Reading and Writing Poetry, Writing

Pamphlet or full collection?

Can I sound you out about something?

What do you prefer reading, pamphlets or full collections?  Do you buy either, both, or none?

What about writing?  Have you published a pamphlet or a full collection or both?  Which came first? Why?  Have you published more than one pamphlet?  Have you NEVER published a pamphlet?  Did you go straight for a collection before a pamphlet?  Did you publish a collection and then a pamphlet? Why? Why? Why? and what was it like and how did you go about it?

Are you putting together a pamphlet or a collection? which will it be? how do you know if it’s a pamphlet or a collection?

If you published a pamphlet first and then a full collection, did you include poems from the pamphlet in your collection? how many?

All your thoughts, ideas and comments welcomed. Thank you!

(image from Metropolitan Museum of Art  Joséphine-Éléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Béarn (1825–1860), Princesse de Broglie by Ingres)

38 thoughts on “Pamphlet or full collection?”

  1. I’ll try and answer in order – I’m very interested to see everybody’s answers!

    I read and buy both pamphlets and collections. If a poet has piqued my interest it doesn’t matter what form their work is in, I’ll want to get my hands on it. After a poet has published a collection though I’m likely to go for that rather than the pamphlet – more metre for my money etc.

    I’m just coming to the end of my first year doing a PhD in poetry – I’m putting together a collection. This is in part due to the format of the course and also because I’ve started writing quite few poetic series and I think they lend themselves better to collections.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Josephine. I’ve had a pamphlet published then a book. I buy both. I love both. I don’t have a preference. Pamphlets can be wonderful, full collections can be great, but they need careful editing so they don’t get overblown -less is sometimes more. Also, some full collections lack focus.

    I think it’s all about what is right for you as a poet at a given time. My pamphlet was published first because I was pretty much a novice. I had had publications in magazines, but didn’t have enough poems, and was far from ready, for a book. The pamphlet felt manageable with what I had so far so I entered a competition and won. I had put in a few years of work- reading and writing- and been very dedicated in order to get to that stage.
    It is easy to be impatient as a poet! The pamphlet was a little daunting and I was fortunate to have some help from a very good mentor- part of the prize- to weed out poems that weren’t very good. I also had a lovely publisher (who is not doing any more pamphlets, in case people want to approach them) so the whole experience was fab. I did a couple of launch readings and got some good reviews. I do know others who’s work went largely un-reviewed- it really is a lottery.

    I did include poems from my pamphlet in the full collection, but these were interspersed.
    They need to the best from the pamphlet so people who have read them before are pleased to see them, and be weaved in carefully and form a realionship with the newer poems. I have bought collections that have been a little disappointing in that the whole pamphlet, or nearly all of it, is in there. I suppose a lot depends on how the pamphlet did.

