It seems to me that the problem with all types of poetry publishing is how to get a book distributed nationally. I hear all the time that most small press-published poetry books do not get picked up by the major U.S. book distributor.
And then there's promotion of poetry books. Show of hands: how many authors feel their publisher has sufficiently promoted their book? Or do you feel you had to do too much work -- including mailings, printing your promotional materials, setting up web pages or sites, putting up your book's Amazon page, etc.?
Of course budgets of small presses are tiny and small press publishers are heroes just for continuing. I don't dispute that for a second. Isn't it because so many of us want to sell more poetry books than we want to buy? It doesn't take a math wiz to do the calculations: selling more books than buying them means ever-shrinking budgets for poetry publishers.
Of course, there's self-publishing. And how about changing the equation? Why not buy more books of poetry than you sell? Maybe also encouraging people who aren't poets to read and buy poetry. I have a drawer full of poetry books I give as gifts. My friends groan when I hand them a birthday present, because they know it's a little bit of homework. But they never mind, as they usually like the poets I foist on them.
Foist poetry on someone today! Or start a poetry salon. Or offer your book club a poetry book as their next selection. I made my book club read a Mary Oliver book that also had prose, to ease them in gently. No one had a problem with it.
About self-publishing: my agent (for a prose memoir) suggested I consider self-publishing as an alternative to publishing with a small press. I would make more money, she said. What a shocker. It gave me a whole idea: to think like a publisher. Sometimes it's an exciting thought. Sometimes an exhausting one.
Interesting times in literature, if you make them interesting.