I’ve moved within a bunch of literary ‘scenes’ and my writing is fairly broad from novels and short fiction, to non-fiction, personal essay and cultural commentary to poetry and spoken word, although the later seems quite separate from the other forms of writing and the people that inhabit that world.
Anyway, I move within the ‘spoken word scene’ a lot, it’s a close knit community in Melbourne, almost their own world of publishing and norms. It’s very inclusive (which led me to start Melbourne Spoken Word). Anyway, my path toward ‘publication’ seems to be a bit different or more accepted within this scene. I sometimes submit to journals and magazines, but most of my poetry is consumed by me performing in live shows. I put out a spoken word album with Santo Cazzati last year and get up on a lot of open mics.
I’ve noticed that self-publishing is much more of a done thing within this world and poetry in general. Poetry publishers tend to be smaller, and most people end up just putting out their own collections and albums, and it’s less seen as a second class of publication. I also love the culture of poets releasing ‘chapbooks’ or zines with a small bunch of poems, to sell or hand out at gigs.
One day I’m going to release my own book or collection, with an album, but for now, I’m working on a small chapbook, made by myself, collating all of my poetry themed around refugees and asylum seekers.
A couple of years ago, I was burned by the self-publishing experience. I put together a collection of my early writings as an eBook and sold a total of 5 copies. There were a number of reasons for this, but one of them was mainly that it wasn’t the quality of writing to release out into the world, and I believe my reputation was damaged by that experience.
But this time, I believe my writing has improved, many of the pieces have been tested in the live performance environment and I’m receiving editorial assistance. One of the great things about the spoken word scene is the range of skill sets that we can share with each other and I think we’re quite capable of being self-sustaining, running things ourselves like we do. The other reason I believe it to be different, is as I said before, the different perception around self-publishing but the scene also makes self-publishing better in terms of distribution.
Some have been quite successful at getting collections into local bookstores, but most people sell their books and CDs at gigs in person. I like that there’s more of a connection between the writer and audience. You get their reactions to your work and there’s something less alienating and satisfying about someone buying something off you in person.
The chapbook will be out in a month or so. Not decided on whether I’ll have a ‘launch’ or not but I think there might be an accompanying visual art piece. I’m still decided on trying to get my other writing published the traditional way, but I believe this is the right decision for this area of my writing.