Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Willingness to Kiss

As a poetry publisher, I would kill (originally mistyped "kiss" -- a more likely scenerio) for these pre-nomination sales numbers of the National Book Award fiction titles. That aside, it goes to show that a great deal of "literary" publishing (not JUST poetry) is dealing with very small sales numbers. Fiction has what is called the ever-shrinking mid-list that bigger publishers handle less and less to instead focus their capital and energy on offensive, repugnant "let's just pretend that I did hack my ex-wife and lover" and "I've done nothing, have nothing to say, I've never even read a book, but I'm really rich and thin and the tabloids love me" books they gamble will sell a lot of copies. Such is capitalism. I accept it. And I point this out to my Libertarian uncle who is always complaining about how there's no decent popular music being made these days. Sure there is -- but he's listening to the radio and that's not where it's being played.

So I acknowledge capitalism, in the sense I know it, is not particularly good for art, or perhaps more the selection and distribution. I also don't think it's a good model for running a government or university.

That doesn't mean I don't value fiscal responsibility and ingenuity. I do. Very much.

And I can see that many great inventions and products that make our lives better and easier had their impetus in people or companies seeing a demand and figuring if they fill that demand they could make a lot of money.

But when we're talking about governing or educating or making art -- making money should not be a primary focus (which is not the same as spending wisely or taking an opportunity to acquire needed funds). We're seeing what's happening to our country since it's been "run as a business" by a commander-in-chief whose initial campaign was that he was going to be the the country's CEO. I cringe everytime I receive my alumni newsletter since the new university CEO, er president has taken over. Yeah, he's making a TON of money for the college and trust me, it SHOWS. So much that I don't bother with my yearly alumni donation anymore. And yes, I'm the family CFO and I could definitely run a tighter a ship to maximize our funds better, but there would be other costs, more important non-financial costs. I didn't get married, have a child so I could become become powerful and wealthy. For the most part. I do get off on saying Cause I'm the mom and I AM the boss of you!

That doesn't mean if I become fiscally irresponsible we'd still be just as happy living in a homeless shelter. I'm quite sure we would not and my check writing days would cease. And while there is the implication (and studies to show) that getting a degree increases opportunities and earning power, I went to college to get an EDUCATION that I beleive has many additional benefits than earning power.

And yes, a wealthy, powerful government can do a lot more for it's people, but it has to have the people in mind . . .

I'm really rambling, but back to poetry making and publishing.

Last month I was on the train coming back from a NYC reading. I was talking to a gentleman who worked in the entertainment industry, knew a screenwriter who also wrote poetry. We talked about No Tell Books, my goals, how I managed to do it and after all that, he still said, "Have you considered publishing a celebrity's poetry book? Those sales could fund all of your other books."

Ugh -- nothing I said made any impression on him, we were looking at it completely differently.

Aside from the fact that I could never come up with a celebrity-level advance, that completely defeats what I'm trying to do with No Tell Books. Sure, I could try to create a massive cash-cow that I knew was crap in hopes of generating nutty sales, but then I'd be spending the majority of my energy on that -- and not on what I supposedly care about: the books I love and believe should be in print. The goal of the press.

I don't want to spend any energy on tacky books. There are already plenty who do and God bless them, they don't need my help.

Do we lack "ambition" if it's not put towards making money or acquiring power? Are we foolish for not "half-way" selling out for the "greater good?"

Would I publish a book, a book I really loved, if the author upfront told me he wasn't going to promote it all, do any readings or anything to help get the word out?

Hell no.

I need to sell books to continue publishing, not thousands per title although yes, I'm willing to kiss for those kinds of sales. Poetry books don't magically sell themselves.


At 1:11 PM, Blogger shanna said...


Rock on, darlin.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger C. Dale said...


At 9:05 AM, Blogger early hours of sky said...

That was amazing!!!

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Ginger Heatter said...

I'm glad to see you've come over to the dark side, Reb. ;-)

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I was happy to be printed alongside Sean Penn in Long Shot.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Lee Herrick said...


At 12:31 PM, Blogger Collin said...

I *heart* you, Reb.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger betsy said...

sing it, sista!

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Montgomery Maxton said...

Those retarded Nicole Richie-like celeb books piss me off so much.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...

Wouldn't it be a gas to edit a celebrity poetry anthology? You know, collect all the camp highlights of the stars? Sadly, as you suggest, the permissions would probably make it fiscally unworkable but still -- Jimmy Stewart and Ally Sheedy and Richard Thomas and ... oh god knows who all ... poeming their little hearts out in a Best Poems of the Stars anthology. I can see it. I might even buy it -- remaindered.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger shanna said...

ack, i was actually the publicist for the jimmy stewart book. (the reprint crown did when to capitalize on his death! true, one of my first experiences of how the big publishers worked.)

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...

Why didn't you say, "Excuse me, I AM a celebrity, bitch!" or "Do you know know who I am?"


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