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Author: Jeremy Spencer

Thank you for publishing poetry

The first question in an online interview with agent Anna Ghoush of Ghoush Literary from Poets and Writers magazine is from Dan in Hagaman, Illinois. Dan, take it away… Agents for poets seem almost nonexistent. Why is that? Dan from Hagaman, Illinois “The answer to that question lies in the fact that very, very few people buy books of poetry by contemporary authors, especially by those who are not friends, relatives, or winners of the Pulitzer Prize. Book publishing is ultimately a business, where book sales largely drive what book editors acquire, and agents are able to sell. In...

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Two Translation Talking Points

With the current climate and state of politics in our country today, reading books in translation is more important than ever. Looking south, writers from central and South America have a long history of writing in opposition to social and political events sprouting from totalitarian (usually military) governments, especially in the twentieth century.

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Some thoughts on being “independent”

What does being “independent” mean to us? As publishers, writers, artists, musicians, designers, editors, booksellers and more, what does it mean when we put the word “independent” in front of those titles? The obvious answer is that we and our work are “not requiring or relying on something else” or “not affiliated with a larger controlling unit.” In terms of publishing, as long as you are not affiliated with the Big 5, you can pretty much be considered an independent publisher. And that makes sense and that seems good. We like to think of ourselves in that way, but...

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Talking Small Press with Joe Pan

The following is what I have so far (hopefully there will be more) of an interview/conversation via email that I am currently having with Joe Pan, managing editor/publisher of Brooklyn Arts Press (BAP). In case you haven’t heard, recently BAP did a “pay as you go” promotion for Noah Eli Gordan’s latest book, published about a month ago. That’s the setup. JS: In the Flavorwire interview that you gave earlier this month, you said “Plateauing poetry sales kicked my ass into a higher gear, but I’m always attempting to figure out new ways to expand our readership.” What exactly...

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Some Things I Think I Think…

The following items are things that I have been thinking about lately but have not had enough time to write a proper full column about yet. But I want to mention them because they all relate to aspects of the small press publishing business and they are all important. The VIDA count absolutely matters. If you are an editor and you want to publish more women, please don’t claim the “I would, but I don’t receive enough submissions from women” as the reason why you can’t. That is a weak excuse. If you are not getting enough submissions from...

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What Is So Bright About the Sun? Working Toward a Definition of Small Press

[box] For the last 3 months, Entropy magazine has been interviewing editors and publishers for their small press interview series. The following words are not mine, they are excerpts from many of those interviews but I have arranged them into this sort of mini manifesto on the current state of independent small press culture. I highly recommend browsing/reading the interviews in their entirety. As of today, there are 33 of them. [/box] Initially, we started in order to publish work that we admired that we didn’t think would get written to begin with. We were convinced that some of...

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APRIL 2015: A Report from the Book Fair

Last week, the fourth annual APRIL happened. APRIL is a festival of small press publishing that takes place in the city of Seattle. There were events all week, ranging from readings to a seance at the Sorrento Hotel where it is rumored that the ghost of Alice B. Toklas haunts. Every event during the week featured small press folks in one way or another and the week culminated with the book fair on Sunday, March 29. This is my interpretation of my experience as a book seller. My flight landed in the Seattle area at 6:15pm on Saturday, March...

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Some Sites I Like and Find Useful…

For today’s beat, I want to take a break from my editorializing and instead highlight some recent happenings from other websites that I enjoy related to different aspects of the book business, technology, etc… 1. ALL WRONGS REVERSED translations, reviews and ephemera This is the personal website of Morgan Giles, a translator/writer whose interests and specialty is “in Taishō and early Shōwa culture, women’s literature, proletarian literature (プロレタリア文学・ルンペン文学), and diaries.”  Her most recent post from March 16 is titled Read Her Now: Five Women to Translate in 2015 and features five contemporary Japanese female writers. The image here is of poet...

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If I Worked for a Book Distributor…

In the comment section of my last beat, Adam asked the following: When I started to answer his comment, my reply just kept growing and growing so I decided to dedicate this beat to not only answering what I would do first, but also what I would do after that first thing. Before I even attempted to disrupt the standard distribution model, the very first thing I would do is to change what I would call the distributor mindset at least in regards to publishers. What I mean by this is to change how the distributor as an organization...

