A Guide to Chapbooks- What, How and Why

A Guide to Chapbooks- What, How and Why

What is a chapbook? A chapbook, also known as an art book, is a small book of poems or stories. The term “chap” derives from “chapte,” which means to cut or divide. Chapbooks are created by authors and artists who want to distribute larger bodies of work without the hassle of full-length publishing books. 

This article will cover what you need to know about writing a chapbook, publishing one, and publishing tips and tricks that you can use in your creative journey, so let’s get started!

Table of Contents

The History Of Chapbooks

Chapbooks originally date back to the 1500s, known as “incunabula,” meaning an early printed book. They evolved throughout time and eventually became popular in 19th century England. At this point, chapbooks had become mass-produced items purchased for low prices (usually about sixpence). 

Generally speaking, these books did not include many illustrations because publishing them meant printing on thin paper; anything more than text would have required thicker paper stock or multiple pages, which would cause costs to rise.

Some early examples of chapbooks include “A Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye” (1561), “The Merry Tales and Quick Answers of George Peele” (1567) and “England’s Helicon”(1600).

In 1732, a chapbook titled “Poems on Several Occasions by Mr Pope” was sold in London bookstores for one shilling or two pence depending on how many it contained within its pages. This example shows that more expensive books would have been printed with more content inside them while cheaper ones had less to offer readers, which is still somewhat true today! 

This trend of selling ‘less-dense bodies of work, continued into the 19th century. In 1837, The Saturday Magazine published a chapbook called “The Poet’s Vade Mecum”, which sold for five pence and contained seventy-two pages of poetry by well-known authors such as Robert Bloomfield, EH Cobbold, William Lisle Bowles and Mary Shelley.

In the 1900s, chapbooks became less popular. They were issued sporadically and often came out in limited editions of 300 or 400 copies for collectors.

Today chapbook publishing is not standard but still exists because many writers enjoy creating mini-collections to sell at book fairs. Before promoting their work online, some authors even turn to self-publishing through print on demand services like lulu.com or blurb.com.

Do Chapbooks Still Exist In 2021?

Although not as popular, chapbooks still exist. They are most commonly used for self-promotion by authors and artists who want to sell their work at book fairs or meetups, but they are also prominent in art galleries and bookstores!

Artists now use Chapbooks to distribute their work in a way that lets them reach more people. For example, when artists create a chapbook, they can add little notes and drawings to make it unique for readers!

Writers also use chapbooks to get their work to new readers and expose them to their writing styles.

Where Can You Find Chapbooks

In 2021?

Several places still carry chapbooks such as bookstores, libraries and even museums. Some artists choose to sell their work on Etsy or through the Amazon Marketplace because trading online is always an option!

You can also find great chapbooks on Websites such as Lulu.com, a print on demand website that will allow you to publish your work, whether it’s poetry or prose!

If using Lulu doesn’t appeal to you, then there are plenty of other options; DropBox Paper, Google Docs and even Word can all be used as publishing tools for self-publishing chapbooks in 2021!

Why You Should Publish A Chapbook

It’s always nice for fans who couldn’t attend an event to pick up some merch still or read through your poems/stories/essays written on-site without having gone yourself.

There are many benefits to publishing a chapbook, including exposing you to new readers, gaining more exposure and getting your work in front of more people.

Chapbooks are also very affordable! It’s easier than ever before to publish one because print-on-demand services like Amazon’s service allow anyone to create their collection without worrying about anything other than the writing itself.

You can also use your chapbook to create a portfolio of your work which will help you advance in the writing field!

Publishing Tips And Tricks When Publishing A Chapbook

  • Use standard-sized paper with regular margins. You can use any font but try to keep it within reason so that people can still read through without becoming distracted by how pretty or ugly the text looks on each page.
  • Try using white pages for each chapter; this makes it easier to read and easy on the eyes. 
  • Don’t forget about covers either; choose something memorable and eye-catching that will make readers stop in their tracks!
  • Highlight your best work
  • Include personalised footnotes
  • Include bookmarks or posters
  • Make sure it is affordable for readers!
  • Don’t forget to include contact details and your social media links.
  • Make your chapbook available in as many places and formats as possible:

– print copy

– e-book

– audiobook 

  • Make sure you include a bio or author statement with your chapbook, so readers know who they’re supporting. It is crucial if you haven’t published anything before, as it will help them get familiar with the type of writing styles that interest them most, so don’t be afraid to let people know about yourself! You never know what might come from this opportunity.
  • You should also think about how long each chapter should be when publishing a chapbook; try not to have too big a difference between one page and the next otherwise, things could feel out of place while reading through.

Chapbook Alternatives

If you’re not entirely convinced about the concept of a chapbook, you should also consider creating an e-book instead! It is a great way to get your work out there, and they may be just as affordable, if not cheaper.

You can also sell digital copies at events or even put them onto your websites and circulate them digitally on social media platforms.

If publishing through Amazon Marketplace or Etsy doesn’t appeal to you either, try looking into Websites like Blurb, which will allow you to sell your book online without having to worry about printing, distributing or even worrying that someone may steal the contents before they have a chance to read it!

What Are Hybrid Chapbooks

Hybrid Chapbooks are a combination of a print on demand book and an ebook. They give the reader more options as they can enjoy reading through your work in different formats depending on what works best for them at any given time!

Chapbook Mistakes You Should Avoid

  • Try not to overprice your chapbook, as this will just put people off buying it.
  • Do not include too many illustrations or fancy fonts, as they can distract readers from the words presented to them, defeating the whole purpose of publishing a chapbook!
  • Don’t forget about marketing yourself and your work; talk to others about how you’ve come up with such a fantastic collection so they can share in your excitement too – who knows where their interest may lead.
  • Remember to abstain from self-promotion; it can come across as quite rude and turn people off from your book! You should also avoid being too pushy or sales-driven in the way you market yourself.
  • Don’t forget to ask for feedback after publishing a chapbook; this will help you better write more engaging material while understanding how readers react to what they’ve read.
  • Chapbooks are miniature works of art that everyone can enjoy, so try not just thinking about releasing one on paper but looking into other ways such as audiobooks which might appeal to even more people!
  • Lastly, when publishing your chapbook, don’t be afraid to go with your gut feeling and release something you love – this will be more rewarding in the long run than producing something just because it’s what people expect of you!


Chapbooks are a great way to get your fans excited about your work. It’s like giving them a taste of what’s to come. Try not to just think about how they might look on paper but also consider other creative ways to present them through audiobooks and digital versions! 

So do you have a few poems that all centre around a unifying theme? Are you thinking about publishing an anthology? Do you have a couple of off-cut poems that you’re not sure what to do with them? Perhaps you might want to consider publishing your chapbook.

It may seem like quite an undertaking at first, especially trying to find places where people can purchase your book without much trouble, but trust me when I say it’s all worth it in the end!

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