I am on an ambitious mission to raise not only awareness of chapbooks, but also the standards by which they are crafted. The benefits would be two-fold: On one hand, readers would likely be more inclined to pick up a copy if it were crisp, substantial, containing some color and not just looking like photocopied pages stapled together. On the other hand, more authors and poets would embrace chapbooks as a vehicle for delivering their words if they were to know that they could trust the chapbook’s presentation. It’s a win-win for readers and writers, but what about the publishers? They can win, too.
Many chapbook publishers, however, showcase economy in production and manifest shortcuts in the final product. Many of them would grumble at the expense of quality paper (over ten cents per sheet), and then there is ink, and wear and tear on printers, and plenty of time spent on presentation. However, in the long run, it is not a loss, because with an exercise of integrity, what is gained is much larger than initial small profits: trust.
With integrity comes confidence that trust will be fostered and good seeds will be cultivated. With trust comes repeat business, and referrals, and growth.
There will always be new novels written, and there will always be a need for book-printers, but there is something quaint, something “made with love” about chapbooks – something that is missing entirely from full-sized books. It is the responsibility of chapbook publishers to make the chapbook reading experience as pleasant, even indulgent as possible, for the eyes as well as the mind, and the place to begin improving is with presentation.
Writers: Request that chapbook publishers lower their prices or raise their standards if they do not use at least twenty-four pound paper, and if they do not print in color, and if they do not trim the edges – gratis – for presentation’s sake! Such publishers who would not abide by standards of integrity should not be in the business to lower the standards of what should be a fine literary craft, and a high-demand reading niche.