DIY Five-Step Chapbooks…

…are complicated, like multi-decker sandwiches. But the reward isn’t edible, sadly.

When making chapbooks, first realize that it’s a labor of love that yields expletives and eventually, cute little books. It’s fiddly, time-consuming work. I give you the pros & cons, the why-the-hell-did-I-do-this moments.

1.     Choose your poems. My second chappie is called Five Love Poems. I called my first chappie Five Poems. I sell them for five dollars. It’s my schtick.
Bind your test print pages to make sure that you’ve aligned everything properly.I advise modesty and exhort you to choose some poems not all your poems. You neither want to print more pages than are saleable nor overwhelm your reader with too much content.

           FYI: once you publish a chappie, you can’t re-sell the poems to publishers.

2.     Find a template and modify said template. Google search and you’ll get a few. Also, you can google search images and perhaps find some. Modifying the template will take time. You’ll have to fiddle with alignment, page numbers, etc. If you can use Adobe InDesign instead of Word, then you’re ahead 20 paces. Print your template and check to see that none of your poems are too close to the inner crease or too close to the edge of the page.

           Word to the wise: it’s handmade, so let it have that handmade feel and don’t strive for perfection.

           Template options: eight sheets/twelve poems template,  four sheets/five poems templatetwo sheets/six poems template. If you are interested in doing a long chapbook, you can use the twenty-four sheet/twenty-one poems template with separate cover and back page template.

3.     Craft time. I chose vellum paper for the inside pages so that when readers open the book, all the words bleed together—
romantic, I thought. The downside is that Vellum is about a dollar a page not on sale. I advise using cardstock (can find at Dollarama) for the outer pages no matter what weight of paper you use for the inner pages.

           Decorations are key and should not include cutesy stuff like sparkles that will make you look unprofessional. Keep it clean and simple. I bought two stamps and two stamp colours (black and bronze) and made each cover unique so that people can pick which one they like.

4.     Print all the pages. If you buy cardstock select modes from your printer that say “fine” or “ultra fine” or even “photo” for printing. Print a few versions and see which is best. The cardstock will absorb the ink well, but as they come out of the printer, nab them and separate them, otherwise the ink will bleed onto the next page. If you print on lightweight paper, print in “normal” or “fine” mode (or whatever your printer’s equivalent setting is) so that your ink doesn’t smudge. For lightweight paper do not print with the photo setting or your ink will smudge.

           Buy extra ink and paper. Because I printed on vellum, I had to hand-feed all my pages one by one so they didn’t smudge. I wasted a lot of paper. I used almost two cartridges of ink, too.

5.     Bind the books. I have a wonderful mother who stitched them with her sewing machine. You can also saddle stitch the books.

           It’s a good idea to make a template chappie. Bind your test print pages to make sure that you’ve aligned everything properly.

The question remains, why make chapbooks at all? The first time I sold chapbooks, I sold them all. That put $60 in my pocket after my reading and that felt very nice, almost like I was paid to read. If you have poems that you’ve sent out many times and you’ve had no luck with them, assemble them as a chapbook. Additionally, they give you something to do after reading your work in a place where you don’t know anyone in the audience—people will approach you, instead of you feeling silly about approaching strangers. Sometimes you can make a trade with another author and buy one of their books with one of your chappies plus, say, ten bucks.


One thought on “DIY Five-Step Chapbooks…

  1. Pingback: Taking the Plunge: Self Publication | wyspergrove

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