Gerry Cambridge, the paperback, is about to appear!
That’s the first of the new titles that went to the printer’s this week. Notes For Lighting A Fire in hardback is sold out, though I haven’t taken it out of the shop yet: four copies left. We reprinted twice, but after the second reprinting MPG Biddles went bust.
So we decided to do G Cambridge, the paperback. As a special treat and enticement, it will have four additional poems – five if you count the one on the dedication page. One of the new poems is the delightful ‘Stylophilia’ (love of fountain pens). It celebrates the beautiful names of the many pens and inks a collector can fall in love with. Anyone who knows Gerry knows this is not an idle whim in his case: it is a passion.
But that’s not all. The little book of Fife Place Name Limericks has also finally been completed. I began writing it over twenty years ago. I started typesetting it over two years ago, and now it has finally gone to print. It is not a work of great literature, you understand. It is amusing and has pictures. It will be a test of commitment for me because I need to get this on sale in shops, not just on the HappenStance website. Unlike everything else I do, it was intended to make a profit and therefore keep the press afloat.
When I started this publishing lark, I had no idea of the range of skills required, not all of which come naturally to me. There’s the communication with the authors, the design of the publication, the typesetting, the record-keeping, the proof-reading, the packaging and dispatching, the updating of websites (fortunately I don’t have to design or make the web site because Sarah at ZipFish does that). And there’s the typing, the correspondence, the communication with professional printers, the upsides and downsides of In-Design, the keeping of accounts, the using of couriers, the buying of vast quantities of stamps, padded envelopes, cello bags, printed labels. There’s the folding of cards; the buying of matching envelopes in different colours and sizes; the continual updating of subscriber records. And there’s the ISB numbers (just ordered another 100), the registration of books, the sending of books to copyright libraries, the bar-coding (haven’t got as far as QR codes but that will come next). And there’s the marketing – the flyers, the electronic newsletters, the paper newsletters, the information in the shop, the launch events, the Sunday blog.Oh and the sending of publications to competition places, to reviewers, to those and such as those. And I mustn’t forget the pricing and selling of products (my weakest point – I would cheerfully give everything away if I could). The late Duncan Glen was a wonderful role model: he had great connections with local shops and no hesitation about marching with a new title and a persuasive tone. I have to get better at this.
But back to the titles. There are Maria Taylor’s Poetry Bingo Cards too: a little joke for poets who play. These will be A5 in size with enough room on the back to write and post to your friends, and to mine, if I still have any. And once printed, someone here will be packing them into packets of four with a sticky label. Another labour of love for my loved-one.
And there’s Jonty Driver’s pamphlet Citizen of Elsewhere, a new and selected collection from a South African-born poet. Poems of life and death from someone who was exiled from his home country for decades. We agreed on the cover yesterday – the image will be a little cave painting ostrich, a bird on its way if ever I saw one. It will go to the printer tomorrow.
Tom Vaughan’s Envoy is nearly nearly done: the only collection I have seen with a poem in which Tony Blair appears as a real character! Lots of fun here, but also some grim reality from a former diplomat. Still waiting the last details of design and cover image for Envoy and then I start tinkering again.
Hamish Whyte’s Hannah, Are You Listening? went to the printer a week ago, so that should be coming back imminently together with two new BardCards and . . . the annual HappenStance Christmas Card, which will go to subscribers in a month.
I find it hard to keep up with this, and I’m supposed to be in charge. I haven’t yet mentioned Tom Duddy’s full collection, his second posthumous book, The Years, which is also nearly done. This will be a hardback book. One of today’s tasks is to look again at the cover. I’m not experienced at designing book jackets but it’s another skill I need. Gerry Cambridge, the best in the business, will advise (though don’t expect anything of the same calibre).
One of the most moving aspects of this publishing business is the kindness and generosity you enounter. People help you. I mentioned Duncan Glen earlier. In the last few years before he died Duncan (Akros Publications) gave me all sorts of useful advice. How well I remember him saying, with that glint in his eye, ‘Publishers always lie!’ And when I started Sphinx, Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland, herself a compendium of wisdom born of experience, sent me a twenty pound note in the post. I’ve never forgotten that. Sheila Wakefield of Red Squirrel has helped in more ways than she knows: a poetry publisher who ran a successful garage knows a thing or two. And there’s Ross Bradshaw of Five Leaves, and John Lucas of Shoestring Press, Mike Mackmin at The Rialto and Michael Laskey, publishing through both Smiths Knoll and Garlic Press. These guys know stuff. It is great always having someone to ask. And I haven’t even named all the secret helpers.
But I mustn’t forget to mention the Christmas event at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. On Saturday December 14th, 1.30-3.30, we will celebrate winter (I hope it won’t be deep snow by then) and launch several books onto the world. These will include:
- Hamish Whyte’s Hannah, Are You Listening?
- Gerry Cambridge’s paperback Notes
- Tom Vaughan’s Envoy
- J C (Jonty) Driver’s Citizen of Elsewhere
- Fife Place Name Limericks
- Poetry Bingo Cards (great last minute Christmas gift)
- Tom Duddy’s The Years (it may or may not be done by then)
Please come if you can. Fun will be had by all, with wine and party snacks. Somehow we will make it to Christmas!