Ninety-five percent of books are sold by word-of-mouth. Ninety-five! I knew recommendations from friends, family, and trusted reviewers were important to sales, but I never realized how much.
I shouldn't be surprised, my sister and I introduce each other to new authors and series all the time. Our current (or favorite) reads are something we discuss each visit. I trust her judgement more than any advertisement—partly because she's not trying to sell me on anything, and partly because she's a smart woman who knows my tastes well.
I have a very small circle of people in my life who will read my chapbook. Even less will recommend it to their (mostly) non-poetry-reading pals. I don't want those who read my work to regret it. And, I never want the people closest to me to shill my work out of obligation.
Promotion and marketing still feels yucky to me. I like sharing news about my soon-to-be-published works because I'm excited about them, but there's a line I dread crossing. How do you wear the neon "buy my book" sign? How? I refuse to make connections with an eye on sales (something related to what I touched on early this year).
Maybe I'm not meant to be a poet. This salesman shtick is stressful.
A poetry chapbook generally sells a hundred copies in its entire existence (a full-length collection sells around 300). I realize poetry isn't about the numbers, but I still want to reach people (and not be a "loss" for my presses). It's not about fame or awards... poetry rarely is.