three new nanopress poetry publishing teams

Long-time readers of this blog will recall my obsessive focus on nanopress publishing, aka “alternative poetry publication, with gravitas.” In June 2011, after participating in two nanopress publishing teams as author myself, and after gaining multi-format publishing experience from the Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks project, I offered free publication legwork assistance to any poet/editor teams out there interested in establishing a nanopress (an offer which stills stands, by the way). Here’s the current working definition of a nanopress:

The nanopress is a single-publication, purpose-formed poetry press that brings together, on a one-time basis, an independent editor’s judgment and gravitas and a poet’s manuscript. The combination effectively by-passes both the poetry-contest gamble and the dwindling opportunities offered by existing poetry presses, while still applying credible ‘quality control’ measures to the published work.

More information on nanopress mechanics here.

To my infinite joy, two poet/editor teams took me up on my offer and one poet/editor team went ahead on its own. They are:

A Place Without Dust Nanopress published Lent / Elegies by Nicolette Bethel, edited by Sonia Farmer, in May 2012. Blog post by the author here.

Omeremo Nanopress published Omer/Teshuvah by Shifrah Tobacman, edited by Rachel Barenblat, in May 2012. Author’s note here and editor’s note here.

DNA Nanopress published Diagnostic Impressions by Dana Guthrie Martin, edited by Donna Vorreyer, in September 2011. Author’s note here and editor’s note here.

These three nanopresses joined the two that were already in existence, in which I participated, for a total of FIVE nanopresses out there. Woot! The other two are:

Broiled Fish & Honeycomb Nanopress published Dark And Like A Web: Brief Notes On and To the Divine by Nic Sebastian, edited by Beth Adams, in June 2011. Editor’s process note here; author’s note here.

Lordly Dish Nanopress published Forever Will End on Thursday by Nic Sebastian, edited by Jill Alexander Essbaum, in March 2011. Editor’s note here, author’s detailed process notes here.

In the coming weeks, Very Like A Whale will be featuring interviews with the newest three nanopress teams about their experience and its outcomes, and showing how each team adapted the nanopress model to suit their own preferences. Meanwhile, I wanted to share updated stats for the Dark and Like a Web and Forever Will End On Thursday projects (as I promised I would here). Note that marketing & promotion for these two books was done entirely online, via websites & Facebook/Twitter, and supported by some awesome online blurbers and reviewers. No live readings or in-person hard copy sales went into the process. This is where the numbers are as of now:

Title ‘Forever’ ‘Dark’
ebook downloads 338 251
PDF downloads 44 22
print purchases 21 25
Full MP3 downloads 19 8
CD purchase 3 3
Total copies obtained 425 309
Total website views 2,522 1,300

As I said previously, there is no way to tell whether obtaining the collection = actually reading the whole collection or even part of it – the same question one could ask concerning print copies sold – but still, the evidence indicates that 425 people in one case and 309 in the other obtained copies of the collections, presumably with the intention of reading them or listening to them.  (Note: These stats don’t count the number of people who might have read the collections on their respective websites, clicking through the individual poems.)

These are not bad numbers, when you consider that in the informal poetry books sales survey we did recently, 27% of respondents reported selling less than 100 copies of their book; about 50% reported sales of less than 200 copies; and 74% less than 500 copies.

Stay tuned for the upcoming interviews with the nanopress teams.

Previous blog posts on nanopress issues can be found here.

the time has come to talk of many things

including cabbages, people.  We’ll be hosting Salt author Rob Mackenzie on our pages this Monday as he launches the Cyclone Blog Tour for his debut collection, The Opposite of Cabbage

If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t bought your Just One Book yet, get Rob’s  – it’s worth every penny.

More on Monday.

supporting poetry presses (cont’d)

As a follow-up to this post (in which I wonder neurotically if there are any online sources of information on accountability among poetry presses) and this post (in which Tupelo Press publisher Jeffrey Levine advises me to “save [my]self the anguish” and just get on with supporting), Michele Battiste offers this practical perspective (from the WomPo list, posted here with her permission):

“All nonprofits must file a 990 form. The 990 is an excellent way to see an organizations fiscal health and actions. ALL 990s are available on Guidestar, a website and organization that promotes nonprofit transparency AND philanthropy.

You must sign up, but membership is free to access 990 forms. You pay for more in-depth information. It is an EXCELLENT resource, especially if you are considering a contribution or a job at a non-profit.

