Martha Rhodes of Four Way Books stopped in to talk to the poets about "publishing," which is another one of those gut roiling conversations. Much of what was asked, I knew the answer for, partly from experience editing for Dislocate, but also from other sources, from meek personal experience. So what I have jotted in my notebook may not be useful to every reader as it was for me:
- There is no longer a need to be wary of reading fees. Funding for publishing houses is tight.
- In ordering a manuscript, follow your intuition--make the book the tightest book you can. "I will find the weak poems. They can't hide behind the stronger ones."
- On thematic links within ms: "There has to be some reason why these poems have to be together."
- Consider temperature, thermostatic control--hot poems and cold poems
- (Don't give the editor whiplash)
- Places to search for reputable publishers: AWP, New Pages, CLMP
- It's nice to have a manuscript clipped together (rather than stapled or in a folder, etc.) and mailed in a protected envelope
- Find good readers who are unfamiliar with your work to read through the ms--they won't be as invested and won't already know your "tricks"
- Make sure the contract is legit--run it by someone who might be familiar--know how many books will be published, if it will be kept in print, what the dates and deadlines are, what the marketing plan is, what kind of production input you might have
Her big emphasis was this:
Don't define yourself by the "career stuff"--the bile will rise. If you feel that bile rising, write poems. Focus on writing and growing as a writer. She cited an example of a poet who had all sorts of prestigious awards but shopped his book around for seven years (he ended up winning the Bakeless Prize) and in those seven years, instead of shuffling and reshuffling and focusing on that one book, he kept writing, so that when the ms. was finally accepted, he had three more manuscripts ready to go and has since published a total of five books of poetry. Don't let those other books go because you are being driven to distraction trying to get published.