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Re: Melissa's query



Melissa,

This is just another take on what others have already well said, but you
might find it useful. Your description of your prospective client sounds
like someone who is trying very hard to get their work out there and
noticed. I would caution you that that could mean:

1) you're right and he's not hearing you about what you actually do;
2) he may have very specific ideas about how he wants his poetry to look,
which means he may not be prepared to let you even do your job without a
lot of interference, supervision or multiple changes;
3) he might be expecting miracles once his work is transformed into a
"real" book, ignoring a realistic view of how the publishing world works;
4) you'll spend more time on the client than on the actual books, 100
copies or not.

I say this because I used to work for a small literary publisher, staff of
four, that put out 6 to 8 books a year, regional fiction, non-fiction and
drama only. What we did as publishers was essentially _manage the authors_
and, oh yeah, get a book or two published.

The publishing part was relatively easy -- we subcontracted out editing,
indexing, design, printing, distribution, even sales repping to stores.

Our real role was deciding what we would actually publish, putting our
money behind that decision by investing in the production of the book, and
hopefully recouping our costs and the author's royalty in sales. We
screened manuscripts, then passed ones that fit our mandate to a volunteer
board of established writers to vete. Then we walked, handheld and
ego-stroked selected authors through the actual production process.

As well, I'd say I spent as much time on the phone explaining why:

1) we wouldn't consider someone's manuscript -- we don't publish poetry,
you're not from our publishing region, we don't do children's books, we
don't publish treatises on why dope should be legalized.

2) we didn't accept one that did fit our mandate -- we only publish 8 books
a year, it doesn't fit the scope of our list, we don't consider it ready
for publication by our press.

3) publication is not a right accorded to every person with a manuscript.

All this to say that authors and poets seeking publication often have _no_
idea what actually goes on in the book-publishing industry, and getting
published is more about finding a "personality" match between a publisher
and author than on the quality of the manuscript. You can deliver a book;
you may not be able to deliver all that this person is looking for.

Be cautious and trust your instincts. Speaking with the highest respect,
authors and poets do have a lot of personal investment in their work and
can be notoriously difficult to work with. But if you get a good feel for
this client, and maybe have some reliable backup people you can turn to,
this could turn into a wonderful project. Just get everything in writing
and _make_ him read the contract before signing.

Sorry about the long post. Let us know how it turns out.

Winston Pei

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