Monday, 12 August 2019

Oxford visit

We visited Oxford on Sunday morning - a good time to do so, though tourists were were out en masse. The walls are higher and the roads wider than those of Cambridge, but there are pedalo punts. We didn't do the Inspector Morse walk, nor did we visit scenes from films, though we did seek a few Tolkien haunts (apparently there were Narnia vs Middle Earth arguments in The Eagle and Child pub). I didn't realise that Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" is partly set in Oxford - there's a pub in the Jericho area named after the novel.

We joined the queue waiting for Blackwell's to open. I followed the signs upstairs to the Poetry Corner and was impressed to find a shelf or two devoted to poetry pamphlets, HappenStance amply represented. I should have bought more books while I was there.

They also have a dedicated short stories section. I ended up buying "Best British Short Stories 2019". I buy that anthology each year (the Poetry one I often don't buy).

Friday, 9 August 2019

Another UK guide to getting your poetry book published

You may have been interested in poetry for years, read several collections (though perhaps not recent ones), gone to evening classes, build up a little collection that's no worse that some books you've seen. You've tried a local poetry group, and they said nice things. You'd like get a book published. You know that sending something straight to Faber is daft, but what options are there? You may be a successful professional, used to navigating through systems. You may be new to the country with poetry successes elsewhere. All you need are a few pointers to how the UK poetry world works.

This page assembles some information without offering anything new - see the "See Also" section for more comprehensive alternatives.

Your aims

Why do you want to be published? A typical poetry book has a print run of 200 - are you sure it's worth all the effort? Perhaps self-publication on paper and/or the WWW will satisfy your ambitions. Perhaps you're more of a performance poet. Perhaps writing poetry is a form of therapy for you and merely writing the poetry is enough.

If you want interaction with the poetry world, attending workshops and festivals may be a better approach. Publishing a book may lead to nothing. Publishing in some WWW magazines may get some feedback from readers if the magazine's set up that way, but don't bet on it.

Short cuts

  • Get famous - An Arsenal player or TV celebrity probably has 100% chance of getting a book published.
  • Have an interesting/personal topic with possible tie-ins - Norfolk Churches, Recovery, etc. Don't hesitate to exploit your current profession.
  • Win a pamphlet competition - several well established competitions exist where the winner gets a pamphlet published. Entry fees can be as much as £25. I've not noticed previously unpublished poets winning these, but they could. See Pamphlet Publication in the UK
  • Join a mentoring scheme - for example, the Primers scheme run by Nine Arches Press gives unpublished poets a chance of publication, and opportunities for live events.

Magazines

There's probably no point sending a manuscript to a publisher unless you have a record of publications in magazines, or prizes. Magazines (or at least samples) are online, and the National Poetry Library on the South bank has hundreds of current issues for you to browse through. Look at the magazines' bio pages to see what type of people appear in them. For some of these publications, 1 in 30 submissions are accepted. For others it's more like 1 in a 1000.

Look amongst the acknowledgements of a poetry book you like, or the yearly anthologies to get ideas for where it's worth sending pieces. Here are links to some reviews of recent anthologies -

  • The forward book of poetry 2015. All but 7 poems came from books. PN Review, Kaffeeklatsch, and London Review of Books were amongst the magazines represented.
  • The best british poetry 2014 (Salt). At least half of the poems came from only 4 magazines - Poetry London, Poetry Review, Kaffeeklatsch, and London Review of Books

Very roughly, the best places to be seen in, market-impact-wise, are The TLS, The LRB, Granta, PN Review and Poetry Review. I've been in none of them. Then there's Stand, Rialto, London Magazine, Manchester Review, Oxford Poetry, Poetry London, Magma, Ambit, North, Envoi, Agenda, Poetry Wales, The Dark Horse, High Window, Compass, Brittle Star, Antiphon, Atrium, Acumen, South, Interpreter's House, Orbis, Prole, Fenland Reed, Lighthouse. And many others.

There are specialist magazines too - MsLexia and Artemis (for women writers), the Grey Hen press anthologies (for older women), Wasafiri (for "writers from African, Caribbean, Asian and Black British backgrounds"), The Long Poem Magazine, Modern Poetry in Translation, Shearsman (late-modernist), Tears in the Fence (late-modernist?), etc.

Of particular interest to you for book publication might be PN Review, Under the Radar, Envoi, (and to a lesser extent Rialto and Acumen) because the editors also run a press (Carcanet, Nine Arches Press, and Cinnamon respectively). They might notice you.

Both Orbis and Acumen have pages of readers' letters (Orbis lets you vote on the best poems of an issue!) which might offer you a way to get yourself noticed.

Note that you'll be in competition with people who've had Creative Writing experience (as a student or teacher), or who need poems published to further their Creative Writing career, so you'll need stamina and dedication. It's always a good idea to read a magazine before sending poems to them.

