Authors Publish posted an article entitled The Truth About Poetry Manuscripts. It’s a good read, especially for new poets. Especially if you don’t have much in the way of a community or training program. By this, I mean, you don’t have a mentor who’s showing you the ropes.
I’ve read a few chat groups lately where people have really gone off on the idea about reading fees and basically calling all reading fees scams. I won’t post those because some of them are pretty over the top, but a few of them really feel like those posters have limited experience in the field. I’ve posted my thoughts on reading fees earlier, so I won’t rehash them here. I do think that above article is an important read.
I’m fortunate enough to be working with two small presses right now–Aldrich Press and Finishing Line Press. In the former case, I did pay a reading fee (lower than what is mentioned as normal in the Authors Publish article) and in the case of FLP, I entered a contest. In both cases, I didn’t think much of paying that fee. Why? Because running a small press is a really hard thing to do. Like running a dojo, it’s not something I want to do, but I’m sure glad someone is.
Both presses put out a good amount of material a year, and that means they need to work a lot, besides being working writers and artists themselves, and there isn’t a lot of money or elbow power to go around. It’s a rough job and I’m grateful for everything they are doing for me.
Poetry is not a big money business. It’s a business of love. Poets love poetry and poetry publishers love poetry. Print runs for poetry books and chapbooks are small, maybe a few hundred or a thousand copies for most titles. Word for word, poetry is pretty expensive. There are, after all, less words in a poetry book than in a novel or non-fiction book.
So if you’re a new poet, it’s something you need to think about as you get started and to budget for when the time comes. And promotion. As a poet, you definitely need to know something about promotion. One of the best parts of my MFA experience was working at the university press, which was just getting started when I arrived. My adviser was the running it, and he gave me a real education in it. That’s how I know I don’t want to do it. And that’s also how I know that the people who bring you those small press poetry books do a lot of work, deserve a lot more credit than they get, and earn those reading fees.
Thank you to Karen, Leah, Christen, and all the rest of the staff at both Aldrich and FLP. I really appreciate everything you’re doing for me.