Post-truth is a wonderful word. In the poetry world for example anything that you publish yourself has become “published”. To quote the bible, not something I usually “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
“Personally I can’t get very excited about this controversy over whether XYZ is a mainstream or vanity firm or something in-between.”
“Never pay to get your poems published.”
“Poetry is too marginal proposition to be worth serious attention”
“The majority of the contemporary poetry industry, insofar as it has a business model, is based on extracting money from writers, not giving it to them. ”
Vanity is excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own achievements and as such applies to both the author (who wants to get their work into print) and the publisher (who is made to feel important, worthwhile, gains pleasure or kudos in publishing his/her work and those other others). Vanity Publishing is a term coined by Johnathon Clifford in 1959/60 and the definition is “Vanity publishing, also self-styled (often inaccurately) as “subsidy”, “joint-venture”, “shared-responsibility”, or even “self” publishing, is a service whereby authors are charged to have their work published.” Generally speaking they will accept the work of anyone, charge the author for the production of their work and/or the author must purchase X copies of their own book. However, where do you fit print on demand, different types of subsidy publishing and self publishing services offered to writers – editing, proof reading, cover design, printing and marketing?
2. EXAMPLES FROM THE PRESS
Publish through …… Avoid the vanity press. All categories considered. Combined Editing and publishing package. Your book never out of print and for sale in all major UK &US on-line bookstores, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Authors invited to submit manuscripts all categories including poetry. New authors welcome.
Writing prize for short story or poem any length up to 2500 words. Theme refugees and peace-seekers. No entry fee. Closes 31n March.
Free poetry contest, max 21 lines, £50,000 in prizes.
Best submissions will be published in an anthology
Poems on any subject required for anthology.
A proven reading/criticism service for new and published writers. Professional appraisals of … poetry. I am a scout for a leading literary agency.
If you’d like to develop you poetry, then this course is for you.
Creative writing weekends from £240.
To be considered they must buy one of our publications.
3. VANITY PRESSES: THE GOOD
- You don’t have to convince the poetry editor to accept your book.
- You have exhausted all other publishing possibilities (that is, being turned down by too many publishers) and, having worked long and hard on your poetry collection, want to see it published.
- Writing poetry is a pleasurable hobby which you have enjoyed and you use a Vanity Publisher to provide copies of your book which you can then give to friends etc.
- You don’t want to spent a huge amount of time or have a lack the expertise of book production.
- You can get the book published in in two or three months instead of two of three years.
- You have control over what’s included in the final manuscript and a say in book production.
- You may do a lot of open mic readings or are going to a festival and need to have a number of books to hand in order to sell to people who enjoy your work.
- You make more money per book.
- It may of course get picked up by a commercial publisher but this is unlikely.
- It allows publishers to accept more poets, have more writers in print with less overall risk.
- The publisher no longer has to finance the entire project.
- You may want to use a particular imprint and have them as the publisher of record.
4. VANITY PRESSES: THE DOWNSIDE
- They target new writers, amateurs, beginners, who just want to see their book published
- They print anyone
- You have to bear the up-front or set-up costs
- You pay for “extras” such as edits, custom cover design, formatting, publicity etc and they still offer you a low percentage on your book’s earnings
- Unfulfilled promises esp marketing
- You probably won’t get any/or the same level of editing/proofing as with a proper publisher
- Most magazine editors won’t review the books
- You’re totally responsible for marketing and distribution
- Won’t help much if you’re interested in a career as a serious writer as it does not offer validation for you as a writer
- Publishers make money from the writer who buys their own books but they give the writer a small number of free copies
- No editing of the poems
- Some presses are misleading and pretend to be traditional publishers
- You don’t know the quality of the finished book
- No bookstore distribution
- You must buy a book from the publisher before they will consider you
- Reading fees for prospective writers
to answer your questions about being pretentious I need to go back to 2013 when I wrote a poem using three line stanzas. It was a decent poem but it did not excite me. So I thought of John Ashberry and pantoums, the blues and a recent painting by Raul Cordero. The original stanza lines in the poem
became the new lines
1 (made up of the old lines 2+3)
2 (made up of the old lines 1+2)
3 (made up of the old lines 1+3)
I was struck at how powerful the tercet now sounded as the rhythm and rhyme became intensified. So I applied it to the other 3 line stanzas in the poem. The next problem was how to capitalise the start of lines and how to punctuate? It would look silly capitalising the original line 1, the new line 1 would be at odds with how the poem was put together, and as I’ve always used a lower case in the start of each line unless it was the start of a sentence. It was a no brainer. Luckily the stanza is end stopped at line 3, so as there is a line break and a blank line there’s no real need for a full stop. However I still need to indicate a pause between line 2+3, 1+2 and 1+3. I tried putting them on separate lines but I preferred the three line structure (must be the catholic in me), commas didn’t look right, spaces meant that some of the lines ran over, stepped lines would almost do the job but then magazines could not print them easily and it did look a little pretentious. I wanted something simple and straightforward. When I read the poem out loud I used a red slash to indicate a pause and a slash is actually a punctuation mark known as a virgule – offset by spaces to either side is used to mark line breaks when transcribing text from a multi-line format into a single-line one. It is particularly common in quoting poetry, song lyrics, and dramatic scripts, formats where omitting the line breaks risks losing meaningful context. I settled with that. It’s sharp, simple, looks good and does just what I want it to.
As to the lower case I. A few months ago I read “milk and honey” by rupi kaur. I liked the way it seems to bring a level of equality (both in the poem and in the social hierarchy), deflate the ego and make I=we. In these particular love poems that was exactly what I wanted.
Clear reasons I think. Poems using the same form as this (only not using the lower case I) have been published in Tears in the Fence, The Journal, Message in a Bottle and are forthcoming in Envoi and Brittle Star. Interestingly the editors did not ask about the repetition or the virgules