Perhaps not the most obvious title for a druid blog, but bear with me. The reason is good. It’s all about things bardic, about who controls creativity, and a kickass thing I would like to try and tempt you with.
There are few things more difficult to get paid for, than poetry. Very few royalty paying publishers will even contemplate it. How many living, famous poets can you think of? Not many, at a guess. Most poetry is written by amateur enthusiasts, with varying degrees of quality, and far lower degrees of financial success. But when anyone says ‘bard’ I still think of poetry. Traditionally, it was all about the poetry, even if we do wander further afield now.
It’s one of those hard to assail publishing truths that poetry does not pay. It’s not that people don’t like poetry, but somehow they don’t buy it. Of course the scarcer new published poetry becomes, the less chance of finding a thing you like. Lack of supply contributes to lack of demand. And as we all know, out there in the real world, most of what happens depends not just upon the money, but on what the bean counters imagine the money is going to be.
Back in the ‘good old days’ before the internet, before we all learned that vanity publishing is bad and wrong, people used to self publish their own poetry, and sell it. There was no great taboo against self publishing, that’s relatively modern. It was also entirely normal to finance a book by getting together subscriptions to pay for the printing. One well heeled aristocratic patron might do it, but otherwise, a person with a lot of enthusiastic friends could raise the money, publish a book and get underway in a literary career. Somewhere along the way, we stopped doing this, as ever bigger and more conservative publishing houses took control of the market. Poetry publishing all but dried up. Great works of literature no longer top the best seller’s lists. Many of those big, powerful houses are not doing as well as they used to either. The ones that haven’t closed down entirely.
The internet has brought us full circle, making self publishing easy and normal again, although plenty of people will tell you it’s not the same as having a ‘proper’ publisher. But, you can hire an editor, a cover artist and a formatter, and you can make a good book without a publisher. I want to add that I am not inherently averse to publishing. I work with three different houses – O Books, loveyoudivine and Archaia – all small, nimble, creative houses, risk taking and interesting. There are things a publisher can do that a lone author cannot, but that’s another story.
The other thing that has returned to us is subscription, through crowd sourcing sites. Not just for books, but for all manner of creative, imaginative endeavours. Things the bean counters would never dare to imagine might work. If enough people believe in a project, it can happen. Power is no longer exclusively in the hands of big, cautious corporations more concerned about shareholders than real achievement.
Which brings me round to Chocolate Chips & Rocket Ships. It is that most impossible of things – a poetry collection. It’s aimed at children, but I think adults will enjoy the charm. Each poem is illustrated, and there are some amazing and well known illustrators who have been captivated by the plan and are contributing. It’s on kickstarter. Which publisher would step up to a plan like this one? And if they did, it would be years in the making. With support and a fair wind, you’ll have this one in good time for the Christmas stocking, or whatever your nearest seasonal equivalent may be.
I would like to live in a world that values poetry and is willing to pay poets enough to live on. I want to live in a world where things that are generally loved and valued, that inspire people, get to happen. As Tom is one of the artists doing Chocolate Chips, I have a personal interest, but I’d be saying much the same if he wasn’t. If you have the shiny spin off from the TV series and movie with attendant plastic toy, sure, someone will publish you, no matter how trite the content. I’ve had some exposure recently to the rubbish aimed at kids. I’m heartily sick of Oomy Noomy and Waawaa Laa Laa type creations, and all the other gaga figures who spout gibberish and sing happy tunes that have no tune to them at all. Kids are people too. Kids have brains, and imaginations, and need their creativity nourishing with good stuff. They are frequently not getting good stuff, they are getting a diet of anaemic pap. There are great things out there though, and they need cheering, supporting.
So, please take a moment to look at John O’Marra’s lovely project here http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/427948257/chocolate-chips-and-rocket-ships?ref=email , and on www.ChocolateChipsAndRocketShips.com
Come the revolution, I will write you a sonnet.