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Thursday, April 07, 2011

The House of Words (no. 13): Moving toward alternatives

"Luminous Letters" by Mary Bullington.
Acrylic & oil pastel on paper, 21" x 26." 
We read each other's poems in college,
and now look at us, long grown up.


No longer is any large house exempt from the rule of marketing. This change in publishing means that many writers look for a secure home and never quite find it—sometimes they are uneasy where they are or they keep moving or they have stopped being able to publish because of numbers.

The world of micro presses, small and regional presses, midsize houses, and university presses changes constantly. What I notice most at the moment is that poetry is still dropping away from university presses and many midsize houses. But new presses spring up all the time. People in our cities or in obscure and surprising places are striving to make culture, to distribute well-crafted books.


In fact, my first book was published at a smallish house, maker of beautiful books. In my innocence, I sent a little book to David R. Godine. How did I pick him? Browsing, I stumbled on a Godine book that called my name. And as I was reading that strange and wonderful book, Salar the Salmon, and I thought that if David R. Godine liked this book, he would like mine. And he did.

I still think it’s a grand way for a writer to find a press. Whose books do you love? It’s also a good way for readers to escape the list of “pushed” books. Find a book you like at a small press or midsize house? Perhaps you might like more of their books.


Next up is a look at Beth Adams and Phoenica Publishing. Afterward, I’ll whip down South to get warm and talk to Philip Lee Williams and learn how and why he turned away from public speaking and New York publishers to a more retired life and association with the university press. Among my friends in the small press world, nobody is more experienced than poet, novelist, and bookseller Corey Mesler. In an upcoming post, he’ll talk about what’s good and bad about smaller publishers, both from the point of view of a writer and of a bookshop owner. The internet has altered the situation for many who are nimble enough to take advantage of it. One who exemplifies nimbleness and ability to adapt to change is poet Dave Bonta, and I’ll ask him a few questions. Somewhere along the way we’ll talk to literary advisor Carole Sargent and Gary-the-out-of-the-box marketer who was so active and interesting in the no. 11 comment thread. (Thanks, Gary!) He is going to talk about luck, or how nothing is luck. If we are lucky (if we ask nicely or maybe hound him), he may talk some time about marketing. And there will be other voices--more poets and writers--as well.  No doubt there are surprises ahead and many rooms in The House of Words.


  1. Mary, if you are about,
    I love this painting! I wish I could afford its like for this house, but I have spent up my money on its crazy electrical system, among other things!
    Thanks Marly! I am anxious to read more good, hard-earned advice about publishing. With one and a half manuscripts to peddle, I need to learn as much as I can.

  2. Robbi,

    Mary is going crazy getting ready for the annual Roanoke studio visits shindig. She is in charge... I doubt she will wander by at the moment. You'll have to pop by facebook, I imagine.

    I promise there will be some things for you to consider coming up!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.