Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tour heats up; poets & publishing part III

Work these days is a challenge because of Earl-related projects. Plus Taylor’s case is cooking up; a story will be out in a major Florida newspaper soon. I’ll keep you posted--the reporter just interviewed me yesterday.

In the next 10 days, I’ll sign in Fernandina Beach, Miami and Savannah. Details are always posted on my Author Visits page. If you’re near any of those areas, come by and say hello.

How my poetry got published

We decided on the Florida move shortly after my self-published collection came out. I’d originally planned to do a small scale book tour. But then my daughter got sick, America was attacked, and the housing market in our area was like the last pancake on a plate: flat, cold and unappetizing.

Of course, that all resolved itself in time, and in 2002, we finally reunited the family in Florida. I did a few book events after joining Florida Writers’ Association, an organization that connected me to Caryn Suarez, consummate events organizer. Barnes and Noble asked me to start facilitating their poetry group and that evolved into the Community Poetry Series. Two different publishers, both respected by many in the lit field, approached me about doing my book. I declined because neither publisher was a good fit for my situation. Sounds crazy I know, but who gets rich off poetry? You may as well hold out for what you want.

A subsidy press also approached me, but that wasn’t an option. I already had two presses who’d invest their own money. Why should I invest my own?

Then I met a publisher, Frank Gromling, at a writers’ festival. We talked and I liked his vision for his press, Ocean Publishing, and he was impressive. So I began to urge him to publish my work. He declined a couple of times, explaining that poetry wasn’t something he knew how to market. I persisted. We talked a few more times. Eventually, he agreed, and one of the most significant relationships in my career was formed.

Bear in mind that my ability to find a publisher was based on personal contact, on people who knew me, who’d heard me read, and who knew I would work. All the presses were commercial. They made their money from book sales, not from contest fees.

A press driven by sales is the only one I can support. I figure if the press survives, it means the books drove that success rather than a lot of naïve people who cough up fees to have their manuscripts rejected. Don’t take offense if you’ve won a major literary contest. That’s fine by me. But I think unless you’re very cozy with literati or involved in an academic program, you are not likely to win such a contest. I wrote about this in my first book, long before others were looking at contests in a suspect way. So if you’re, say, a banker by day and a poet by night, keep your contest fee. Just my personal opinion.

Anyway, the book came out, I hit the road, and we sold enough copies—I honestly don’t know exactly how many because I haven’t added up all the royalty reports. I stopped adding at around 600 copies and that was last year. A year ago, my publisher said he printed 2,000 and had 1,000 more to distribute (Jacksonville Business Journal, 12-31-03). I spoke to a lot of groups, mostly professional or educational groups, and read at a lot of festivals and bookstores. Most of the people who bought my book are not poets, or at least the ones who bought a signed copy.

So then my publisher agreed to do my nonfiction book and we are seeing a lot of interest and book stores always say ‘yes’ when I want to sign and the nonfiction book outsells the poetry book by a ratio of roughly 12:1.

Sad but true.

Throughout the years I submitted to magazines and saw my work get published in respected journals, though not the type that your average AWP type lusts after. I don’t really submit poetry to many journals, although I did recently receive a rejection from Pedestal, the online magazine. I have options for publishing another poetry book once I’m finished editing new work, but the next book out will be Taylor’s story and that’s nonfiction. But I figure I’d just as soon see most of my poetry published in a collection rather than journals in various incarnations. Plus I just don’t have time to do a lot of poetry submitting these days.

That’s basically my story.

I’ll do a sort of publishing tips for poets for part IV. Then I’m going to put this series on my Net site. That way, when poets email me and ask how they can get their book published, I can tell them good luck and send them a link.

Question, if you’re reading:
How’d you get your poetry published?
I know there will not be too many responses, but we may get one or two of interest.


Cheryl Snell said...

Hello, Kay. Congratulations on your new book! I read your post with interest--it brought back the excitement I felt when I began to submit, a copy of Poet's Market at my elbow. After I had published 65 poems in the small magazines, I compiled a chapbook and sent it to Finishing Line Press. To my delight,they published it. About that time, I went online and discovered the workshops and people like you willing to help me develop. My rate of acceptances increased and two years later I had a collection for Christine Laine's Little Poem Press. During this time, I was also writing a novel. I reached the finals in three contests and took that as a sign to keep revising. Last week it--and a second, unwritten novel-- was accepted for publication. It's been an eventful few years! I'm still so surprised.

Kay Day said...

Cheryl, Congratulations!
You deserve all this success, because you work so hard at your writing. At Gaz and other places, I think we all helped one another develop.

To have completed a novel (actually 2) is such an incredible accomplishment on top of all that poetry, and then to have them accepted.

Sincerely, I am so happy for you.
Please keep us posted. And if we can ever set you up a Jacksonville event, or do anything to assist, just give us an email.
Best to you,

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