Once you join, all you need to do is search on an organization, then click on the tab that says 990/Forms, and click on the most recent 990.

Tupelo Press has filed their 990s and the most recent is their 2007 (which is normal for non-profits). I’m sure Jeffrey won’t object to me posting this since it is public information and since he’s been very transparent in his emails. You’ll see that no board member is paid and that no staff member makes over $50K. You’ll also see that the cost of producing the books is much more than what they make selling the books. You’ll also see how much income they receive through sales, donations, grants, and other (contest fees and the like), etc.

I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector my entire career and believe that nonprofit transparency is the key to donor confidence and the continuation of philanthropic support. I’m sure Jeffrey will agree.”

Many thanks, Michele.

which poetry press should I help? (cont’d)

I posted my query on this topic to the Wompo list and got this useful response from Jeffrey Levine, publisher and editor-in-chief at Tupelo Press (posted here with his permission). Jeffrey wrote:

“Unlike the huge charitable organizations that have large staffs and war chests for TV and print ads, plus sizable payrolls just for development purposes and highly-compensated executive “teams,” most (all?) independent poetry presses have practically no payroll at all. We bring our lunches, and take turns mopping the bathroom floor.

Here’s a case in point: at Tupelo Press there’s no development staff at all. Our managing editor works part-time, half that time as managing editor, half as production manager. To save the press money, he works out of his home in northern Vermont. My office manager works 3/4 time. (I’d love to bring her up to full time, but can’t.) I work 80 hours a week, about 1/4 of that as publisher, about 1/4 as editor in chief, 1/4 as marketing manager, 1/4 as publicist. As for me, I have never had a salary of any kind. Everybody else who does work for Tupelo Press either donates the time, or the work is outsourced (i.e., to our excellent designers, to our excellent web master, our industrious database updaters — all of whom provide substantial nonprofit discounts. All of my time is donated, and has been for 10 years. Over that period, about $700,000 of my own money has gone into the press to get others in print and out into the world. (Because of the market meltdown — those funds are no longer available.) Likewise, my board has given substantial dollars over the years to accomplish the same task. This is a common story in literary publishing around the country.

Nobody in nonprofit independent publishing is making money off of donor funds. We have an annual budget of approximately $225,000. We publish 10-12 books a year. The total cost of publishing those 10-12 books, counting two part-time salaries, all of the costs of design & printing, and the post-launch support–review copies, ads, readings, publicity releases, etc. — comes to $225,000. Every penny goes into making those 10-12 books happen. Again, this is a shared story. Every independent press scrimps to get by, and is lucky to get by. Excuse me for saying the obvious, but I’ll keep saying it: publishing poetry is a labor of love. Unless you’re Poetry Magazine sitting on a $100,000,000 Ruth Lily endowment — and the Poetry Foundation, the uber-organization that holds the Poetry Magazine money, determined immediately not to share any of that astoundingly irresponsible gift with the publishing world. Instead they built a tower. As Billy Collins said, it’s like giving your entire fortune to your pet goldfish.

So, my suggestion is this: save yourself the anguish. If you have the means to support one or more presses, the world is better for it. Offer to join the Advisory Board of a press you admire. Donate time to help prepare the Profit & Loss Statements, the Balance Sheet, the Cash Flow Statements. Help with a grant application. But bring a strong stomach.”

which poetry press should I help?

There are fifteen hundred non-profit calls on every dollar in everyone’s purse, and a donor’s problem is often simply deciding where to bestow every ear-marked dollar. When it comes to general charitable giving, I annually set aside a specific portion of my income for specific charities that focus on areas of interest to me and have a demonstrated record of responsibly using donations.

Sites like the Combined Federal Campaign, which collect and provide standardized information on hundreds of charities, are useful on this latter point. CFC, for example, “calculates and publishes participating charities’ percentage of administrative and fundraising expenses (AFR) and advises donors that an AFR in excess of 35% is considered high by many in the philanthropic community” (I see that the charity I am supporting this year has a 2.1% AFR). There are also sites like the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator. But none of these sites seem to have poetry-press-specific searches.

I’m afraid I’m demonstrating terrifying ignorance by even asking, but are there comparable sites with such information about poetry presses? Or does one have to seek such information directly from the press? I am all for supporting poetry presses – particularly in these very difficult times – and I’d like to contribute regularly to at least one or two, but I admit a bias in favor of presses that can demonstrate to my earnest control-freaky self effective and responsible use of donor funds. Any pointers in this regard greatly appreciated.