    I’ve got another full collection coming out next year (4 years after the last) because I’ve been writing for England for the past couple of years and had a few left over from last time, a nice position to be in, I know. If I didn’t I might like the opportunity of publishing a pamphlet- particularly if it had a concept, was a collaboration or made me write in a different way.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Roy. Yes, true, a full collection can seem to lack focus although I enjoy a variety of themes and sometimes feel weary reading a whole collection around one theme. I like the reasons you give for opting for a pamphlet and there is something about the shorter form which encourages experimentation. This is all helpful, thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for asking- made me think about this again. I too have been wearied by the ‘one theme’ approach, or even by really long sequences. Also, another thought- I have a poet friend who has a full collection out and feels he kind of missed out by not having a pamphlet – I think he thinks there’s something special about them and maybe that they are kind of a rite of passage. From a commercial point of view they are certainly easier to sell- not that that should be a deciding factor. Personally, the benefit of having a pamphlet out first was that I had a smaller canvas to start with, and that helped me get to grips with the material. The experience made my collection much better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There’s nothing to stop a poet with a full collection publishing a pamphlet – as long as they find a publisher, obviously. There IS something special about pamphlets, especially if they’re beautifully produced. Thanks, again! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. As a poet, I can understand why it might be better to publish a pamphlet/chapbook, as they are thematically more linked, can be published faster (usually), are generally more flexible. However, as a reader, I have to admit I tend to buy collections rather than pamphlets. Call me a philistine, but I feel I get better value for money with a nice thick volume (besides, even full poetry collections tend to be slimmer books than a novel). I know this is a stupid way to think about it, but there is some primitive satisfaction about holding a chunky (but not overpowering) volume in your hands!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What valuable points you make, Marina. From a writer’s perspective, I’ve noticed how convenient it is to have a pamphlet to sell at readings. As a reader, I’ve bought many pamphlets and collections over the last five years. You’re right, I DO ask myself that question before I make a purchase: “is it worth the cover price?” and as I’m becoming a more discerning reader I more frequently answer “no” these days. But your mention of “primitive satisfaction” makes me think of the production values of a book or pamphlet and that is something I also consider before I part with my cash. Very interesting points, thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I must confess to not being entirely sure where a pamphlet ends and a collection begins. All of the poetry on my shelves comprises of fairly thick volumes which indicates to me they are collections rather than pamphlets. However I still think there is a grey area as regards what constitutes a pamphlet as opposed to a full collection. My latest poetry book, “Lost in the Labyrinth of My Mind” consists of some 88 poems which indicates to me that it is a collection rather than a pamphlet. Best. Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I haven’t published either, mostly because of the trouble you have to go to in persuading publishers you deserve it! I don’t like the idea of ‘winning’ a publishing opportunity and also there is a limit to the amendments to poems I want to make if suggested by a publisher. I also note, on courses and workshops, that few collections/pamphlets are bought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lynda.

      “I haven’t published either, mostly because of the trouble you have to go to in persuading publishers you deserve it!”

      – In my experience, it’s a case of sending your collection of poems to a publisher and waiting for their response. Not exactly “trouble” but quite a difficult experience when you receive multiple rejections (as many poets do, of course – me included!).

      “also there is a limit to the amendments to poems I want to make if suggested by a publisher.”

      – I’ve only published one pamphlet but my experience of being edited was really enjoyable. I had the final say about amendments but there was a healthy discussion about some poems. I have heard of famous, ‘big name’ editors offering no suggestions at all and publishing the collection exactly as the poet sent it – and the collection has then gone on to win accolades and awards. Once you get talking to poets about their editorial experiences you realise there’s no set way of going about it!

      “I also note, on courses and workshops, that few collections/pamphlets are bought.”

      – that’s probably because the poet isn’t there to sell his/her work but to teach a course/workshop, no? I *think* most poets sell most of their work at readings, rather than at workshops.

      Thanks for your comments! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. As a reader, I definitely read and want to read both. Pamphlets sell better at readings and bookfairs I think (most people can scrape together a spare fiver) but worse in bookshops (they get lost on the shelves as they have no spine – even getting bookshops to stock them is quite hard).

    I think pamphlets that are ‘conceptual’ or themed work very well as a theme’s easier to sustain for the shorter length. I think collections that are entirely themed might struggle unless they’re very strong.

    As a writer this is something that I am grappling with a lot at the moment, and I don’t really know the answer. I had a pamphlet in 2012 so am feeling the urge to publish again but think that a full collection would be a stretch for me at the moment. More pamphlets mean (if you want to be strategic about it) that your name is better known when you do get the book. Also there are a lot of prizes for first collections so it seems like a good idea to work up to that and wait until I’m ready. I think there is also a tension between letting the work go too soon and the tendency to hang onto it as quite a perfectionist. But I don’t know how to reconcile these things really.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Again, glorious, helpful answers, thank you! I hadn’t thought about prizes at all – I just don’t think I’m in the league of winning a big prize and, if I’m honest, I think I would need to be published by one of the big poetry publishers to be in with any kind of chance – and that isn’t going to happen for me. I do, I so do, feel the tension between wanting to publish again (my collection was out in very late 2014, so 2015 really) and not being ready. Plus, you know, the age thing. I think I’d always imagined I would be able to incorporate a healthy selection of poems from my first pamphlet into my first collection – but I know not all publishers like that. You’ve given me more rich food for thought, Suzannah/Owl. Thank you 🙂 x


