Pre-selling the Poetry Collection

A few weeks ago, I talked about gearing up to promote the poetry collection. Most of those efforts are meant to happen after the book is released. However, Press 53 also hosts “pre-order” events in which readers can get pre-order a copy of the book and have it signed by the author. So it was a slightly different effort than the outreach that’s going to happen after September 1.

Solving the World's Problems

Solving the World’s Problems

The rules for the “pre-order” event were simple: Anyone who orders a copy of Solving the World’s Problems by August 1, 2013, gets a signed copy of the book–and hopefully before the “official” September 1 release date.

Learning From Mistakes

Initially, I planned to direct all pre-orders to my Press 53 page. And that’s what I did for a while, making mentions in my newsletter, blogs, social media, and other avenues. After a few weeks of effort, I think I had 9 pre-orders. Then, I made a mistake…

I had scheduled a blog post on my personal blog a long time ago that I planned to come back to and fix up before posting. Anyway, my mistake was that I forgot about it, and the post went live–with very little information about the book, but…

Then, pre-orders started flowing into me, even though people didn’t know how much the book cost or how great the blurbs were from Sandra Beasley, Scott Owens, and Nate Pritts (I think Patricia’s may have already been on there). In less than 24 hours, my unfinished blog post had generated more than twice as many sales as all my other efforts (btw, here’s the fixed up version). But why?

My only guess–and it’s just a guess–is that the blog post came from me and invited readers to contact me directly (as opposed to going through a third party–in this case, Press 53). But that mistake changed how I started pre-selling the book.

Direct E-mail Approach

Over the years, I’ve built a personal spreadsheet of connections I’ve made in the writing and publishing fields. This is not a list of everyone I’ve ever met. Rather, these are people who I’ve made connections with either through live events, answering questions, making assignments, having conversations, and more. In fact, I usually use this list to announce cool opportunities like calls for submissions, the April PAD Challenge, and more.


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Anyway, I was planning to send an e-mail directing people to Press 53, but once I made my “mistake” on the blog, I knew I needed to take a “hand sell” approach. So I sent an e-mail out to the list announcing the pre-order event–and I sold a bunch of books. As the deadline drew nearer, I sent a second e-mail–and sold more books.

But that was it. I’m in the “don’t abuse my e-mail list” camp. If I kept blasting my list, maybe I’d make more sales. I might also make a lot of people request to be removed from my list and/or “tune out” whenever I send anything.

Anyway, I found my personal e-mail list outperformed every other method of pre-selling my book. Even with just two sends and a smaller number of followers, friends, readers, connections, etc. This illustrates the power of a well-maintained list.


For fun and to give people some extra incentive to “act now,” I did offer some promotions leading up to the August 1 deadline to pre-order. Everyone who pre-ordered a copy directly from me by July 18 (my birthday) was entered into a raffle to win a signed copy of my self-published chapbook ESCAPE along with Solving the World’s Problems. Glenda Beall and Carol Cooney won that one.

Everyone who pre-ordered a copy directly from me by July 30 was entered into a raffle to win a framed and signed copy of the title poem, “Solving the World’s Problems.” Judy Roney and Marian O’Brien won that one.

Finally, I had a promotion for everyone who pre-ordered a copy (whether through me or Press 53) to be entered into a raffle to win a signed hard copy of the proof of the manuscript with a handwritten original poem–a one of a kind gift. That drawing happened on Wednesday and is being revealed in this post: Sara McNulty is the lucky winner. Congratulations!

Sign, pack, and ship. At 2 in the morning.

Sign, pack, and ship. At 2 in the morning.

Sign and Ship

So the pre-ordering is a lot of fun. Getting three big boxes of books is a lot of fun. Signing them all, stuffing them into envelopes, and addressing the envelopes is even fun…at first. Eventually, if you’ve found enough success, it leads to staying up past 2 in the morning and a sore signature hand.

But even with the sore hand and lack of sleep, I’m floating on cloud 9. The books are now on their way to their destinations, and I’m filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I’m hopeful that everyone will love what they read and share with their friends and family. I’m anxious that everyone will ship the book back to me and say, “I thought I ordered a collection of poems.” Time will tell.


Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. He edits books, creates blog posts, writes a column for the magazine, edits a free weekly newsletter, leads online education, and more fun stuff. A nationally featured speaker, Brewer also curates an insta-poetry series for Virginia Quarterly Review. Voted Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere in 2010, Brewer’s debut full-length poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems, is out from Press 53 (learn more here–or search for it on Amazon). He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


This is part 6 of an 8-part series on getting a poetry collection published. Read a few other installments here:


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3 thoughts on “Pre-selling the Poetry Collection

  1. PressOn

    I received my copy yesterday and have been reading it in spurts since then, including right now. These are thoughtful and thought-provoking poems, accentuated (and perhaps exacerbated) by the lack of punctuation and capitalization and by the use of space in their place (or so it seems to me). I’d like to comment further when I’ve read all the poems, which will take time because, as I said, they are thoughtful and thought-provoking pieces. But congratulations. The book is really here, and I think I can feel some of your pride as I hold it.


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