Poets are dreamers, so reality is sometimes unfortunate, but it is as it is.
Most poets who are newly beginning to spread their wings into the realm of publishing are dismayed when they realize that getting published isn’t free unless the poets do all of the work themselves. About 75 % of those who approach me are under the impression that design and listing (not to mention the ISBN and bar code–a $50 cost) are complimentary services in a hopeful world of selling enough books to split royalties of a best-seller. Unless, miraculously, poetry becomes the hottest selling genre in books, or one is the niece or nephew of a book reviewer for The New York Times, such magic likely isn’t going to happen.
I’m just being frank here.
A very small percentage of poets might win a contest and get published for free, yet they pay entry fees–usually $20-25–and publishers who hold contests can rake in a few thousand dollars, make a nice profit, and upset a lot of non-winners. That’s beneath my personal ethical standards, so I won’t be making money by hurting people’s feelings.
Still there are some–usually seasoned poets–who understand that nothing in life is free and everyone has to make a living, and “where your talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation” (Aristotle). So I’m grateful for my repeat clients, some of whom have published through several small presses before settling in at Middle Island Press, and of course I welcome the new poets who are just getting their feet wet and are accepting of reality.
I’m also willing to share my knowledge and understanding of publishing with those who have questions, and to offer suggestions, but most people simply walk away and hope for a miracle of some sort. ”Aha!” one man said to me as though I were a deceptive villain. There are all kinds of people in the world. There are all kinds of poets and all kinds of publishers. I rate myself among the most talented (having been told so by designers and editors with decades of field experience) and probably among the lowest priced, because in all honesty, I’m not out to profit from an unpleasant literary reality, but I am glad to have such a pleasant, luxurious career, however modest the means.
(Middle Island Press specializes in poetry publishing. We also do short-story collections–all with 100% annual royalties to our authors–and we are proud of our many titles and the poets/authors who dream them into being.)