Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm taking a break from going through print proofs (four different titles) to write about manuscript submissions. Many folks have inquired if I would consider their manuscript for publication. On a slow week I receive 1 inquiry, on a busier week 2 or 3 -- this has been the case since last year after the first four No Tell titles were published. Add that up, that's about 100 inquiries. So if you recently asked me, don't consider this a specific response to your asking, I've wanted to write about this for months -- and I anticipate even more requests once the latest books come out. This is to be expected and I'm sure the case for most poetry presses.

To get to the point: I am not consider/reading any manuscripts at this time.

The manuscripts I am reading now, I agreed to read 6-9 months ago -- and in most cases had them in my possession untouched/unread for that entire time. That's right, manuscripts sent back in January weren't even opened until mid August when I printed them out all out to take to the beach. I accepted this small number of manuscripts (around 10) to read for two slots in 2008 (there are 3 books coming out, one that was scheduled for 2007 but pushed back, another that I just recently contacted the author to inform her I'm going to take it and the last slot that I pretty much made up my mind on, but haven't yet informed anyone -- those people will all hear from me later this week). I'll formally announce it all in a few weeks or so.

I've been hesitant to write anything at all about this, because I don't like to discourage people upfront. And I really don't mind and am not put off when people inquire. There's no way anyone would know the status of my publishing schedule unless I told them.

Here's the way I run No Tell Books:

I only read manuscripts by invitation -- and I only invite from the pool of poets I have already published in either No Tell Motel or the Bedside Guide series. If I have never published you in any form, I will definitely not agree to read your manuscript. Just because I have never published your work does not mean I would not like/love your book. All it means is that I'm only working from a pool of around 250-300 poets (at this writing) whose work I am already familiar with, know I already like and have an idea of what it's like to work with them. The way to "break in" to that growing pool is to send to No Tell Motel when the reading period is open (it's closed now, opens in October).

If I have published your work and you want me to consider your manuscript, you can definitely ask. I won't be annoyed or angered or bothered. Maybe I'll be in a position where I can say yes. Sadly I decline to read about 90% of these requests -- manuscripts from poets whose work I know I like. If you do inquire, you can trust that I'll be very clear and upfront about any possibility. Some (probably most) seem to appreciate that, a few seem really put off by it.

Some very well intentioned people (again, there's been quite a few, so this is not directed at anyone in particular) have suggested solutions to my "problem."

First of all, I don't consider not being able to read and publish every good manuscript a problem. If I'm only publishing 3-5 books a year, I am definitely, without a doubt, not publishing the majority of kick ass manuscripts in need of a publisher.

And I only want to publish 3-5 books a year. I want to be able to intimately and closely work with the authors on their books. I enjoy that. This year I've been spread incredibly thin -- and haven't been able to do as good of a job as I'd like and that bothers me. The answer is not for me to find help, interns or additional editors -- I have no interest in putting the work off on somebody else -- the answer is for me to scale back. If you read this blog, this is stating the obvious, but for the sake of clarity, I too am a poet and need time to write, I also edit an online magazine that takes a lot of time, I'm raising a toddler, sometimes I like to do things with my husband and other family members and friends -- and all the other responsibilities a regular person has. And just like a everyone else, things come up, sometimes they're very serious and consuming -- and just because you don't read about those things here, doesn't mean they're not happening.

Also, the answer to limited funds is not to run a contest. The last things I need is a bigger pool of manuscripts to consider. I'd rather use that energy promoting the books I have published. To be perfectly blunt, I already know of many poets who I'd love to publish. I won't take money from a few hundred people I have no intention of publishing so I can finance other people's books. I really really hate book contests and am shocked that more people who read this blog haven't picked up on this. If you ever see an announcement for a No Tell contest you can be positive that I am dead and an evil clone has taken over.

I'm not making any money publishing books, every single title has lost money (although as time goes on, some of these titles will eventually break even and a few will turn a very small profit, over the course of a few years). I'm doing this because I like doing it and consider it important. If I was trying to make money publishing books, I wouldn't be publishing poetry, but how-to books, books like How to Get Laid Every Day of the Week by Chicks with Big Ta-Tas. This book has been in the top 1 or 2 spot on Lulu for the past two years -- and it's $50 and I'm sure the advice sucks. That's what sells.

Anyhow, I know how frustrating it is to find a publisher for a book. I never found a publisher for my first manuscript that this blog is named after. My second manuscript, my first book, is coming out years after I imagined my first book would be out (I'll be 35 in a few months) -- and yes, I know the editor/publisher. There aren't nearly enough publishers to handle all the manuscripts out there. Some people believe is this a good thing, some people think less poetry should be published, that there's a glut . . . etc. I do not think these things. I'm always very happy when I hear about somebody starting her own press or magazine. I'm always very happy to give advice and suggestions to anyone who wants to start publishing on their own.

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At 5:42 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Very well explained. I think a lot of poets would find themselves a lot more successful if they could get past that bipolar desperation/offense thing they do: "Please please please read my manuscript no one's reading my manuscript wait what do you mean you won't FUCK YOU I DESERVE TO BE READ!"

And I'm sure plenty of the queries were just reasonable ones you had to turn down, too. :-)

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Yes, the overwhelming majority were very reasonable.

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Phatback said...

Where do I send my manuscript?

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Laurel said...

So... I know my first book has yet to drop, but can I send you my second book of poems? Coincidentally, it's called, "How to get laid by chicks with big ta-tas." All the poems in it are villanelles and they all use the word "peckerhead at least twice.

Huh? Can I?

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Tricia said...

Ditto Laurel; I wrote a book just now called Black Cow, Night Milk that you'll probably be wanting to take a look at, regardless of your coy protestations.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Justin Evans said...


I agree with you 100%. I think a lot of what it takes, is more work on the poet's part. My full length manuscript will be sent to exactly two editors, and not simultaneously. If neither one of them like it, I will be forced to retire it. Why? It's simply not right for everyone. That isn't to say the poems suck--they've done very well on their own, but I know where my poetry belongs and where it doesn't.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...

Publishing is a fuck of a lot of work, you don't make money at it, and you rarely get thanked (when was the last time I thanked the editor of a zine that included one of my poems?) ... So good on you for doing a conscientious job publishing what you LIKE and want to publish because you want to publish it and LIKE it.

One of the reasons I don't trust contests is that I feel like the publisher is obligated to put a bunch of work into producing a book they maybe don't care a fig for but are publishing because big name poet judge plucked the manuscript from a pile that came with little entry fee checks. Even if the winner is not the judge's friend or former student but rather a poet the judge never met/never read before/is amazed to suddenly discover it doesn't strike me as the way to invest (as a publisher) one's enthusiasm in one's press.

Put the effort into what you love? What a thought!


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