Lent / Elegies by Nicolette Bethel, edited by Sonia Farmer and published by A Place Without Dust Nanopress.
1.Talk about the collaboration process as it unfolded for you – did this experience differ from any previous experiences you may have had of editing or being edited? What would you change about the collaboration process if you were to do it again?
Nico: The process was very easy. I have worked with Sonia before, on my small-run handmade chapbook Mama Lily and the Dead and so I knew what to expect. I simply sent the series of poems I had worked on to Sonia with a couple of questions–such as which ones to get rid of, whether the titles were working, and what she thought we should do about setting them up. She told me not to get rid of any of them, that the title worked fine, that we should present the title as it is written now–Lent/Elegies–and she laid them out for me as a book. Then she sourced the cover image, which was perfect, finished the layout, asked me a couple questions about font and spacing, and did some minor copyediting. Voilà.
Sonia: The collaboration was precipitated by Nicolette who asked me to come on board in publishing her latest book in a rather unconventional way. We had worked together before to publish Mama Lily & The Dead under my press, Poinciana Paper Press, so we had a level of creative trust and understanding which I think led her to ask me to get involved in her next book. Coming from a sort of specialized tradition where my books are hand-made through various binding, letterpress and printmaking processes, I nonetheless love the ways technology helps us rethink the book as an object, so the nanopress model excited me and I agreed to help edit the collection. I can’t think of anything I’d like to change–it was a fascinating exercise.
2.The nanopress model is flexible in conception and intended to evolve according to the individual needs of individual teams. In its first conception, it envisioned the editor providing ‘macro’ input, mainly focusing on the substance of the collection, with the ‘micro’ side – the technical legwork of publishing and marketing – being the responsibility of the author. How did the division of labor work out for you?
Nico: The division of labour worked just fine for me. It is the kind of thing I love, and building on it I am now working with a graphic artist for a more traditional self-publication–she is doing the layout for me, and I am doing the fiddly editorial work. I am now promoting Lent/Elegies, if you can call what I do “promotion”– I’m mentioning it every now and then and getting people to think about looking for it when the moment arises.
Sonia: Though we may not have followed the model–I think Nicolette had a very complete collection of poems that didn’t need any rearranging or many tweaks–I feel like we divided the labor fairly. In fact I wouldn’t say we divided any labors exactly–we exchanged a lot of emails about creative decisions like cover art and the name of the press itself and such so it felt more like a true collaboration that I really enjoyed. In terms of marketing I wrote an article about it and Nicolette arranged a wonderful reading this year to launch it, plus we shared the blog with our individual networks. However Nicolette undertook the recording process for the audio component on her own.
3. Talk about the numbers of readers you have been able to reach – did you do a lot of, or not so much, marketing? If you did, how did you market the poems? What statistics can you share – would you fill in the blanks in the table below?.
Nico: As I’ve said above, I haven’t done very much marketing at all. However, just last week (April 2013) I participated in a reading at the university bookstore, all arranged and organized by the poet who shared the reading with me, and sold several printed versions of the book (30 in one week, a very good week indeed). In all, 53 print copies have been sold, and there have been 146 downloads of the digital version. The original 23 books were given away as presents, so “sold” to the author, or featured at the Bocas LitFest in Trinidad and Tobago.
Sonia: Unfortunately I am not sure how to assess that exactly, being a luddite! I have no concrete stats, but I did write two articles to promote the book that were published in the Arts & Culture section of The Nassau Guardian–one in-depth piece about the work and its fascinating publishing process around the time it launched, and another revisiting it for her recent reading and informal launch of sorts during a Meet the Writer series at the College of The Bahamas earlier this year.
4. In its first conception, the nanopress model envisioned that resulting poetry would be provided to readers either free of charge or, in the case of print versions, at base production price with no mark-up. Did you go with this model, or choose a different one? Why in either case?
Nico: The digital versions of Lent/Elegies are entirely free and can be downloaded in various formats from Smashwords, or read online on WordPress.com. The print versions have a slight mark-up of about $1.50. The main reason for this is that I have had to order the books myself in small bulk numbers to distribute to local bookstores, and I wanted the online price to be comparable to the bookstore prices in an effort to support those bookstores. I didn’t want to undercut local bookstore prices. Landed, the books cost me about $7 a copy, and that is what I sell them to the bookstores for. My suggested retail price for the books is $10. The Lulu price for the book is $7. The idea is that if one orders a copy online and one is in the Bahamas, one will discover that, once one has paid shipping and handling and duty, one could’ve gone to the local bookstore and bought a copy for the same basic price and far less trouble.
Sonia: We went with all possible models. From what I recall, the decision was really Nicolette’s which I was happy to back up.
5.How many publication formats did you choose to work with? Why?
Nico: I chose all the available formats because I wanted to see how they would be consumed. It’s been fun looking at the stats. I’m pretty chuffed with the numbers, even though they’re technically tiny. The only format still unavailable is the audio version, which takes time to prepare. I’ve begun recording the poems but haven’t yet achieved the quality that Nic wants me to, so that project is still unfinished.
Sonia: This is a similar answer to the previous question. For me really I was excited by the idea of providing as many choices as possible to readers, which is something the digital age can afford us. The idea of audio was intriguing to me and had me thinking–what’s next? A soundtrack to books that unfolds as we read? Why not?
6. Would you be willing to undertake another nanopress collaboration in the future, as either editor or author? Why or why not?
Nico: I would certainly consider it. I’d much rather be the author, though! Write the poems, the work is done.
Sonia: For sure–but for me it would have to be with a writer with whom I know I share certain creative sensibilities with. As an editor I like to have close relationships with the writers I publish so I can help them realize their vision in all its glory.
7.Is there anything else you would like to say?
Nico: I’ve always loved this idea. I really buy into the liberation being offered by digital publishing and Nic has tried to bring quality to the mix. Kudos to her.
Sonia: This was an inspiring experience that actually helped me overcome my technological prejudices as an avid chapbook publisher. I thought technology could only help print die, and but instead I see it opens up exciting alternate realities and I’ve started to explore what they can do for my handmade process in the future.
Previous interviews with nanopress teams:
– Diagnostic Impressions – poems by Dana Guthrie Martin, edited by Donna Vorreyer, published by DNA Nanopress.
– Omer/Teshuvah – poems by Shifrah Tobacman, edited by Rachel Barenblat, published by Omeremo Nanopress.