A Discursive Accounting in Eight Parts
I felt every wrinkle, turn, fall, and get-back-up in this piece. Although I have not had the heights you have had in previous years regarding high-level publishers, those of us even further down that mid-list level wonder what in the hell we do it for. I forever looked for a publisher that would take a novella…sales people hate those! I finally found an indie in San Francisco that would take it. It’s an odd deal in the publisher world, but I was ready to let the thing fly. So, here we are. Another book (personal narrative) coming out later this year or early next (TBD) from a publisher I’ve worked with in the past (three other books) in the UK. They have been wonderful, but this coming book had to be hard-negotiated for them to take it. Margins, they say, are small. Agents? Had one, then another. Dumped both. My stuff just is not mainstream enough. So, I write what I write, struggle through the crappy parts of the process, and keep going. Still not sure what in the hell I do it for. :) Onward!
Such a generous, granular look at this infuriating business. I appreciate your use of the term “corporate publishers” -- the language is key to to understanding the economic priorities of big trade publishing. May the royalty payments for your two new books be abundant and eternal, as you have already, I’m sure, earned out those teeny advances!
I posted it to my FB page where an old friend responded in a heartwarming way.
What a great, honest look at the publishing world. I too love your use of the term “corporate publishers” -- because that’s exactly what they are. The publishers who treat books like widgets. I’m so thrilled that your incredible writing has found homes in recent years with independent publishers. I know it’s a difficult, fraught route to tread, but I’m right there with you, as are many of us, and to work with a publisher who loves your book and is 100% behind it, that must have been heavenly. Xo
Similar story here. I completely relate! Congratulations on the publication of Please Be Advised. Good luck!
I have a lot to say about this, which I'll get to later, but for now want to say I found your Substack at Martha Bayne's--I know her through a non-literary connection so I was startled to see someone I knew. I wanted to let you know I started my own last month; it would be great if you'd have a look: David's Lists 2.0 [https://longd.substack.com/] . . . If you scroll down to the start there's several chunks of an essay that explain what I'm up to there. Here's hoping you're well. David
I adored PLEASE BE ADVISED. Thank you for sticking with it!
Poetry, unlike fiction, has virtually no potential for making money for a publisher -- or a writer, of course. Thus one must pay people to read it, and one's reading or contest entry fees pay for the publishing of someone else. You've had career heights that look like Everest from where I sit, but having read your essay, Christine, I realize a "bestseller" isn't a ticket to Shangri La. I understand the poetry books that end up on a poetry-specific bestseller list top out in the low thousands, if that -- a famous poet's new book may sell in the hundreds and be considered a success. Poets who make money from poetry are actually making money from teaching or other poetry-related side gigs, like judging contests or nabbing grants. I don't mind not being paid -- if fact, I'm oddly embarrassed now when it happens -- but paying editors/publishers even to be allowed into the slush pile, whew.
Down as I get about sending good poems around & around & around, I have (at 57) two books coming out this year, one a poetry book, one a hybrid essay-fiction, both from tiny presses. 2023 will probably be the high point of my career.
Baldwin and Orwell. So great!
I know what you mean. I'm sorry that the big publishers only think about profit. It's getting harder for writers now because of AI. But we shouldn't give up, we can do it!