Poetry News

BlazeVOX pyre at a simmer

By Harriet Staff

The ride ain't over yet, folks, though it seems to be slowing down. A few more opinionators have taken to their blogs with either support or disdain for the situation with BlazeVOX, often with solutions or alternative models.

Craig Perez Santos wrote a post over at his blog with a full plan on how one could "make $40,000 publishing experimental poetry."

Here are the bullet points. You can read the introduction after the jump:

So how can you make $40,000 a year publishing experimental poetry? Like this:

1) Create a free acct at CreateSpace (or LULU)

2) Design covers, format, and upload onto Createspace

3) The book is automatically listed on Amazon and distributed by Amazon (zero distribution/storage costs, no post office runs)

4) For a 100-page book, the cost of production will be about $3-4 per book

5) Charge $16 for each book

6) Amazon takes the production cost and a cut out of the $16 a reader pays

7) You make about $6-8 profit per book

8 ) Most sales of a book occur during the first year…at the very least, even a bad experimental book of poems will sell about 100-200 copies (to friends, relatives, etc)

9) Each book will bring in about $600-$1600 that year

10) Publish/Upload 30 books. profit: 18,000-42,000 a year

11) Make a website, but direct all sales to Amazon from your website

12) Publish more and more books each year

13) in terms of labor, how long would it take to design, format, and upload 30 books? for me, it takes about 5-10 hrs per book. So about 150-300 hours. so if you do this full-time, you can have a yearʻs worth of books in about a month to two months.

Of course, this assumes that the publisher is not sending the author any royalties, free copies, or sending out any review copies, award copies, desk copies, etc.

Obviously, this is an awful model. And it isnʻt BlazeVoxʻs model. But i just wanted to show itʻs possible.

Reb Livingston showed support for BlazeVOX while sharing his experiences as a small press publisher.

She begins:

Publishing poetry is a thankless job. What begins as a labor of love can often sour rather quickly. Despite technological advances, such as print-on-demand, publishing books still cost money, supporting and promoting books, even creatively and with a shoe-string budget, costs money. Very few people, including poets looking to be published, buy many poetry books. If I sold anywhere near the number of books that I receive as submissions, No Tell Books would be making a small profit. No Tell Books is not making a small profit. When all the costs are put together (including printing, postage, author copies, review copies, design, proofreading, holding reading events, advertising, travel and costs to participate in book fairs and conferences), No Tell Books loses thousands of dollars each year. I lose money on things like bookstores not paying invoices (around half never pay for books ordered and received so now we require all payment up front, which means many bookstores won't order directly from us). When I travel to speak at universities about poetry and publishing, I often loses money, even if I'm being paid. For instance, once I drove 8 hours to speak at a university. They paid me $150, but gas, meals and a modest hotel cost more than that--and I have to claim the $150 on my taxes as income. Yes, I claim my expenses too, but since my expenses are always so much more than my income, every year I taunt an IRS audit.

Shanna Compton chimed in on how BlazeVOX is neither a vanity nor a subsidy press.

From her post:

A subsidy press sells books to the author--vs. to an audience. The author is the customer, not a readership. The author pays for the entire cost of producing the books. The company offers little to no marketing or distribution support, or offers those things for fees. The most important distinction between a "traditional" press and a "subsidy" press, however, is editorial. Subsidy presses will accept any* manuscript for publication, so long as the author pays the fees. They may offer some editorial work in the form of copyediting and proofreading, but they do not collaborate with the author in the final shaping of the work in the way a traditional press does. Subsidy publication is a bought service, and the author is not paid any royalties for sales (since they are almost exclusively to her- or himself). An old-school subsidy press looks like Vantage (where a million years ago I interviewed for a copyeditor position, answering a mysterious ad in the back of Publishers Weekly that gave no clues about the identity of the company).

If we're going to discuss methods of publishing (hooray!) we should call each method what it is: self-publishing, subsidy publishing, cooperative publishing, collective publishing and/or any of the other methods of publishing that involve individuals and small groups rather than Official Institutions or Corporations. Let's be respectful, specific, and accurate with our terminology.

And then a bit of practical advice:

The standard advice is that a writer should be familiar with a press before submitting a manuscript. Extend that advice to the particulars of how the press is run. If you are unaware of how a press operates, how can you know what kind of support to expect if your book is published by them? How can you know the press is the right press for your book? Publishers may not want to divulge detailed financial information (of course), but they should be willing to discuss (or point to an FAQ or set of guidelines that outline) the general gist.


And Mike Meginnis had this to say, as well.

Originally Published: September 7th, 2011