24 July 2008

An unscientific survey on poetry book publishing.

I'm no number-cruncher, but I'm curious to know what folks find important when deciding which publishers and/or contests to submit poetry books to. Please choose your top three of the below, and let me know why. If you have other criteria, do share.

What qualities do you look for in a book contest and/or publisher?

A) Age of press or contest (something older and established, or newer and possibly edgier).

B) Visibility and integrity of press (marketing, materials created for authors, readings, reviews, word of mouth reputation).

C) Contest judge (would you submit to a contest if you didn't think the judge would like your work?).

D) Series editor or press aesthetic (either clearly stated or perceived by you).

E) Reading fee, or lack thereof.

F) Physical presentation of books (well-designed, terribly-designed, or in between).

G) Distribution of books by press (is there a distributor, or is fulfillment all in-house) and ease of ordering.

H) University affiliation of press (either for or against it).

I) Past authors who have published in the series.

J) General feeling of "having a shot" (editor seems willing to give emerging writers a chance, rather than giving preference to manuscripts by established writers).

K) Convenience of submission process and reading period.

Okay, that's all I can think of right now, but you may have more. I'm going to go answer my own survey.

P.S. I got my dream judge for next year's Akron Poetry Prize! I am so excited! Now you just have to wait two months to find out...


Penultimatina said...

My answers:

1. B) Visibility and integrity of press (marketing, materials created for authors, readings, reviews, word of mouth reputation).

2. D) Series editor or press aesthetic (either clearly stated or perceived by you).

3. F) Physical presentation of books (well-designed, terribly-designed, or in between).

I could have easily chosen some others, but right now these seem the most important to me.

My main problem is that I have become so spoiled by the way Akron does things (we spend around $3000/per book on marketing alone!), and so addicted to Amy Freels' design genius that it will be hard for me to relinquish control. But, of course, necessary.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Justin Evans said...

1. D)I always hope the places I submit to are not merely desperate acts. I have to agree with aesthetics on that count, but also because of the subject matter of my first book manuscript.

2. B) my first chapbook spent 18 months in limbo because I had submitted it to a 'friend' of my wife's who insisted she wanted to publish it. After 18 months of absolutely no contact (and dodging my wife) I simply wrote an e-mail ending any and all agreements. Imagine my surprise when after a long losing streak, it was again chosen, only to wait another 18 months. This time, however, there was communication. All told it took 5 years to get it published.

Two things happened because of that. I will never submit a manuscript to a place I do not know and respect. Second, I was able to get past my idea of one project at a time block.

3. F) The look and feel of a book is really important. I have been very disappointed in some book trades, and deeply embarrassed by others. I want my books to be little works of art---products of love and labor.

4. C) Judges affect my choice in a negative way. I have more times not submitted because of who is judging than I ever have submitted. I don't think that will change. For me, knowing who the judge is always makes me try to figure out their aesthetics, which always makes me feel there is no way they will choose my manuscript.

None of the rest really affects my choice.

Don said...

A) I think choosing a press or contest that has a good track record or has been around awhile, with books that show up in Barnes and Noble, is importnat.

C) I won't send manuscripts to contests with judges I know won't get my work. On the other hand, if I like the judge, I'll submit.

J) I do send to smaller contests sometimes because I feel like I have a better shot. Though sometimes I think I'm spending the fee I should try with a bigger contest.

Oliver de la Paz said...

1. B) You want your art to be seen.

2. D) You as a contest entrant should have a general sense of the series aesthetics, though there are always exceptions.

3. F) The frame around a painting should draw attention to the painting.

4. I) This gives me a sense of the longevity and reputation of the series.

5. G) It's important to have a press that has the capacity to do things for writers who are just starting out--that's why I'm putting this last. So much depends on an author's willingness to pound the pavement as well.

John Gallaher said...

C - a little. Judges often like all sorts of things one wouldn't expect, so it's not all that important. That said, there were times I've said things like "I would love to have ___ like my book!" Or, "Eww, I almost don't want ____ to like my book." It's almost like asking someone for a date. "You'd go out with him?"

D - a bit more. There are places one imagines one would feel comfortable. Like driving down a street and seeing a house in which one might imagine oneself living.

I - a bit more than that. It like joining a family, being on the same publication rolls of poet ____. It could feel good. Or feel weird. You know you've the possibility of seeing these people at family reunions. Or at least AWP.

The others, well, maybe a bit here and there. But less so. That feels too much like a business. I like the family metaphors.

Talia said...

C) Who the judge is gives me a little light at what I'm stabbing at.

E) Hey, it adds up. If the fee includes a subscription or a copy of the winner, I'm more likely to go with it; kill 2 birds with one stone.

J) I need that.

Adam Deutsch said...

No (L), all the above?

The judge seems worth consider, but mostly I think of what else has come from that prize before. On the other hand, I'm just getting into all this for the first time.

erieblue said...

I might add whether the press develops an ongoing relationship with authors--multiple books published. From your list, I think B is important (having suffered a little from no marketing); F--yes, it's good to appeal visually; and C because of exactly what someone said--"How great to be chosen by X!!"

Amy said...

Being perennially insecure, I pay attention to B, C, and J, mostly. I've been burned before (see B), and my writing has changed (see J). Akron Press is lucky to have you... and I want to know who the judge is!

jeannine said...

Dear M,
I think all of the above, but another consideration for me is that the publisher include the author in discussions about the cover! I'm a crazy art freak and very passionate about cover art, I would be sad if I was left out of that discussion and then I ended up with some dull/abstract/poetry-cliche cover...
That's probably part of the "how the publisher treats their authors" package, which wasn't mentioned...but I always perk up my ears when I hear authors talking about this or that about their press, and I remember...

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