Ken Baumann on The Making of Salt Is For Curing
by Ken Baumann
Sator Press, the nonprofit publishing company that I own and run, had published only books by cisgender white men—last year, I realized that this was both dumb and lazy. In order to diversify the voices that Sator presents to readers, and to not be such a reflexive reader, I changed Sator’s submission guidelines.
Sonya Vatomsky emailed me the manuscript for Salt Is For Curing on May 27th, 2015. They heard about Sator through Michael Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms, and mentioned in a postscript their admiration for Sator’s short “Ethics” page.
I read the book twice, back-to-back, mostly on my phone. On June 11th, I sent the following email to Sonya.
They accepted the same day. Later, Sonya and I talked about how we both shared a spooky good feeling about Salt—me from the time that the submission landed in my inbox, and Sonya from when they sent it. Which is a lesson to writers sending out manuscripts: if you can write a charming introductory email, do it!
Sonya and I exchanged 13 emails that day. We started talking cover design, marketing, print size, potential blurb writers, edits, etc… We quickly settled on a cover that was, well, salty.
I drove to the art supply store and bought the blackest piece of paper I could find. Then I set up the salt circle for its glamor shots.
Here are some alternate covers.
Ultimately, Sonya realized that a larger salt circle made for a more striking book cover, so we went big.
Regarding the text: I wanted the book to be longer, and so I asked Sonya to write more poems. Sonya obliged, sending a few packets. I kept asking for more (I am a greedy publisher), but Sonya finally stated how draining these poems were to write; the poems approach violence, trauma, identity, and addiction. We organized the text, reorganized it, cut a poem, added that poem back in, exchanged over twenty emails about the appropriate font choices for the text’s use of Cyrillic characters and phrases in other languages… Wikipedia entries were exchanged and enthused over. White privilege and blurb teleology were discussed. Poems were formatted, reformatted, then reformatted again—flurries of emails over line breaks and em-dash lengths. All in all, working with Sonya was and is fun, challenging, productive, and a little manic (we’ve exchanged >300 emails, so far).
After I got the proof back from Sheridan Press, though, it was clear that the salt circle photograph that we chose wasn’t high-resolution enough (read: the photograph was out of focus—someone fire my photographer (read: me)). So I panicked, kvetched, procrastinated, then finally did another salt circle photoshoot.
Meanwhile, Ariana Reines, Juliet Escoria, and Mike Young graciously accepted the sort-of-gross task of blurbing a book. Thankfully, they legitimately dug Sonya’s work and were happy to help.
Sonya picked our release date—Friday the 13th (11/13/2015). The book became flesh. It’s currently selling really well—the first edition’s sold out; it was a bestseller at SPD; Amazon has been requesting upwards of 40 copies per order which in small press publishing terms is a ton. Sonya also got to charm and lead with honesty—not mutually exclusive acts—while writing about writing and submitting work, or about dealing with mental illness. Unlike past Sator releases, I haven’t tried to garner a lot of reviews for Salt Is For Curing, yet that hasn’t seemed to stop people from buying the book, discovering Sonya’s work, and finding a new favorite poet.
We’ve since decided to make the second edition’s cover even blacker.