Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Advice to Poetry Publishers & Poets - LDC's Answer to Floetry - Her 1st Publisher, Ed Ochester Speaks

"The future of poetry and fiction largely lies with university presses and small independents. . .".

"A note on patience: it's not advisable, for several reasons, to let a poetry book go out of print within a year or two of publication. One incurs the wrath of the author, of course, but aside from that the fact is that it often takes several years for sales to develop. Poetry reviews are notoriously slow to appear. To a much greater extent than with most other books, poetry depends on word-of-mouth, and that takes a while to percolate to all strata. Lorna Dee Cervantes' Emplumada, for example, had indifferent sales for three or four years before the book began to be used in Mexican-American studies classes, and has been for many years one of our good backlist titles. Billy Collins, our best-selling poet, came to us from William Morrow because he was angry that Morrow had let his most recent book go out of print despite the fact that in a few years it had sold 5000 copies; we reprinted it this spring, and in a couple of months had already sold over 2000 copies."
. . .

Choosing manuscripts is an art, but I have ten rules of thumb, call them commandments, for any press that wishes to establish a poetry series:

1. Select a series editor, a poet who knows what he or she is doing, and involve that person in the promotion process.

2. Avoid manuscript selection by committee.

3. Though a new series may profit from the fame of an outside judge, avoid indiscriminately using such judges.

4. Pay little attention to academic fads.

5. Don't publish poets whose poems are indistinguishable from other poets' poems.

6. Recognize that poetry publishing is a special branch of trade publishing.

7. Place space ads only in journals that target readers of poetry; later, when your budget expands, buy space in such appropriate publications as Women's Review of Books, PW, New York Review of Books, etc.

8. Develop a direct mail plan (the most valuable lists come from Associated Writing Programs, Poets & Writers, and American Poetry Review).

9. Develop a list of appropriate review sources for poetry.

10. Develop a list of annual poetry book awards, and mind their deadlines.
. . . .
ED OCHESTER, editor of the Pitt Poetry Series since 1978, is also professor emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of English, faculty at the Bennington College MFA Writing Program, and a published poet.

University of Toronto Press Inc. 2005. webmaster@utpress.utoronto.ca
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Read the rest here. Like my present publisher, Ed is a fine, fine poet in his own right. Always my advice when it comes to choosing a press, judge for a certain competition ("Competition's for horses." ~ LDC), teacher, mag or cw program: Who "blows the top of your head off" in that Dickinson kinda visceral way, then find a way to get close.

This advice is posted in honor of my current favorite zine editor, Rebecca Livingston at No Tell Motel, for having the balls (sorry, I gotta say this 'cause Reb & Reb-lovers will understand that there is no other way to say this about Reb, although, she herself might say "the breasts") and the critical eye to publish Cynthia Huntington's new long maestrapeace of a poem from the voice of "Suzy Creamcheese" herself. That Cynthia would give this poem to Reb at all, speaks to my point better than I could prosaic it.

Okay, end of another episode of LD has fun with sentences. See ya in Wash., DC. I'll be stuck in the microfiche in My Search For Memphis Minnie, A True Story of the Ephemeral Ephemora of Conversations With Elizabeth Douglas -- someday to be a major motion picture coming to theaters near you some season. (ha!) I'm off to the local segunda to find something stunning to wear to wash 'em away in Washington. YEA! (Payment for 3xRefugee Ship = $575 arrived today. YEA!) As Billy Bragg sings along with me: "Start your own revolution/ And cut out the middle man!/ (chorus) Waiting/ For the great leap forward!"



Blogger Reb said...

Whoah, hey thanks for the kind words and the advice --especially beause I intend on starting a poetry press next year.

I was a student of Ed's and yes, he's wonderful.

p.s. I got the biggest balls of them all. I keep them in a jar underneath my bed.

11/10/05 21:48  

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