Friday 21 June 2013

A Poet Turned Publisher: Guest Blog by Elaine Ewart

They’d arrived. I felt a thrill of excitement as the man at the printers’ slit open the box so I could see the books. And wow. Dafila Scott’s beautiful pastel drawing and Karen Harvey’s eye-catching cover design drew the eye. I pulled a copy out, opened it, had a sniff (doesn’t everyone?) of the freshly printed pages and pored over the text. I was too excited to take it in but the page numbers looked ok, they’d printed the right version, the text was aligned well on the page. It looked like a proper book. Short, yes. Only thirty pages: but thirty smart, professional pages, worthy of the poetic talents of our fifteen contributing poets. Words for Wide Skies: A Poetry Anthology. And I’d published it myself.

I’d deliberately chosen not to go down the route of print on demand companies on the internet. These websites will enable you to publish your book at a low financial risk, which can be helpful for a niche market. However, on closer inspection, the unit cost is typically high. Plus, you don’t have the benefit of physical copies to put in a shop, and you have limited control over the design. Hmm, not for me, I thought.

Instead, I’d gone to a local printers, who had given me a very reasonable quote, and said, ‘This is what I want; here is the text layout, and this is the cover,’ and they’d done it.  

It really was as simple as that.

That’s not to say it was not a lot of hard work. Since initially discussing the idea of a nature poetry anthology with the staff at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust at Welney and my fellow editor Karen Harvey, a vast amount of work has been done: preparing a timetable, applying for funding, making a call for submissions and publicizing it, arranging the launch, selecting the poems, replying to everyone – and now the copies were here (phew!) sending out press releases, arranging reviews, logistics… All sorts of things.

But the point is, although it is hard work, it is not magic. If you’re willing to put that work in, are fanatically stubborn and eye-wateringly pedantic over proofs and will hover over your pet project like anxious mother hen because you love poetry and poets and, (good though blogs are) really, really, love a nice poetry book as a beautiful physical object, then you can make it happen.

And, importantly, it will happen with a very small initial investment which will enable copies to be sold at an attractive price. Five pounds was my target sale price – high enough for a decent profit for WWT Welney, to raise funds for their conservation work, but low enough for people visiting the reserve to say, well, why not?  Why not buy a nice book of poems?

Why not indeed.

© Elaine Ewart, 2013

Elaine Ewart is a poet and former Fenland Poet Laureate.  She blogs at  

Words for Wide Skies, a nature poetry anthology with a Fenland theme, edited and published by Elaine Ewart, is being launched at the WWT Welney reserve on Friday 21st June and will be available from WWT Welney from that date, price £5.  All profits go to the conservation work at WWT Welney.  For further details, contact WWT Welney by telephone 01353 860711 or by e-mail:


  1. I should also add that the anthology includes previous guest bloggers on Book A Poet, Pete 'Cardinal' Cox and Fenland Poet Laureate Leanne Moden!

  2. Well done, Elaine! I can't wait to get hold of my copy!