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Scratching the Surface of Distribution

In the book industry, most of the Big 5 own their own distribution service or use one of the other Big 5 as a distributor. They are able to do that and good for them. For independent small publishers, which distributor one uses can depend upon many factors. It can depend upon the size of the publisher (how many titles are published each year), or a publisher’s reputation (what kinds of titles you publish every year and how they are received) or the fact that most distributors of independent literature have a set of guidelines that a publisher must...

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What Can We Learn from Amazon?

Amazon. It’s a company that needs no introduction. There are plenty of people that love it. There are people that don’t. Same goes for how independent publishers think of it. I don’t want to rehash the same old, same old here. I do not want to advocate against it (at least not this time). I do think though that however you view the company, there are things that independent publishers (myself definitely included) can learn from Amazon. Many independent publishers are started by writers and/or artists that do not have a business background. The following is meant to be...

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Translate This

Bill Morris wrote an article titled “Why Americans Don’t Read Foreign Fiction” that was published earlier this month in The Daily Beast. Over at the Three Percent blog, there is a good comparison of Morris’ article with one written by Stephen Kinzer in 2003 for the New York Times entitled Americans Yawn at Foreign Fiction. Both articles are very similar and have the same premise — yep, you guessed it — that Americans are not reading enough from non-American authors. But what I found most intriguing in the Morris article are the comments regarding the selling or attempted selling...

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A New Way of Thinking and an Idea for Independent Publishers of All Sizes

In last week’s beat, I promised to share an idea regarding a way that indie small presses could potentially compete with Amazon. I will get there in today’s beat but let me first explain something else that I feel needs to happen in order for this idea to make sense. We need to rethink the way we visualize indie publishers (and for that matter all publishers/presses) within the world of literature. Let’s use indie publishers for this example but this could just as easily be used to refer to publishers of all sizes — even the Big 5 if...

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A Truth About Partnering with Amazon …

Continuing where last week’s beat A Harsh Truth About Poetry Publishing… (and the comment discussion) left off, I want to explore some more about independent (usually small) press publishing. Amazon anyone? On Monday of this week Lynn Michell of UK based Linen Press wrote an article in The Guardian titled “Amazon, the greedy giant with small publishers in its grip.” I would recommend that you read the whole thing, but I will attempt to summarize it below. Michell writes about the 2 options that a publisher has when using Amazon. The first is called Amazon Advantage and the second...

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A Harsh Truth About Poetry Publishing…

When I started The Scrambler in 2003, it was originally a zine that I handmade in my living room. I did the first 5 issues that way and printed up about 100 copies each. I went around to some bookstores and dropped some off and said they were free and then I sent some out to my friends and family—many of whom didn’t really know what to make of it, but there it was. In 2005 I purchased my domain name and it just sat there empty for a year or so. I crudely made and put up a...

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Some Thoughts on the Writer as Artist

In the year 2015, are writers and publishers better off than in 1915? You are probably thinking of course they are. And in most regards I would agree. But maybe not everyone would. This last November, the writer Ursula K. Le Guin was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2014 National Book Awards. The message of Le Guin’s award acceptance speech was driven home with her last two sentences: “We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t...

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The Shipyard — A Bookstore in Coahuila, Mexico

[box] *All words in italics are the words of Aleida Belem Salazar via an interview conducted by email during December 2014 and January 2015.[/box] Torreón is an industrial city situated in the Chihuahuan Desert. Here it hardly rains, here it only rains dirt. History has seen Torreón affected by the violence stemming from the conflict between drug traffickers taking place throughout much of Mexico. Many restaurants, cafes and nightclubs have closed and much of the central part of the city has become almost a ghost town. It was becoming a city that only accumulated the mutilated and missing. Insecurity...

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They Reminisce over You

The story of commercial publishing…has been one of cottage industries growing into public corporations, then being absorbed into giant conglomerates in order to survive financially. -Sally Dennison, Alternative Literary Publishing (1984), pg. 7 A hundred years ago, in 1915, Alfred A. and Blanche Knopf (husband and wife) along with Samuel Knopf (father of Alfred A.) founded the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf Inc. There is no doubt that with the writers it has published over the last century, Knopf has become one of the most respected and well-known names in the field of literature. There is also no doubt...

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