Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Giving Life to A Death at Tollgate Creek

guest post by Art Elser


Well, I finally got my new book of poetry, A Death at Tollgate Creek: Songs of the Prairie published in both print and eBook formats. I wrote these poems because I want to help others learn that the prairie holds as many wonderful secrets and adventures as do the mountains.

Here in Denver, we tend to face west, to the mountains with its rivers, skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, rafting, kayaking, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the abundance of wildlife, animals, birds, fish and quirky humans.

But the prairie has its draw also, if you know where to look.

When I get confused in life about making important decisions, I try to not make them immediately and take a day or two to think about what's next. And the same holds for my poetry. So I started the publishing project by reminding myself why I write poetry. The first reason is that I love writing it. But to just stuff my poems in the drawer as Emily Dickinson did, leads one to become a frustrated hermit. I want to share my work with others. My goal is not to make lots of money, write a NYT best seller, become famous. I want to share my poetry.

I decided to publish A Death at Tollgate Creek myself after sending out manuscripts of books and chapbooks to contests and journals during their open reading periods over the past four years. Most of the time I didn't even get an acknowledgement that they've thrown the manuscript into the recycle bin. Once in a while I got a form email saying that they enjoyed reading my poems but they are not interested in the book.

I downloaded several books to help me decide how to self-publish:

How to Choose a Self-Publishing Service, Jim Giammatteo & Orna Ross. (Kindle—Discusses pros and cons of all major self-publishing services.)

A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon, Chris McMullen. (Kindle—Limited to how to publish with Amazon, and if you want to use CreateSpace, a good reference.)

Successful Self-Publishing, Joanna Penn. (Kindle—Very useful reference when starting. General so not aimed at one platform.)

Smashwords Style Guide, Mark Coker. (iBook—Smashwords is a great program for publishing in eBook format for all platforms, so a great resource.)

One constant in all the books and online articles I read stood out to me. All recommended hiring a professional to design the cover. I took that advice and hired Abby Hoke of AEB Graphics in Denver, and she designed a cover that I think is beautiful. In my limited marketing, one refrain that pops up is "What a beautiful cover.” And we all know that we DO judge a book by its cover.

A Death at Tollgate Creek is now available at Amazon, B&N, and Indie book stores. In addition to being available in print, it's also available for iBook, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and PDF readers.

Now comes the hard part. I have to figure out how to market it. Much of what I've read about marketing my book says I have to establish a platform. That often means being on many or all of the social media platforms. It means building a website, having an author page on Amazon, subscribing to Goodreads, getting others to write reviews. Others say to do that sparingly and to concentrate on only a few. I've decided that I'm just going to worry about Facebook, this blog, and maybe Twitter.

So I've decided to limit my marketing efforts. I'm not in this to make money, and that's why one markets. I want to spend my time writing. And as this is my first attempt at what is now called Indie Publishing, not self-publishing. I need to use this experience to learn, and I think it better to learn a lot about a few things rather than a little about a lot of things.

I've let writing, poetry, and critique groups I belong to know about the book. I've posted it on Facebook for friends, and I will contact local bookstores along the front range about readings and signings. I have another book of poems almost ready to see the light, but want to continue to write, get that book ready, and not spend my time marketing.

Recently Ted Kooser, US poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, said that, with few exceptions, no one sells lots of books of poetry. Most sell a few hundred if they are lucky. Right now, I think I'll just enjoy getting this baby birthed and watch it play and grow for a while. I enjoy hearing from a few friends that they enjoyed it. I now have the template I can pour the new book into when I'm ready. I have Abby to design another killer cover, and I think I'll have fun seeing the book in print and on my iPhone and laptop. And I'll market it by sharing it with friends.

When my books make the NYT Best Seller List for 18 weeks in a row and money is rolling in at a prodigious rate, I'll consider hiring a consultant to do my marketing.

Lynn chimes in:


I grew up on the prairie, in eastern Wyoming. I can't wait to read A Death at Tollgate Creek: Songs of the Prairie and, according to the lady with the wild hairdo at Barnes and Noble, the book is in the mail.

I will savor the poems (who can turbo-read poetry, really?) and pretend all the while that I am walking through the prairie grasses with Art. I've come to know him as someone who takes the time to really see the world,and he writes about it in a sensory, unique way. I look forward to having Art as my literary guide through one of my favorite landscapes.

I appreciate the resources he has shared with us today, as well as the example he has set. In knowing what he really wants--which is to share his poetry--and letting that drive his decisions, he frees us up to decide what we want from our writing. Sometimes it really isn't fame and fortune. So we can decide how much of the marketing mania we want to take on, without feeling like a failure.

Thanks, Art.


Art’s bio: 


Art Elser retired after 20 years as an Air Force pilot and 30 as a technical writer. He has a PhD in English and taught writing for over 30 years.

His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies, including Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone, Owen Wister Review, High Plains Register, The Human Touch, Science Poetry, The Avocet, Vietnam War Poetry, and A Bird in the Hand: Risk and Flight.

 His chapbook, We Leave the Safety of the Sea, received the Colorado Authors' League Poetry award for 2014. His latest book of poetry is A Death at Tollgate Creek (2017).


1 comment:

  1. Lynn said it so nicely that Art is an "example". He is an example of what we strive for as poets, an example of commitment to his craft, WyoPoets, and his family and friends, and an example of a good human being. It's a nice post and, as always, provides insights into the life of a poet. Thank you, Art, for being you.

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