  • Editors - Poetry Review changes editorship every 3 years or so. Most of the other magazines have a stable editorship (Orbis and Acumen have had the same editors for decades). Magma is themed with different editors each issue.
  • Styles - They nearly all accept rhymed and unrhymed pieces. Fewer accept wildly experimental pieces. For practical reasons, many prefer shorter pieces. Rialto has an A4 2-column portrait format which makes it easy for them to print long, thin poems. Stand has a landscape format.
  • Submitting - A few magazines still require paper submissions. Many use Submittable - an online submissions system. A few (e.g. Ambit) charge for submissions. A few want covering letters addressed to the editor by name, some others dislike covering letters. A few want a photo and expect you to have a web-presence of some sort. Most (though not Acumen) expect a bio. "South" has an anonymous submission system. Magazines increasingly accept simultaneous submissions and have submission windows. See their guidelines for details. Keep a mix of submissions on the go - ambitious ones along with more routine attempts. Keep at least 20 pieces in circulation, and of course keep a record of what you've sent.

Be prepared for long waits then disappointment. Some magazines have a policy of not sending rejections - if you've not heard from them after a certain time you assume the worst. Don't expect any feedback. Send the poems out again as soon as you can.

Anthologies

Sometimes publishers ask for submissions for a particular forthcoming title - sometimes charity-based, sometimes for an important book like "The Faber book of ...". Beware that sometimes these books may never appear in shops - only the "successful" poets end up buying copies, the publisher having accepted as many poems as possible.

See Also

Friday, 2 August 2019

Unthology 11 launch

Yesterday I attended a launch of the story collection, "Unthology 11", in Norwich, in the murky literary equivalent of the Cavern. It's published by Unthank Books, who publish other worthwhile fiction collections and run tempting courses. A small press that focuses on fiction is especially worth supporting.

As its title suggests, it's not an anthology. The pieces are chosen from what's submitted - previously unpublished non-Flash stories. This is different from the Best British Stories anthology, where the editor picks from whatever magazines and books s/she can get his hands on. Other anthologies (e.g. Pushcart in the US) invite editors to nominate and send in work they've published. And some anthologies (e.g. The Bristol Prize anthology) print a competition's short-listed pieces.

Jude Cook read at the evening first. He describes how the piece came about on the Unthology blog. As usual with Norwich events I dashed off to catch the 9.15 train, thus missing the end, but it was worth the trip.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Julia Webb and Jessica Mookherjee launch

I went to the co-launch of Nine Arches Press books by Julia Webb and Jessica Mookherjee (both of whom I've seen before, in Norwich and Cambridge respectively) with a guest appearance by Tom Sastry.

It had been a day of firsts - my first visit to London Wetland Centre (otters!), Old Spittalfields Market, Leadenhall Market, and my first visit to the Poetry Society's HQ.

It was a full house (many more women than men). I recognised a few faces in the audience from book covers. I've not heard Tom Sastry before. He's one to watch. I especially liked his "A Man's House Catches Fire" poem.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Some recent Flash collections

I've been catching up on recent Flash Fiction collections from acknowledged experts in the genre and/or heroic publishers. They're all worth a read.

  • "You're Not Supposed to Cry" by Gary Duncan (Vagabond Voices, 2017. Puffs by Paul Beckman, etc). He's the founding editor of Spelk Fiction, a Flash magazine.
  • "Some of us glow more than others" by Tania Hershman (Unthank books, 2017) is a mix of Flash and short stories. She's an experienced tutor, judge and writer of Flash, who's published short story and poetry books too.
  • "Nothing to worry about" by Vanessa Gebbie (Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press, 2018). Another experienced tutor, judge and writer of Flash, who's published short story and poetry books too.
  • "Alligators in the Night" by Meg Pokrass (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018. Puffs by Gaffrey, Scotellaro, etc). One of the big names in Flash, as tutor, judge and writer.
  • "Kiss kiss" by Paul Beckman (Truth Serum Press, 2019). Another of the big names in Flash.
  • "All That Is Between Us" by K.M.Elkes (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019. Puffs by Readman, Pokrass, Hershman, Gaffrey, etc). A short story tutor.

Most of these authors write "proper" Flash, with a narrative. Tania Hershman strays the most, writing pieces that could be prose poems. Some of Vanessa Gebbie's pieces are difficult to classify too.

The pieces that have been previously published have appeared mostly in specialist Flash magazines (Beckman's acknowledgements page mentions 40 magazines!) though there have been a few break-out successes.

The International Short-Short Story Press, who published Vanessa Gebbie's book, also publish a paper-based magazine called "Flash", which is on the acknowledgements page of most (maybe all) these books.

Will any of the books convince non-Flashers of the merit of the format? I'm not so sure. People irritated by short stories (claiming that they're too short for depth or immersion) will be even more irritated by Flash. Poets are used to reading short pieces but won't appreciate Flash's lack of entanglement with language. I suspect Flash will continue to be read and reviewed mainly by people who write Flash, the same names incestuously cropping up. But assemble the best 5 from each of these books and you'll have an anthology with enough clout to challenge some recent poetry anthologies I've seen, clear of pretension and rich in ideas. It would be worth comparing it with Simon Armitage's "Seeing Stars" and some other supposedly poetry books.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Recent online publications

Monday, 1 July 2019

The year so far

We're half way through the year and I've 19 acceptances already - a record for me. I don't know why, because I adopted the same submissions strategy as I did last year when I had much less success. 2 stories, 5 Flash pieces and 12 poems. £70 pounds.

I've written 5 stories (about 6,000 words) this year. Only 2 poems though, so I may be heading for another record.