Breaking news - the poetry market is down

Posted by Ken Edwards on Thursday, May 30, 2013 Under: writing
The news that Salt Publishing is pulling out of doing single-author poetry collections may have made Carol Ann Duffy "extremely sad" but has met with a more considered response elsewhere.

Salt were in many respects pioneers, and, as I have mentioned before in this space, Reality Street would probably not be surviving now had I not been impressed with Chris Hamilton-Emery's blazing a trail in print-on-demand publishing.

But, as I have also said before, the idea of trying to make a profit out of the "poetry market" seems to me to be bonkers. I am certainly not averse to markets - unlike some in radical politics/writing circles whose stance on "capitalism" is often a thinly disguised and unpleasant echo of traditional upper-middle class British snobbish attitudes to "trade" - but if I were currently casting around for a way to earn my living I would consider selling vegetables on a stall well before flogging poetry books. (Check out the first link above for the scary Nielsen Bookscan figures showing exactly what are the big sellers in the "poetry market".)

Or perhaps not. A cynical view might be that Salt used their Cambridge contacts to muscle in on the poetry scene, firstly scooping up all the post-avant talent and issuing a torrent of frequently excellent books by poets who deserved the attention but would never previously have had a hope of achieving substantial collections; then, when that source was exhausted, using the prestige gained and wielding promises of publishing new talent on a grand scale to leverage massive grant aid. And now, to continue to mix metaphors, that bubble has well and truly burst, as it always was going to, but the upside is that Salt is established as a mainstream publisher, well positioned to make a play for the big prizes....

Oh, what the hell. Is the poetry market down? Well, people are buying less of everything. It's called a recession, folks. So far as Reality Street is concerned, we hit a spike in 2008 when The Reality Street Book of Sonnets and Paul Griffiths' let me tell you were published to (in our modest terms) popular acclaim. We are talking sales in hundreds, not thousands. That was credit crunch year. The following year sales dipped sharply, and have been 
static or creeping up very slowly ever since. It's hard to interest anybody in a collection by a single poet. It always was. 

In : writing 

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Ken Edwards This blog is written by Ken Edwards, co-founder and editor/publisher of Reality Street, and it's mainly about the press. Ken's personal blog can now be found at