Chapbooks: Nifty Little Promotional Tools

Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved

I belong to a large, active writer's group in my local community, something I highly recommend to any writer. It offers support, networking opportunities, workshops, camaraderie, and a monthly injection of writing energy. We have monthly breakfasts at a local pub/restaurant, and speakers from various corners of the writing world. One speaker not too long ago was a Toronto poet, who talked on the subject of chapbooks.

Chapbooks are "a written (usually printed) story or collection of writings presented in unlimited ways--a booklet, a scroll, a recipe box..." ( from The WCDR Chapbook by the Writer's Circle of Durham Region) They have been a popular choice for poets to self-publish their work and get it into the hands of the public. Our speaker even sold his on the street, like a busker. 

Our writer's group got very excited about chapbooks, and very soon a chapbook festival was being organized. It took place in October and was a huge success. It was immediately apparent to me that chapbooks offered me a lovely, relatively inexpensive tool, that I could use in promoting my work. And it has been fun to design them! 

Some word processing programs offer nifty little tools that help you create booklets easily. If, like me, your computer software is Jurassic in age, then a little creative noodling is needed. Basically, you need heavier cover stock or card stock paper (the color of your choice) for the covers, and for most booklets, standard 20 lb. paper for the interior pages. If you intend to include a lot of graphics, you might want to go to a heavier quality paper for inside so the graphics don't "bleed" through. 

The following is from the WCDR Chapbook Chapbook and illustrates how to do a simple layout. 

"We'll use an eight-page booklet as our example. Take two sheets of paper and fold them in half to make four pages. Each page has two sides, so you actually have eight printed pages or faces in your chapbook. 

If you print it and lay it out yourself, the pages must be printed in a specific order to get it right in the final product...Our example, an eight-page chapbook composed of two sheets of paper each folded in half, is laid out as follows:


Pg.1 (cover) will be on the right opposite Pg.8 (outside back) on the left

Pg.2 will be on the left on the back of Pg.1 opposite Pg.7 (inside back)on the right, on the back of Pg.8

Pg.4 on the left will be opposite Pg. 5 on the right; these two pages will be on the back of Pg.3 on the right and Pg.6 on the left"


It sounds complicated, but if you fold some paper and manually number the pages, then open them out again, you'll see how the pattern falls. You can make your books 8 ½ by 5 ½, or you could make "mini's" that are 5 ½ by 4 ¼. 

But remember, a chapbook doesn't have to be in booklet style. It could be a scroll, a box full of postcards, an accordion folded book, a flip book, an origami shape with a story unlimited number of possibilities. And it doesn't have to be created on a computer. It can be printed by hand, done with elaborate calligraphy, include artwork, use hand made paper! 

Chapbooks can be anything. A chapbook could be a teaser or an excerpt from a recently published or soon to be published work. It could be given out prior to the release of the book to build interest in it, or be included in your press kit. You could produce a chapbook that is a short story related to your novel. For example, prior to the release of your book, a background story about your heroine or hero. Or perhaps after your novel has been published, an epilogue story showing what happens to your characters after the happily ever after ending. Or maybe you could give a minor character from your book, their own story. You could do a book of character sketches of your cast of characters as well. 

Another avenue is to produce a non-fiction partner for your book, such as a collection of recipes mentioned in the novel, or a how-to of some craft or skill your character exhibited. If your novel is historical, you could produce a little background history guide for your readers, or a touristy type treatise regarding your setting. If your novel has fantasy, or sci-fi elements, you could provide a booklet of information regarding your universe's history, language, customs, etc. Look at your novel to see all the tie-ins there are. You might be surprised. Does your heroine have a dog? What about a chapbook on dog grooming, or pet training. Is your hero a doctor? Maybe you could provide a simple guide to living a healthy lifestyle. 

Chapbooks also offer a writer a chance to express personal philosophies, share wisdom, or just plain rant. Consider small collections of essays, or poetry, or short shorts. The only limit is imagination. 

These simple little booklets can be used in a variety of ways. They can be gifts for loyal readers, or for friends and family. They can be giveaways used at signings, or in promotional campaigns. Or they can be prizes in contests you run to promote your work. You could even have them as free downloads offered to fans on your website. 

And they offer another way to generate writing income. Like our visiting poet, you could choose to sell your words on the street. Or it would be relatively easy to offer them for sale on your author's site. Many e-publishers are starting to offer "dollar downloads" of single stories on their sites. Why couldn't you? At our chapbook festival, most chapbooks were selling for between one dollar and five dollars, depending on the size of book. Value your work, and charge accordingly. 

However you envision your chapbooks, they are a nifty little tool for promoting your work. Have fun! 

If you are interested in more information on making chapbooks, check out regarding obtaining their wonderful Chapbook Chapbook. Good words in small packages!



About the Author: Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include 4 novels, 1 collection of short stories, and short stories in three anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website:




Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell