Friday, September 05, 2008

“Republishing” OP Poetry

Too, too many wonderful poetry books for young people go out of print (OP) in what seems like no time at all. It’s a shame. And it’s one of the reasons I keep this blog—to promote poetry books for kids so people will seek them out and keep them on the library and bookstore shelves.

Well, here’s a new twist on solving this problem. Poet and friend Janet Wong wrote me about something new she is trying. She’s making a print-on-demand (POD) version of A Suitcase of Seaweed (formerly OP) available again through BookSurge which prints books on demand and markets them through So you can click on Amazon, search for A Suitcase of Seaweed and buy it there directly. (You might not even notice that BookSurge is listed as the publisher.) It will be printed and sent to you, all for $7.99 (plus postage). Cool, huh?!

Janet writes, “I’m really excited about having this book available again. While the quality of this BookSurge edition isn’t as good as a regular trade paperback, it’s not bad…and I think it is better than some other POD versions that I’ve seen. The cost (to me) to produce a BookSurge edition could’ve been as low as $300 if I’d had print-ready digital files for the text and cover, but I didn’t have digital files, so it cost more to produce. I paid with a credit card, and will make my investment back after 200 copies are sold. I had a really great experience working with BookSurge, and I’m planning to bring Good Luck Gold and The Rainbow Hand back into print this way, too.

If you know authors who might be interested in learning more about BookSurge’s process, I’d be happy to talk with them. It would be great to see more OP books brought back to life—particularly children’s poetry. I know that other services are available, too, such as the Author’s Guild program… but the beauty of BookSurge is that they create the listing for you, so there aren’t distribution hassles. This might make a difference to some authors (or their heirs) who would be interested, but only if it’s easy to do.”

Janet also tossed out some creative ideas:
*I wonder if some (elderly) authors without children might be willing to donate the rights to their OP books to universities or other nonprofits, which could then arrange for a BookSurge edition to be produced (with the royalties automatically put into a fellowship or grant)…
*I think this is a really exciting possibility for school fundraising. The PTA could spend the $300-600 to produce a book, and if there is additional funding available, bring in a writer-in-residence and illustrator-in-residence to inspire the kids. Some of the kids could do art, while others would do writing, editorial, art direction, copyediting, marketing, and sales. The school could buy 500 copies at $3-5 wholesale to sell for $10. The marketing/sales kids could send out links to media. Wouldn't it be amazing if the media made a bestseller out of a book produced by a school? This is possible when the book is distributed online. And with a 35% royalty, wouldn't it be neat if a school earned thousands of dollars, to benefit itself or a charitable cause?

Isn’t Janet amazing? What a thinker! What a poet! What a woman!

And if you’re not familiar with A Suitcase of Seaweed, it’s a gem— a kind of feng-shui-balanced collection of poetry, with a dozen poems reflecting each of her own cultures, Korean, Chinese, and American. It was nominated for the William Allen White Children's Book Award in 1998 and got great reviews:

In VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates), Tony Manna wrote, “Whether she is recalling a childhood memory, contemplating the pull or strain of family ties, or exploring some poignant discovery about her Asian roots, Wong has a gentle, restrained way of moving through an experience…. she maintains a detached stance, the effect of which intensifies emotion and gives her poetry an unaffected confessional tone…. Wong's most engaging poems are small, precise, and perfectly pitched observations that imply-always through the very physical sensations of the moment-a wide range of subtle thoughts and feeling.”

Sharon Korbeck wrote in School Library Journal, “Wong was born in America of Chinese and Korean heritage, but the basic subjects she addresses in neat stanzas of free verse aim at the heart of any family, any race. The quiet, touching poems are divided into three sections, each honoring another part of her ethnicity.”

Kirkus Reviews observed, “Neat, well-turned poems, monologues, and aphorisms, shaped into free verse …. she looks at ethnic themes through the infallible metaphor of food... The imagery is choice, the thoughts pointed and careful, the vocabulary attractive: In many of the pieces comedy and delicacy mingle in a single line.”

And Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist, “Wong writes in simple, casual free verse about herself….The poems overlap their ethnicity and subject, of course, and young people will recognize many of the situations, whether Wong is imagining her parents' "Love at First Sight" or chafing at their high expectations and their disappointment.”

And you can post your own reader review on Amazon, of course!

This collection is one of my personal favorites (being of immigrant heritage myself) and I've cited individual poems from it several times, including "Poetry" (May 2, 2008), "Our Daily Bread" (Nov. 16, 2007), and "Face It" (Sept. 30, 2007). Plus, Janet created the art for the cover and the section divider pages.

And Poetry Friday is hosted by the ever fabulous Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader.

Picture credit: Amazon


Anonymous said...

Really interesting! Janet's school fundraising idea is one that deserves some pondering. Is there a list anywhere of wonderful books that are OP?

Sylvia Vardell said...

There are so many poetry books out of print that it might almost be easier to list those that are IN print. And you can doublecheck a book's in print or out of print status through BOOKS IN PRINT (available as a database through many libraries). Hope that helps a bit.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sylvia, for your wonderful post!

Re OP books: Elaine Magliaro (Wild Rose Reader) told me last week that she might do a blog entry soon about OP poetry collections that she'd love to see back in print. I hope so!

I must sound a bit evangelical about Print-On-Demand (POD), which is kind of funny since I absolutely hated the idea of it a year ago. One reason I've changed my mind is that an increasing number of established authors are seeing their OP books republished in POD editions (by traditional publishers).

Also, I've recently met several teachers and librarians who have written a good story but simply can't get it published. Self-publishing used to cost thousands of dollars and would leave a part-time author with a hundred boxes growing spider webs in the garage. POD puts an end to the heartache and hassle of trying to get a story accepted by a traditional publisher...OOPS, wait...there I go again, sounding evangelical. Better stop now!!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for stopping by, Janet, and for your pioneering in this area-- which seems so promising for poetry, in particular.