      1. I’m intrigued by the question, Josephine. I wonder if I’d stopped to think about it whether I’d ever have done anything about it. I did my first pamphlet to see if I could. On the Nike principle of ‘just do it’. You can find a sympathetic printer. I found mine after he did the order of service one for my mum’s funeral, and we just got chatting. A pamphlet was just the right length for what I wanted to do. Put a dust jacket on it as the Poetry Business do, and you hide the staples. Not many small printers can do a chapbook…..which is perfect bound. It was cheap enough to get 75 printed. When I sold them,I had enough money for a reprint and to do do another pamphlet. When you have stuff to sell at readings (and they’re cheap) you start to get ‘known,….and maybe you can start to think about a collection. At which point you’re in the lottery business. I had a chapbook published because it was the prize for a competition. I’m now putting a collection together for later this year. Uncharted territory, though it’s rather wonderful to have an editor who makes decisions for you. And, this is personal, it seems to me that a collection tends to be a cluster of short pamphlets. A single-themed collection can be a bit heavy weather unless it’s as good as ‘The world’s wife’, and a collection of thematically unrelated poems is going to feel a bit fragmented, or like an anthology. There you go. Arrant nonsense, probably xxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks so much for dropping in and telling us your story, John! I’m enjoying this collection of growing stories. Every experience is different. I like the thought of a cluster of short pamphlets, perhaps divided by quotes (or titles or even illustrations….) VERY best wishes with your next publication 🙂 xx


      3. Maybe thinking of prizes is a bit egotistical (certainly the glory that’s associated with them is all ego and not very ‘real’ or about poems) but running alongside it is a sort of feeling that I don’t want to bring out a book unless I feel like it’s the best I can do, and that perhaps I’m still learning at the moment?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes, although I will NEVER feel any poem is the best I can do, I ALWAYS want it to be better. I’ve reached the point where I might publish because I feel a poem (or collection of poems) is as good as I can make it at this moment. I’m looking forward to whatever you publish next, Suzannah. 🙂


  8. I buy both pamphlets and collections. I don’t prefer one over the other. I buy poetry books faster than I can read them – because I buy everything my favourite poets publish/because I’ve enjoyed poems I’ve heard at a reading or read online (it’s always exciting to ‘discover’ a ‘new’ poet) or feel compelled to buy after reading a review (another poet once said, ‘who buys poetry on the strength of a review?’ I do).
    I do think there is a growing trend for themed publications and that those that aren’t are sometimes judged unfairly. I don’t have a strong preference either way.
    From personal experience, I’d say it’s more difficult to get pamphlets reviewed as some editors state that they only review full collections.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great points, Jayne (really good points on this thread!). I’ve been prompted to buy because of a wonderful live reading, liking a poem online – and, yes, reviews have influenced me, as well. Yes, it’s true about pamphlet/full collection reviews, although there MUST be a reason some pamphlets are reviewed and others aren’t but I’ll leave that for others to consider. My main criticism for ‘themed’ collections is when there appear to be poems which were written to theme – sometimes it seems obvious – rather than poems which developed more naturally. I think this is one of the dangers. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and adding to this thread! 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Over the past 20 years (since my first stroke), I have been attending a huge number of “poetry events”, linking with poets I meet there on Facebook, disseminating my sole 2003 chapbook, and writing for “the next collection” for which I have the title (Hurry Up Please: It’s Time from The Waste Land) and am gradually amassing poems many of which have been published in small magazines or online.
    There is a magic about the brevity of pamphlets and chapbooks, and the collections I buy are usually by fairly well-established poets whose work I taste on poetry sites, especially this one, and Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.
    There are certain publishers whose Stock Lists I check out regularly, and Inpress Books is an admirable and comprehensive site as is Bloodaxe.
    I’m glad we have been asked to consider these matters, Josephine – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I buy and enjoy both, though I admit I’m hazy on the distinction. Some say pages (with 32 or 35 as the dividing line) other say spine. I’ve published 6 things between 32 and 48 pages, which I refer to as chapbooks, for lack of a better term. I guess I like the focus of a shorter sequence. I do worry about the assumptions implied by the term ‘full’ collection, especially when that means pamphlets are seen as stepping stones or a lesser aim. I only want the form to suit the content, same as I would for any poem. Although some feel padded out, the standard 64-page length feels more and more limiting in both directions, with so many interesting books that are much longer as well. Again, I only expect the container to fit the work.

