What Is a Chapbook?

A chapbook is a small book between 20-40 pages, often saddle-stitched or stapled (like a zine) since the format is designed for smaller print runs or DIY creation. Chapbooks typically contain poetry or stories or a mixture of writing on a particular theme, but they can actually be about anything. How about the range of birds that spend time in your yard, or perhaps a collection of conversations you’ve had with your mother or father? There are endless options when it comes to these small books.

A stack of Chapbooks

What makes these tiny publications so popular?

We live in a world of dwindling attention spans. Wait, I need to check my Instagram feed. Okay, sorry, I’m back. One of the most enduring qualities of a chapbook is that you can finish the entire book in one sitting, perfect for that early morning lift, lunch hour break, or those few precious pages before bed. Short books are an art form in their own way. The fact that the book is so small means the editing, sequencing, and design are critical.

Chapbooks are also a great way to experiment with a style of content that might not have an audience in a longer format. Think about experimental poetry or writing styles that showcase the unique literary prowess of a new or unpublished author. So much of what gets published in the commercial publishing world has to fit everything from genre to character style to economics. Chapbooks are the opposite—free to flow in any direction the author chooses.

A Poetry Chapbook

These pocket-sized books are also the perfect object to self-publish and distribute. Historically, many of the best chapbooks were published by the author, passed around, and collected by avid readers. The perfect way to discover new talent. Also, chapbooks are inexpensive to produce but have proven highly successful even without being sold through a mainstream publisher. Plenty of authors sell their chapbooks through their own website, and if your book takes off it can be a great way to show a publisher that you have an audience ready to consume your work.

Chapbook pages

It’s been said that if a chapbook is good enough, it could even start a revolution. Chapbooks have been the inspiration for literary masterpieces, music, film, and even love. And these small books are collected by institutions and libraries around the world. So, the next time you organize a small body of themed writing, think about this lo-fi, affordable approach to showcasing your work.

If you have a stack of poems, stories, or flash fiction ready to go, what are you waiting for? Turn your collection into a one-of-a-kind chapbook you share with the world using Blurb’s free and easy-to-use book-making software.

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