How I Connected with My Dream Publisher and Had All My First Book Dreams Come True, Part 1
As I pointed out a few days ago, one of the biggest problems with book contests is that there is no prior relationship between the editor/publisher and the poet. For a contest to be "fair" this can't be. A prior relationship may give an unfair edge and if everyone is paying money to be considered, a press needs to run its contest above suspicion.
No prior relationship is good for contests.
No prior relationship is a recipe for disappointment in publishing.
No doubt there are contest winners and publishers out there who are quite happy with the relationship developed after the contest ended. If you're lucky enough to win a contest, you might even be lucky enough to land a compatible publisher.
I've seen a couple comments by poets that basically said they wouldn't be picky about the cover or the TOC, they'd just be so damn happy to have a publisher, that would be good enough. That's like saying you don't care how a boyfriend treats you or how stinky he might be, you're just so happy to have a boyfriend.
For instance, if you're a poet looking to place a manuscript with a publisher who will do line by line editing and suggest major changes to your book, then No Tell Books would be your NIGHTMARE publisher. I don't do that. I don't publish books that I think need a lot of work or changes. I publish books by authors who I believe have a certain vision and I don't want to monkey with that vision. For me to agree to publish a book, I have to trust that vision. Does that mean I give zero input? No, not at all. But if I think a bunch of poems need to be cut from you book, I'm never gonna take it in the first place. Other publishers might. Not me.
But how do you know if you're compatible with a certain publisher? In the case of No Tell Books, I only consider manuscripts by authors I already published in No Tell Motel. Anyone can submit to the magazine during open reading periods (next one is October). Unfortunately I'm full and not considering any manuscripts right now (really, I can't read your manuscript). When I do have a slot, I invite a couple poets I especially would like to publish to send their manuscripts. I keep this pool very small. I have to, else I'd create too much work for myself and I wouldn't be able to publish anything, I'd be spending all my time buried in manuscripts. There are poets whose work I LOVE, but would never consider publishing because of their personalities and working style. Those poets need a different type of publisher. That's fine. Different types of publishers are out there.
Having previous interaction gives me an idea if the poet is flaky or responsible, prone to manic freak outs or reasonable, polite or condescending. It's kind of like going on a date with someone. I may not know everything about him, but I have an idea. And I need that idea because working on a book is like a marriage. You're gonna be with that person for at least two years. A year to get the book out and at least a year promoting it together. If you're the type of poet who makes a lot of last minute changes and edits and your publisher refuses to deal with that down to the wire stuff, your book will feel wrong and unfinished to you. If you're a stickler for perfection and your editor isn't, you're only going notice the 5 typos that made it through. If your publisher doesn't like cussing, he's gonna push for you to remove all those "motherfucks" despite your protests. If you love BRIGHT ORANGE but your publisher hates BRIGHT ORANGE and won't budge, you'll never get the cover you want.
So how did my book Your Ten Favorite Words end up being the first printed book that Coconut Books published?
I will tell you how. Later tonight. Now I have to pick up Gideon and feed him dinner.