April Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe

National Poetry Month begins at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe with Poetrio this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. This month’s featured poets include Ed Madden, Ray McManus and Anne Harding Woodworth.

Here’s an abridged version of the poets bios from the Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café news release:

Anne Harding Woodworth is a member of the Poetry Board at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.  She is a part-time resident of both Washington, D.C. and the Western North Carolina mountains. On April 1 this year, she will read from her fourth book, THE ARTEMIS SONNETS, ETC.

Ray McManus teaches creative writing, Irish literature, rhetoric, and composition at the University of South Carolina, Sumter.  We are very pleased to welcome him back with his second poetry collection, RED DIRT JESUS, for which he won the Marick Press Poetry Prize.

At the November 2009 Poetrio event here at Malaprop’s, Ed Madden read from Signals, the 2008 poetry collection for which he won the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize.  His most recent collection of poetry is PRODIGAL: VARIATIONS.

Learn more about the April 2012 Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe at their web site.

Three ways self-published authors fail

“Only idiots and the self-deluded think that being able to self-publish qualifies them to write,” concludes one person commenting on Two reasons why not to self-publish your book. It’s true. Not every self-published author writes well. For that matter, not every best-selling author writes well. I do agree in part with that comment–the logical part, not the jaded part. Like I said before, I am an advocate of self-publishing, but my views are changing.

Regarding self-publishing, I wrote a multi-part series titled The Economics of Writing. The basic premise of the series is this question: Why should a poet/writer spend his/her money on literary contests when they might self-publish his/her own work? You can read the whole series by following the links. What prompted the series was:

  1. I’ve been in publishing for a while and know how much it costs to produce and distribute print products and
  2. I read a story about a writer that spent more than $14,000 in a seven-year period on contest entry/reading fees, related postage, sample journals, literary memberships and writing conferences/workshops and won a $500 cash prize during that period.

I’ll avoid the analysis of literary contests [read about them in the second part of the series], and move to notable poets and writers who have self-published their work: Margaret Atwood, T.S. Eliot, Robert Service, Nikki Giovanni and Viggo Mortensen [read more details in the third part of the series].

When you consider the amount of time and energy–not to mention money–it takes to publish a book, self-publishing is an option to consider if you don’t want to wait for a publishing house to release your product. A poet and/or writer may spend years working with an agent to secure a book deal with a traditional publishing house. Whereas, self-publishing a book can make its way to the market in a matter of days or weeks.

Most self-published authors fail with their book releases in the following three areas:

  1. Cover design. And in general, book design. Just because you cleverly wrote your major literary work in MS Word does not mean you can print it in MS Word. Let a professional graphic designer package your literary endeavor. Further, just because you have Adobe products loaded on your fancy schmancy MAC machine, doesn’t qualify you as a designer either. Book design is not the same as designing a web site (that you really borrowed from WordPress or some other blog platform and told your client you designed their web site *sigh*). A book cover is the movie poster for the book. It must invite, entice, and coax readers to pull the book from the retail shelf (or etail shelf), read the back blurbs and first chapter, and ultimately buy the book.
  2. Editing. First draft, best draft is not the best practice in selling books. Having your ever-loving mother to review your manuscript is not that same as getting your manuscript edited. Even a good writing group is not enough–but it is a very good start. Hire a good editor to work on your literary masterpiece. A good editor will make a huge difference in the final product. So much of self-published books are deficient in quality work. There are gruesome typos, grammatical crime scenes, and abominable stylistic failures. A good editor is like a good film producer–a poet/writer may have the vision, but the editor knows best how to articulate it to readers. A good editor is one of your best friends. The last thing you want to do is release a book product that you immediately have to print a second revised edition because you used “their” instead of “there.”
  3. Production efficiency and quality. The financial bar has been lowered in matters of producing a book. Print-on-demand options are more affordable now than ever before. But more affordable doesn’t always equate to quality book product. A lot of do-it-yourselfers enjoy the look of the Etsy-ish, handcrafted book products that clutters the indie poetry and zine scene. And that’s fine. Those products are souvenir. People who purchase those items understand that they are a souvenir, book art object. But that option is more expensive than one might suspect. Consider a book’s cover price of $12 per copy for a 64-page literary chapbook. Most traditional publishers have a production markup of no less that 12 times. If, for example, the cover price is $12, than the book’s production cost–printing cost, cover art, book design, etc.–on a 1000 copies print run is $1 per copy. Most self-publishers don’t consider this fact and usually spend $6 per copy on a print run at Kinkos for a run of 100 copies. At that rate, it’s a hobby not a business.

I’ve been on both sides of the argument. I’ve self-published books that failed and succeeded. I launched two book imprints within a media organization that sold over 30,000 books in a couple of years. And here’s where I’m changing my position on self-publishing versus traditional publishing: idealism versus reality. Poet and blogger extraordinaire, Ron Silliman, offers these thoughts on idealism versus reality when he suggests that it would be ideal:

…if all bookstores carried every book of poetry that is in print… and if all poets had equal access to book publication.… But until then, it’s the real world I’m going to engage with…

So, where does that leave authors who don’t have a literary agent and don’t want to wait years and years to get their work published? Co-publishing. There are several reputable publishing houses that offer co-publishing services. A poet/writer still pays for the production of the book product, but the publishing house offers editors, publishers with decades of experience, a professional art department, a public relation staff, a warehouse facility, events coordination, distribution and other services. Consider the question that sparked the multi-part series I wrote. As a writer, would you rather spend seven years and $14,000 trying to win a literary contest and/or land a book deal? Or spend $14,000 and seven years selling your book, earning new readers and working on your upcoming books?

