Thank you for your kind support. It is a wonderful thing that you stand up for poetry in such fine ways. I have learned from this discussion and will strive to be ever more effectively transparent about publication arrangements.
I want make a statement after the fact. BlazeVOX is not closing its doors.
That said, I feel like I should explain a bit further the co-operative nature of our business model. I am not going to change what we do, but I do acknowledge that perhaps I could communicate what we do a little better.
We publish work that we love. We love good writing and avant-garde texts. The reality is that avant-garde books, unfortunately, do not sell well. It is only our love of the texts themselves that keeps us hard at work.
We work with authors new and established to get their work out there; however, there is significant financial risk in this. We ask our authors to help fund a small portion of their book. The money covers a small percentage of the cost of production, which includes my time. We do not ask all authors for a fee up front. We make this decision based on whether or not sales of the book will cover the costs of its production. Authors like Anne Waldman or Tom Clark will sell well enough to recoup these costs. Most books by new authors will not. In general, books by new authors sell around 25 - 30 copies.
But our art form is not about sales. If it were, we would start printing and selling the literally hundreds of Christian-themed manuscripts we receive each year which, for some reason, do sell. If we sold Christian-oriented poetry, we would be rolling in money. We do not choose to do this.
I live modestly off of the income of BlazeVOX and this allows me to be working on this press 14 hours a day. Rarely do I take a day off and it is this positive energy that sets us apart from other presses. We do not choose 4 to 10 books a year and end the year. We publish broadly and prolifically, and we want to continue to do these despite our limited resources. After searching for different means of funding the press, the most obvious seemed to be to tap the authors themselves. We co-operate and collaborate to get these books out there. It is a two-way street.
I have on hand over one thousand manuscripts and continue to receive about twenty new works a week. We read each of these books and keep the exceptionally good works. We evaluate works based on many criteria and look for texts that stand out, voices that should be heard, and words that need to be printed. AFTER choosing the best manuscripts to publish, we then ask the authors to contribute to production costs. Not, as it has been suggested, the other way around. We do not publish in order to make $250. We ask for $250 in order to be able to publish. Many of these so-called vanity projects have been hugely successful and these books have gone on to be read, respected and admired.
If your tastes differ from mine, so be it. I stand behind each of our authors as good writers. I have gone out of the way to pick writers from all ages, genders, religions, races and sexual orientations. I believe that our books go beyond the privileged good college crowd and speak to the wider voices of the world.
I have not gained wealth from this method of asking for donations. I am barely able to pay my rent, feed my cats, and eat based on the money from the press. If not for my partner’s kind efforts working a real job, we would not be able to eat regularly. Fortunately, we live in Buffalo, NY one of the only cities in America where a poet can live and eat and publish and not die from exposure.
I mention these things, as I want you to know that this is all that I do. I am not a teacher or associated with any college or university. It is just us and a love of strange poetry that keeps me going.
Again, thank you for your support.
Editor & Publisher