If Poetry is Meaningful to You…

…Please Buy Poetry Books.

A PSA from the poet, Ellen Bass


If poetry is meaningful to you, please buy poetry books. It’s great to read poems
from these handouts and to read poems online, but the main way you can express
your appreciation for poetry and contemporary poets is to buy the books.


Poets don’t make much on the sale of their books, so when you buy a poet’s books
you’re probably not going to affect their income significantly. For example, I make
less than $1.50 on each book sold. If I sell 5,000 books that would be $7,500. If it
takes me on average 7 years to write a book, that’s about $1,000 a year. If I sell
double that many, it’s $2,000 a year. Those are robust sales for poetry. So, you
can see that whether or not you buy my book, my financial life will remain more or
less the same.

However, it is extremely important that you buy the books of contemporary poets!

Why? Because publishers cannot continue to publish poetry unless you buy it.
Especially our non-commercial publishers and publishers who publish poetry
exclusively. They can’t make up the money they lose on poetry by publishing
bestsellers the way that the large publishing houses can compensate with fiction
and non-fiction which sells astronomically more copies. The pandemic hit these
presses hard because they haven’t been able to sell at conferences, festivals and
other gatherings, so it’s especially important now. But even as we gather in person
again, the need remains.

This is also the reason it’s important to buy new books. (Buying used books is
okay if you’re buying best sellers—not poetry). Neither poets nor, most
importantly, publishers make any money if you buy used poetry books.

Also, if poetry is important to you, please support our independent bookstores.
You can order through Indiebound.org or Bookshop.org or your own favorite
independent bookstore. It will cost a little bit more than Amazon, but if we love
books, we need our independent bookstores. They can’t stay alive without you.

I know that some of you have lost work and some simply are not in a position to
buy books now, so you are exempt (temporarily). At least you’re exempt if you’re
not buying cappuccinos. If you can buy a cappuccino, you can buy a book. But the
rest of you—buy books!

And, a tip: poetry books make great presents. There isn’t much that costs under
$20 that is as meaningful—and appreciated—as a poetry book. And it’s something
that the average person can’t buy for themself. People who aren’t familiar with
contemporary poets don’t usually know where to start or who they might enjoy
reading in the profusion of poetry. But you are in a position to be a curator and to
choose books by poets who you think they’d like—and usually you’ll be right. I
know one poetry-lover who always buys two copies of every book she buys. One
for herself and one to give away. You might want to follow her excellent example!

Published by Sulima Malzin

This 'Aging Rascal & Occasional Writer' invites you to embrace the world through her open window of poetry, art, activism, music, and humor.

Notify of
Inline Feedback
View all comments
I'd love your thoughts, please share!x