Book Launch for Look Up Asheville Collection II

Look Up Asheville II by Michael Oppenheim and Laura Hope-Gill

Tonight at 6:30 p.m. the Look Up Asheville II book launch begins at the Battery Park Champagne Bar/Book Exchange. Join the festivities for the launch of Look Up Asheville II featuring photography by Michael Oppenheim and essays by Laura Hope-Gill. Poet Robert Morgan writes: “Look Up Asheville II takes us into the heart of the city’s diverse and colorful history, scene of its current flourishing culture.”

From the event invitation: “Look Up Asheville II features more architectural details captured by local photographer, Michael Oppenheim, accompanied by historical essays by Laura Hope-Gill, with a Foreword by premier author and poet Robert Morgan (Gap Creek, Lions of the West, Terroir). Designed by Michele Scheve, Look Up Asheville II does more than inform readers and viewers of the architectural, social and creative history of Asheville; it celebrates all these with stories and luminous images. The new book contains Asheville’s grand Bed and Breakfasts and more of the exquisitely built churches, inns, museums and downtown treasures.”

Poetry at the Altamont

Poet Laura Hope-Gill

Tonight from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., Poetry at the Altamont continues with this month’s featured poet, Laura Hope-Gill.

It’s been awhile since I visited the The Altamont Theatre. I believe it was during last year’s Wordfest. It’s a gorgeous setting to hear poets read their work. I’m looking forward to tonight’s event.

Here’s more details about the event Poetry at the Altamont from their Facebook invite page:

Poetry at the Altamont is a reading series for poets and poetry lovers commencing on the third Monday of each month at seven o’clock in the evening at The Altamont Theatre in downtown Asheville. The event consists of a reading by the feature poet followed by an open microphone, for which readers may sign up and recite one or two short pieces. During the open portion of the event, we encourage new voices and accomplished poets alike to share what they have been working on, a space where writers have the opportunity to try out new works in front of an audience on a regular basis. Please join us for consistent, fine poetry in a setting that is equally fine.

Hosted by Jeff Davis and Laura Hope-Gill
Produced by Caleb Beissert and Aaron Price

$5 at door
Beer and wine served

(link)

Quote

Poetry at its best is the language your soul would speak if you could teach your soul to speak. —Jim Harrison, from his essay “Poetry as Survival” in Just Before Dark: Collected Nonfiction (Clark City Press, 1991) (via apoetreflects)

Two reasons why not to self-publish your book

Confession: I am an advocate of self-publishing. I have been for years. But my views are changing on the matter due to the glut of poorly written self-published books being released each year.  Serendipitously, I found this article in the London Evening Standard that offers two reasons why not to self-publish: 1) publishers and 2) editors.

Authors need publishers more than ever when there are so many voices out there competing for our attention. As Horowitz rightly says, the main raison d’être of a publisher is to provide the author with a skilful editor who can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Editors are the midwives of great literature. T S Eliot’s The Wasteland wouldn’t have been the masterpiece it is if it hadn’t been edited by Ezra Pound and his wife, Vivien.

The death of publishing is greatly exaggerated. We will still need publishers as long as we read books, just as we still need critics to review those books. It is part of the great filtering process of literature and culture. (link: Self-publishing makes us think we can write)

Any questions?

Quote

My exasperation about the cowardly evasiveness of our mainstream press drives me to think that if people in general knew more about history they’d be more likely to demand more honorable governments. —Robert Wyatt, BOMB 115, 2011

Judging a book by its cover

For me, every book cover I design begins with pencil sketches that eventually lead to ink drawings. Actually, I suppose it begins prior to that. The author receives a pre-publication questionnaire from me prior to the design process. The questionnaire asks the author what is his/her elevator pitch, what are the pillars of the book (i.e. what are three main concepts/ideas in the book?), and what is the book’s key audience? There are more questions that help me prepare for the design process, but reading through that document helps me form an idea of who the author is, what the book is about and how best to represent the book’s content with an attractive cover.

Then I receive the manuscript a few weeks later and begin reading the author’s work. This helps try to envision in my mind an iconic poster image. For me, a book cover is the equivalence of a film poster. At this stage, I produce some concept drawings (like the one’s pictured) and research color schemes and subject themes that I plan to use in the cover design. After a couple rounds of emails with the author, I proceed to the full-color design phase.

The full-color design is often photographic, as in the case of this sample, but can also feature illustrated work or typographic designs. An illustrated cover is sent to a freelance artist who spends a week or so producing the cover art. The final cover design pulls together all the elements (art, photo, type and copy) to present a cover that, in theory, sells a 1000 to 3000 copies on face value. I know what you’re thinking, but books really are judged by their covers. Just watch people at a bookstore. They’re scanning covers before they even pick up a book to read the back copy blurb or open a book to read the first few chapters. If a book has amateurish art or less than professional photography, the audience will move to the next book cover that has great photography or stunning artwork. Further, if a book has poor quality cover art, it will be represented in poor book sales. Let me say it again: if a book has crappy cover art, the book will have crappy sales. No reader wants a crappy book on their bookshelf or e-reader. Half the battle for a reader’s attention is getting him/her to pick the book from the shelf. The same applies to e-book stores. Readers are scanning covers from the Kindle or Nook e-stores and deciding, based on cover design and book blurb, what title to purchase.

From the time the final cover is approved until the product arrives is six to eight weeks depending on circumstances. That’s when the real test of a book’s cover design and interior content begin. And that’s about the time I begin the next round of cover designs.