Wednesday, May 23, 2007

From some recent experience, I'm proposing what I call the Three's a Charm Manuscript Peddling Rule. It's simple, easy to follow, and (if followed) would make a lot of micro press publishers very happy.

FIRST: Do not peddle your manuscript to a small press before you BUY a copy of at least one of their books and read it from cover to cover. Better yet, read five of their books cover to cover.

SECOND: Wait until (at least) your third email exchange before you start hawking your wares. You've got to wine and dine a publisher a bit—write them little notes telling them how much you like their books, post a few niceties about the press on your blog, attend a few readings and actually get to know these fine people, consider writing a bonafide review, attend the annual fundraiser and bid on something during the silent auction. In a word, contribute. Be a part of the poetic community before you start trying to impress everyone with your crazy roman candle-like verse.

THIRD: Don't be fake about it. If you are dealing with a micro press run out of someone's house in their spare time on their own dime, remember that you are dealing with a labor of love. The person(s) who are running the press are probably interesting and amazing people. What other kinds of people dedicate so much of their time and money building a platform for other people to stand on and speak from? A book isn't cheap... Even a small, 300-copy run perfect bound book can cost over a thousand dollars. That's money these publishers could be spending on summer vacations or retirement or saving up to buy a house. Accepting a manuscript isn't just a matter of whether a publisher likes or doesn't like a piece of work... Oftentimes, it comes down to cash. Where's the money coming from? Who's gonna pay for this thing? Looked at under the right light and being published becomes a precious and expensive gift. It might be wise to consider why so many people feel entitled enough to ask for such an amazing gift without having done a lick to contribute or even to get to know the press / publishers.

Obviously, this note doesn't apply to big-name trade publishers or university presses, where people have jobs and get paid to perform professional services at professional wages. But we all know that 80% of the action takes place in the micropress publishing world. And here, it's an entirely different ballgame. Too often, I've seen people approach micropresses with their big press hats on. Let's do everyone a favor and give each other a break! If you're twenty-something and in or around school, consider getting together with your compadres and starting up your own gig. If you've been around the block a few times, ask yourself how you might contribute more. If you're already giving back and taking part in the conversation, by all means, ask away. Just make sure you wait until your third email to pop the question!

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