Local poet Tiffany Narron has thought a lot about what it takes to share her work with the world.
Apart from the creative undertaking itself, there’s the price to produce, distribute and connect one’s work to a community. “The Cost of Creativity,” a new Xpress series, intends to discuss the financial, mental and emotional components tied to creative endeavors.
For its debut, Xpress speaks with Narron about her evolution from an online blogger to a two-time self-published author, the insights she’s gained along the way and what it means to be part of the local creative sector.
After graduating from UNC Asheville in 2011, Narron began work as a digital marketing specialist, putting aside her creative writing for professional copy. But in 2015, she revisited daily journaling and later enrolled in classes, including Mary Ellen Lough’s Farmhouse Poetry workshops.
These decisions resulted in the 2016 launch of her website, tiffanynarron.com, where she continues to publish her poetry. And while Narron says she remains excited about sharing her work on a digital platform, the poet always envisioned her poetry in print form, as well.
“Even as a naturalist and environmentalist, I still like to read and hold a book and be able to share it with my mom and granny who may not fully understand what a digital blog is,” she explains. “So the first iteration of doing that was a zine I created around the holidays in 2016.”
The 25-page self-published work included poems and handmade collages, as well as inspirations from other artists and personal insights. Over the next two years, she spent an estimated $1,200 in print costs. The positive feedback she received from family and friends led Narron to consider turning the work that she shared as a holiday gift into a business.
“I needed to decide if what I loved could be what I did full time. So in 2019, I started seriously trying to figure out what I would need and how much it would cost,” she says.
A $1,000 grant from the Haywood County Arts Council helped Narron fund her first poetry collection, Soft With Me. She used part of the funding to hire an editor, who “helped with the layout and project management so I could work my day job while someone else kept me on track, which I didn’t even know I needed.”
“I also didn’t know you needed bar codes to be able to sell at any bookstore — indie, corporate or otherwise,” Narron continues. The realization came postproduction, which prevented local shops such as Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café from carrying her debut.
“That was a big eye-opener,” the poet says.
Learning from others
Shortly after producing Soft With Me, Narron joined fellow local poet Daniel Francis for a reading in Hot Springs. Impressed by Francis’ latest book, You Deserve Flowers, Narron picked his brain about online platforms that make self-publishing easier and cheaper.
The conversation and subsequent research led Narron to BookBaby, which provided her with a comprehensive overview of the financial costs required for her latest collection, Letters for Tallulah. The platform’s services, Narrow says, allowed her to focus more on other aspects of the self-publishing process, including social media marketing and fundraising campaigns.
In total, 100 copies of Letters for Tallulah cost $2,200 to produce. The breakdown, says Narron, included $9 to print each copy, $500 for editing, $400 for the book’s artwork and $400-plus for Kickstarter rewards. The poet notes that her professional background as a digital marketing and crowdfunding specialist saved her thousands of additional dollars in production costs.
For Narron, her latest publishing experience reemphasizes the many layers involved in producing creative work and its potential to overwhelm those new to the process. Art, she stresses, requires time, space and resources to emerge. All of which, she continues, can be hard to come by “in a capitalistic culture that has devalued and suppressed” the art of creation.
But the end result, she maintains, is worth the hurdles. “We do this by showing up true to our visions despite the odds.”
The Cost of Creativity intends to offer a behind-the-scenes look at individual artistic projects. If you know someone whose story should be considered for publication, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description. The subject line should be: The Cost of Creativity.