Following the success of their line of Poetry Speaks books, Sourcebooks is moving to dominate–and more importantly grow–the poetry “vertical” with their PoetrySpeaks.com web site.
While the beta version of the site has just launched, it represents over five years of development work and an estimated $250,000 of investment from Sourcebooks. As ceo Dominique Raccah says, “When I did Poetry Speaks [the book] I honestly didn’t know if I was going to sell 2,000, 20,000 or 200,000 copies. What I see as an entrepreneur is that engagement drives sales. And if we get people excited and participating, we’ll find a way to monetize. I know other people have said that, but I’ve actually done it with poetry. The response we’re getting to the site is bigger than anything I’ve ever gotten in my career. We ought to be smart enough to take that excitement and create a set of viable revenue streams for poets and poetry publishers.”
Those initial revenue paths are built around the idea of “iTunes for poetry,” with brief samples to entice sales of individual poetry readings, at 99 cents for audio and text poems, and $1.99 for video versions. They are lining up a retail partner to sell books and CDs (and eventually ebooks and DVDs), which Raccah expects to announce soon, and they will also promote and sell tickets to poetry slams, readings and online performances.
Sourcebooks has plans for a number of other revenue-generating layers to the site, and sees ways for it to become “a tool that will revolutionize poetry education” and curricula as well. Poets and publishers will receive approximately 40 percent of sales revenue. For the moment everything on the site is available for sale throughout the world, and Raccah underscores “we believe in rights and are working to ensure that we have the correct rights info and will sell accordingly.” But she admits that this landscape has been “really challenging.”
Given the desire and need among all poetry organizations and publishers to grow interest and market opportunities, Sourcebooks has found an enthusiastic reception in all corners of the poetry world. (Which demonstrates, interestlingly to us, that in today’s world to develop an innovative and aggressive online approach to a particular community or vertical, you don’t have to start out as one of the dominant players.) Their PoetrySpeaks.com advisory board already includes everyone from Anne Halsey of the Poetry Foundation, poet and Co-Founder of Def Poetry Jam Bruce George, and former Poet Laureate of the US Robert Pinsky.
As Sourcebooks notes in their release, they hope the site can “solve some of the challenges the poets themselves face in getting their work, their message, and themselves in front of readers. Poets will be able to manage their own information, blog if they wish, explain and display their body of work to their own choosing, and even post their speaking or performance schedules. In essence, it’s a social network for poets and poetry lovers.”