If you go to a workshop that is NOT supportive, by the way, run out the door! Creative criticism is one thing, but there's no need to suffer cruelty in this process, in my opinion. By the same token, you'll have to decide whether you want a workshop that is only sharing without comment, or whether you want one that incorporates some gentle criticism.
•••Once your work is accepted, DO NOT send it anywhere else until it's published, or at least until you know who owns the rights. Technically, the venue that accepted it owns the rights, usually until they publish it and, if it's their policy to do so, let the rights revert to you. Some publishers keep the rights forever, hoping to later use the piece in an anthology.
•••Knowing when you're ready to put together a chap relies on friends, on your own intuition and whether you think your work is ready to be viewed in a package, which is what a book is. Some chapbooks/books are theme-based and some are general. Books based on a theme seem to hang together better, in my opinion, but plenty of people do "hits from the hits" books—random selections of poems—successfully, of course. Your choice. But there's no rush on any of this; be confident before you proceed.
•••Learn how to put together a decent-looking package and follow the publisher’s requirements to, literally, the letter. Presentation matters. Again, be organized!
But be careful that you put out a good product! Some of the self-published books I see are tacky-looking and hard to read and would have benefited from at least one more proofing by a competent reader who knew spelling and grammar and could see the mistakes that you’ve glossed over.
I guess self-publishing boils down to what you want from a book: do you want a few copies to hand out to family and friends, or are you trying to take carefully controlled stepping-stones toward a career in poetry? Are you concerned that future publishers (or tenure committees) may look at your “creds” and say, “Hmm. Self-published. Not interested…” Or are you more intrigued by getting a collection together about this or that, maybe have some local audiences come along with you for the ride?
Also: occasionally the “opportunity” comes up for you to pay to be published in an anthology. Be careful about what kind of product they’re talking about, even if it alleges to be a big, fat hard-bound tome for the ages. Is it good quality, or can anybody with the right number of bux be in the book, no matter how awful their work? If in doubt, save your hard-earned cash. There are plenty of anthologies out there that won’t charge you for your work, general collections about everything from food to Fall to footwear. Watch for them.
•••I Street Press (saclibrary.org/istreet) has info and resources for self-publishing, as well as the Espresso Book Machine.
•••Publishing for kids! www.916ink.org