Here’s the scenario:
Your cousin has had a book of poems published. He sends you the Amazon link. Good grief!! It costs TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY QUID. Will you buy it?
I know that wasn’t realistic. In real life, you want to buy the book and you swither because it’s a bit more than you expect. Twelve quid . . . er . . . now let me see. But if you like your cousin (never mind the content of the book), you’ll probably go for it.
Money’s a curious substance. It gets in the way. It has emotional properties. It can be magical and glittering (competition prizes). It can be dirty (bribes and promises).
Anyway, I need to get to the point here. When I get a poetry submission for HappenStance, first I decide whether I like the poetry.
After that, I have to decide how much I like it. Because to produce a 32-page pamphlet costs me about three hundred quid. Do I love these poems enough to fork out a quarter of my monthly income?
At this point, the analogy with your cousin breaks down a bit. I’m not buying one copy. I’m buying two or three hundred of them, and I’m going to sell at least half of those. So I’ll get some of my money back, though not yet. With most of my publications, I get back less than I paid.
But the outlay is not just money. It’s time. A lot of unremunerated time. I really need to be in love with these poems (or their author, of course, but I’m a bit past that).
I’m simplifying. There are other factors, which I won’t go into here. And ultimately if I love the poems and I like the author, I’m purchasing a rare privilege.
However, it’s because of all this that publishers are entitled to be pernickety. It is reasonable, in these circumstances, to expect poets to send submissions according to the guidelines on the website, and to do so during reading periods. Every submission to HappenStance adds up to this proposal: Would you like to spend three hundred quid and two weeks of your life on my poetry?
Competitions are different. In this case, the entrant parts with a significant fee to send in the work. She has effectively paid for her poems to be read and carefully considered. Nobody has to fall in love with anybody or anything. The work is disqualified if it doesn’t follow the rules, and a (probably paid) judge simply selects the best contenders.
The result is magic money. And acclaim. The Purple Moose Pamphlet Competition closing date is May 1st. It is run by Poetry Wales and the winners get £250.00 and pamphlet publication. They are fine pamphlets.
There’s a new interview with Poetry Wales editor Zoe Skoulding in the Sphinx area of the website, as well as one with Luke Wright of Nasty Little Press (in his case, the deciding factors are love and performance potential).
If you’re trying to get work published and none of this works for you, my next reading ‘window’ is July. But I’m pernickety, mind. Check out the submission guidelines carefully. Read the free download about Dos and Don’ts. And read some HappenStance publications: think what they cost me!