Publishing & Books
One of my favorite parts of being an agent is seeing my authors celebrate the release of their books. It’s like Christmas, except it’s a figurative Book Christmas and it can happen almost any day of the year.
Yet what’s not often discussed is all the time it takes before those books reach readers and bookshelves. Many people and many steps lead to this happening, but also one important key in this process is the timing, specifically when publishers decide to release any book into the world.
Bao Phi is the author of Thousand Star Hotel, a collection of poems published by Coffeehouse Press earlier this month. The collection is bold in its language for experiences that oscillate between existence and erasure, and it is moving in its mission to challenge the boundaries of solidarity and to refuse neat conceptions of past, present and future. I was grateful to have the chance to speak with Bao about his newest collection, which uses verse to parse through his childhood in the Philips neighborhood of Minneapolis, the complexities of fatherhood in contemporary America, and the politics of Asian America.
Water~Stone Review is a literary journal produced by the The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University and publishes work in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry from both established and emerging writers. The journal is a collaborative project between faculty editors, MFA student editorial board members, and Minneapolis College of Art & Design student designers and photography curators. Beginning in 1998, Water~Stone is currently in the process of curating its 20th volume.
I recently sat down with Managing Editor Meghan Maloney-Vinz to talk about literary journals and the roles they play not only in the literary landscape, but in our cultural landscape as well.
Poetry City USA began as an anthology of poems read at two Twin Cities reading series: The Great Twin Cities Poetry Read and the Maeve's Sessions reading series. In 2015, Poetry City USA opened its submissions to everyone, with a mission to cultivate and showcase contemporary poetry and poets. As founding Editor Matt Mauch explained, the journal also has a mission “to take AFA students, and former AFA students, at the Twin Cities two year creative writing programs and introduce them to publishing, to what it’s like to work on a national journal, and to give them that kind of experience that they wouldn’t otherwise get.”
I recently sat down with Mauch, Editor Patrick Werle, Production and Senior Associate Editor Sandra Youngs, and Assistant Managing and Associate Editor Kayla Little to talk poetry, the editorial process, and how to get your poems submission ready.
As if producing a performance series, running a gallery space, and hosting Blingo weren’t enough to keep one man busy, the prolific Lewis Mundt also lends his talents to the local publishing scene by way of his press, Beard Poetry. “It’s primarily a poetry press, but we also do large format art books. We’ve done fiction. We’ve done anthologies.”
Beard Poetry began in 2010 as an umbrella name for the chapbooks Mundt was producing of his own work. “At that point I was doing radio in college as DJ Beard, which tells you most of what you need to know about my college life.” He soon started helping friends design their own chapbooks, and they in turn let Mundt put “Beard Poetry” on the back cover. Before too long, a press was born. Today, Beard Poetry considers itself “a small Minnesota press dedicated to producing affordable, high-quality publications for readers and writers.”
A few months ago, I launched my campaign that I call "Identities through Literature." I reached out to some of the most important literary figures and communities leaders in the Twin Cities and asked about a book (or a few) that was important to them and how it helped them form or understand whichever aspect (or aspects) of their identity they chose to share. I received responses from thoughtful, radiant writers who graciously agreed to share with me. This slideshow contains the culmination of images and responses that they shared with me. Please take the time to read, sit with, and take with you the responses of these talented and humble writers, artists, readers, and individuals.
I have always blindly believed that others’ narratives can contribute to our understanding of ourselves. Recently, though, I started to interrogate which stories, poems, and pieces of art impact us as readers, writers, and people that observe, process, and relate—and why.
Instead of dwelling on my own experiences consuming and absorbing literature, I wanted to reach out to some of the most important literary figures and communities leaders in the Twin Cities and learn about a book (or a few) that matters to them and how it helped them form or understand whichever aspect (or aspects) of their identity they chose to share. With the help of staff at the Loft (a special thanks to Bao Phi and Melissa Wray), I received responses from thoughtful, radiant writers who graciously agreed to share with me.
Tis the season for submissions! Labor Day has come and gone, and the hectic pace associated with every Fall has begun for editors and agents.
This can be an exciting time for any author who has representation, as all the preparation done in advance will hopefully lead to their book’s publication. Sometimes months, maybe even years (especially with fiction) of work have lapsed already—during which the manuscript, or perhaps a book proposal and sample chapters, has been lovingly put together for submission by the author and agent.
This process takes time, patience, and a willingness to ensure the idea is the best it can be before approaching traditional publishers. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.
During this period, when it’s time to take our authors’ books to publishers, the queries in our inboxes multiply significantly. This means we’re generally looking for new ideas, specifically books that haven’t reached readers yet. Self-publishing a book is definitely a viable option—we’ll never discount that decision. Unfortunately the ability to go in reverse and seek traditional publishing afterwards for a self-published book can sometimes be challenging.
If you are a writer, or want to be a writer someday, just know that it is never too early to start thinking of yourself as a writer and building your platform.
Yes, you can start promoting your writing career now!
But what is a platform? This buzzword has been around for years, mostly in marketing circles and politics. In recent years, it has migrated to individual authors. These days, it is a question you might hear from an agent or a publisher. But even (or especially) if you self-publish, you would do well to know what your platform is, and how it can serve you.
Control: we’ve all been in charge of something. Some more than others, of which our personal viewpoints on it will always influence the paths chosen during the publishing process.
There is a natural desire (or need) for control when authors choose a path in publishing – for one or perhaps all their books. That no matter what route is chosen, they need a sharp eye for details, as well as the time and commitment to see any book to publication.