    Thanks for asking – I wish these things were discussed more often!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, ‘full’ does imply ‘less full’/’empty(?)’ is inferior, I hadn’t thought about that!

      “I only want the form to suit the content, same as I would for any poem” – yes! exactly! that has to be the starting point when considering pamphlet/longer collection.

      Thanks so much for adding to the thread 🙂


    2. If it helps, Heather, the progression I’ve followed is to buy and scour several of the interesting-sounding little magazines listed by The Poetry Library on South Bank, but available on the Net. At least taking the trouble to buy their magazine may dispose an Editor to at least give you an opportunity to be considered.
      I then chose three poems I felt satisfied with and submitted them to magazines which seemed promising.
      Once I’d had about 25 poems accepted by various magazines, I looked for those which offer a chapbook publication service, and was fortunate that Joseph Hemmings, then editor of DIAL 147 literary magazine, wished to publish and distribute to subscribers my first chapbook – in publishing as in life building friendly relationships is the key to poetic success.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting points here from everyone. Loved reading them. As I’ve never published either a pamphlet or a collection (if only) I have to say that I buy and read both from other poets. Like someone here said, if a poet interests me I will buy whatever is available. I’ve always thought that publishing a pamphlet was a step towards a full collection and that to get even a pamphlet published you need a ‘track record’ of poems having been published in well known poetry magazine. Is this right?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It really depends on the publisher, Heather. There are some pamphlet competitions which are judged by the quality of the poems, regardless of whether they’ve already been published in magazines. Obviously a good track record of publication in different magazines indicates to a publisher that the poet has a readership of sorts. Personally, I published in magazines before I looked for a pamphlet publisher and I continue to try to publish in magazines – if nothing else, it gives me some feedback on my progress. Thanks for reading and commenting and continued best wishes with your writing! 🙂


  12. I think it depends what your motives are.
    Pamphlets have a few advantages. They are smaller, so the quality is higher. As a consequence they are easier to theme. They cost less, so can be sold for less. You can also publish more of them, and see the sales feedback on the popularity of different examples of your writing.
    Poetry (unless you are CAD or Heaney) does not sell itself, so be prepared to do the hard yards, flogging them at poetry evenings. The good news is that able performers of poetry, with good quality, popular work, can sell far more copies than those who entrust their work to a publisher and hope.
    Collections are visually more satisfying, and nice to keep, but keeping the standard high can be a challenge.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What interesting comments! I’m currently working on my first pamphlet. I’ll read poetry in any format, but I especially like pamphlets that are produced to a very high standard (I’m thinking HappenStance here, with its glorious typesetting and simple illustrations). I like the idea of something being ‘small but perfectly formed’, I guess.
    I do prefer pamphlets or collections to have some kind of structure to them – not exactly a theme as such, but maybe strands of an idea (however loose) being threaded through them. As a reader, I enjoy teasing out the connections and guessing at possible thought processes at work. I like pamphlets because it feels as though I can hold all the poems in my head and can have a sense of the whole, made up of its constituent parts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Sarah, HappenStance makes exquisite pamphlets, I couldn’t agree more! Yes, loose strands of an idea threaded through, how beautifully you put it, and even better if we readers are able to “tease out connections” – yes! Thanks so much for adding value to a rich page of comments and best wishes with your pamphlet – who will publish it, is that decided?


  14. What an interesting thread, I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts! I buy both pamphlets and full collections equally. If a poet has a full collection out and I know I love their work, I’ll probably go for that first, but I often end up buying their pamphlets too if I’ve really enjoyed it. And there’s something fun about hunting down someone’s old pamphlet that might be out of print or hard to get hold of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for these comments, Charlotte 🙂 I agree, it’s exciting to find an out of print book or pamphlet especially if it’s one of a small print run. Glad you’ve enjoyed the thread and thank you for adding to it!


  15. I like both and buy both – a full collection gives scope to cover as many themes as one writes about in one collection – a pamphlet, for me, is an opportunity to focus on one topic in detail, though I have pamphlets which are simply a taster of different styles of poetry.

    Good luck, whichever way you go 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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