I’ve been lucky enough to have two chapbooks of poetry published in the last seven years, after struggling for at least two decades. I self-published one chapbook nearly 30 years ago; then in the early 80s I won a chapbook competition through La Reina Press — which went out of business before the chapbook was ever published. In the late 90s a friend started his own press and said he’d publish my chapbook; then his press went under. That’s how it goes in the small press publishing world, but it’s extremely frustrating.
I made shortlists or was a finalist with chapbook manuscripts several times, which was helpful in preventing me from thinking my work was totally useless. I wanted a chapbook out there, though. It was happening for everyone else around me, but there I was, still schlepping along.
I still haven’t won a chapbook contest since the La Reina competition; but the two chapbooks I did finally publish were chosen through competitions. More and more presses with contests use the competitions to find other quality manuscripts they wish to publish. It’s another way to get a reading of your work (although the entry fees can sure add up if you’re really active at entering).
Both are extremely active presses doing beautiful work. If you’re a poet, take a look. (And buy something — if not my chapbook, then someone else’s. Support and read poetry!)