Chapbooks ~ What They Are and What You Can Do With Them

I had a rather long poem I’d written titled When Summoned I Will Say Farewell. I liked the poem and included it in my latest book of poetry; but until then, I didn’t know what to do with it? Most poetry contests limit the length of a poem you are allowed to submit. So, I decided to make this particular poem into a chapbook on its own. What is a chapbook you asked?
A chapbook is an inexpensively-produced thin booklet. It gets its name from the chapmen, or peddlers, that sold these booklets as early as the 16th century. Chapbooks are small in size and often fit into pockets. Chapbook is a catch-all termas the material in the booklet can be anything from religious tracts to nursery rhymes. Some chapbooks may contain political prose, while others hold poetry.
A basic 16 page chapbook can be made by taking eight sheets of standard sized paper, folding them lengthwise and then placing staples in the center fold. You would double the amount of pages to make 32 pages, the maximum of most chapbooks. Some booklets may be as thick as 64 pages, but this are rare for chapbooks.
Chapmen went door-to-door selling the booklets and also sold them at fairs and other public events. They usually received each chapbook on credit from the publisher and then would go back and pay for the printing of each of the copies they had sold. The early chapbook was not only produced in Britain, but also the United States and some parts of South America.
Today the chapbook is mostly associated with poetry and can be inexpensively self-published. Some people self-publish recipes this way also. Cookbook covers in a modern chapbook format are often laminated. Today’s computer software programs make it very easy to produce chapbooks. Chapbook author-publishers sometimes sell their books for a few dollars each on their websites, at poetry readings or perhaps even at an independent bookstore.
There are several places on the Internet where you can find out how to create a chapbook if you’re interested. It makes a fun rainy-day weekend project for you to do with a friend, or family member. Even your kids will enjoy working on it with you. You might even create a chapbook of your child’s drawings or a poem; your spouse’s favorite recipes; a sample chapter of that novel you’ve been writing; or anything that might be a fun keepsake.
I use my chapbooks as give-a-ways to entice people to buy my books.
Try your hand at creating a chapbook. I think once you complete one, you’ll want to do more. Have fun with it, and I’ll see you in the bookstores.

About jimdjordan

I am a poet / writer with two published volumes of poetry titled "Chasing Emily" and "Dance of the Divine". I also have a children's poem book published called "I Found a Spider In My Shoe". In addition to writing poetry I have published my first novel, a mystery/thriller called "Savage Lust". I'm currently working on my second novel to be called "Bone Digger". You can find all of my books at, or through and Barnes & Noble. I currently live in Tulsa, Oklahoma with my wife Jan.
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