales of books a bit and perhaps create a larger audience for poetry. In the post, Gallaher says he wants to post his work free online, though by the end admits he's not sure how, or perhaps he got cold feet.  It is kind of scary. Hmmmm