Poetry Scotland have a “guest appearance” by HappenStance editor, Helena Nelson (you have to click the “guest appearance” link at the site – no direct link is possible). It’s a good read. She talks about why book and chapbook publishers like poets to have a ‘track record’ before taking them on board, about how each new publication can be crucial for the reputation of a small publisher, about how a publisher chooses who to publish, and about why poets should read poetry (amazingly some don’t).
Good poets write bad poems and seriously flawed poems. They do it all the time. The main difference between good poets and bad poets is that good poets sometimes write good poems.
I can only make new publications happen, if readers buy the last lot—and approve them. Readers have the power. Readers can make a publication a success. They can make a publisher’s reputation. They are the pivotal centre of the whole operation.
Poets sending in submissions are also readers. Their power to buy is very significant. If they don’t buy from that publisher—and from other poetry publishers—how on earth do they think somebody else will buy their publication? Those of us who care about poetry, all need to buy some. Not a lot. A little bit, but regularly. Then more poetry will be published. Some of it might be yours.
There is no crisis in poetry publishing. That crisis is a myth. The crisis is in poetry reading. And the solution is simple. For every poem you write, read 50 and buy one book, or chapbook, new or second-hand.
Poets need lots of readers and one publisher. Publishers need a handful of poets and thousands of readers.
In her list of factors that can influence why a publisher chooses to publish a poet or not, I enjoyed:
5. You included 3 villanelles. The publisher loathes villanelles.
I liked this because in the initial manuscript I sent to HappenStance, I included one villanelle (not three, I’m glad to say) and I still have the copy I sent with Helena’s pencilled comment at the top, which is probably best not shared on this blog in case anyone of a nervous disposition is reading.