BlazeVOX extra

Literary Prestidigitations on Display

Read Geoffrey Gatza's AWP Panel talk on Cooperative Publishing and the Future of the Small Press

Cooperative Publishing and the Future of the Small Press

Geoffrey Gatza

 

Date: Thursday, March 7

Time: 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Location: Room 306, Hynes Convention Center

 

The future of the small press is well in hand and through cooperative publishing, BlazeVOX [books] would not exist. Poetry, experimental fiction and weird criticism is not the business model for many, however, it is the path that we have chosen and we see wonderful opportunities. I see the future as a wide open field in which we can bring out the work of wonderful authors and place them in the hands of readers around the world by using the latest technologies and using the lessons the history of publishing has taught. The small press in the English language began when William Claxton, a successful businessperson, in his 40’s, went to Belgium. After watching the very beginnings of the printing industry, he started printing books in English in 1473. He brought this skill to back to his home in England, setting up a press at Westminster in 1476. The first known book to be produced there was an edition of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

 

Outside of being an interesting fact, this is a story of a publisher using the latest technology to disseminate an important work of poetry. Claxton saw an opportunity and used the technology of his time to help reshape the way poetry was transmitted to readers. Today we are in very similar boat. The tides of change have rocked the printing industry and we, as readers, have so many new ways to experience literature, ways that were considered the stuff of science fiction when I was a child. And as publishers, we have ever changing technologies and evolving audience who have very high expectations for the press to keep up with the times. Today, small presses are located as close to the Media Industry as they are centered within the Arts.

BlazeVOX [books] is an independent small press publisher located in Buffalo, New York. We are a major publishing presence specializing in innovative fictions and wide-ranging fields of innovative forms of poetry and prose. Our goal is to publish works that are challenging, creative, attractive, and yet affordable to individual readers.

 

Our history began in 1999 as a college project, publishing an online student-run poetry journal for Daemen College on a very limited budget. The success of this online format grew into BlazeVOX, an online journal of voice, which first published in the autumn of 2000; it is still in active publication today. In 2005 we began using print-on-demand publishing to bring out our very first books. Included in that first run of authors are Kazim Ali and Amy King. Since then our catalog has grown by leaps and bounds. Now in our twelfth year of operation we have published 300 books and over 1000 writers in our online journal and other publishing outlets. Our family of fine writers includes Bill Berkson, Anne Waldman, Clayton Eschleman, Lee Ann Brown, Tom Clark, Ray Federman, Barbara Henning, Michael Boughn, Gloria Frym, Ron Silliman, John Kinsella, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Ted Greenwald, and Tom Clark

 

BlazeVOX’s enthusiasm for innovation is reflected in our continuing exploration of the electronic frontier. Since the late 1990s, we have experimented with generation after generation of electronic publishing tools. From those large desktop computer systems and the many forms of HTML, through our present-day use of print-on-demand production technologies, our intensive use of the Internet, and our commitment to new electronic products—whether digital journals or entirely new forms of communication—we have continued to look for the most efficient and effective means to serve our readership. These readers have come to expect excellence from our publications, and they can count on us to maintain a commitment to producing rigorous and innovative books in whatever forms the future of publishing may bring.

 

We offer many kinds of Publications:

 

Free Online Publications

 

BlazeVOX: An Online Journal of Voice

 

o   Our original platform for publishing is our online journal: BlazeVOX: An Online Journal of Voice. Beginning in 2000 we have published biannually, in the Spring and Fall, for twelve years. Presented here is a world-class issue of poetry, art, fiction, and arresting works of creative non-fiction, written by authors from around globe.

 

o   Wilde Reading Room – free ebooks in PDF Format

 

Our ebooks are the most popular items on our website! They are a free download and are formatted in Adobe PDF. They should open right up in your browser or in any environment that supports Adobe Reader. We offer 50 free books by great authors and we are also expanding our Podcast section for free readings by BlazeVOX [books] authors.

 

Please visit our page at:

http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/WildeReadingRoom/

 

o   Annual Thanksgiving Menu-Poem

 

For eleven years BlazeVOX has hosted a virtual menu-poem on Thanksgiving Day to honor a prominent poet as a way to get together and feast with dear friends. In a book length work of poetry by Geoffrey Gatza set up as a menu that we would serve if we could gather together a thousand of our closest friends to honor, over a common meal, a poet who has inspired so many. This year’s Thanksgiving Menu-Poem and we are celebrating the great poet and art critic Bill Berkson. For two thousand and twelve we are celebrating with a twelve-course meal over twelve hours; we have everything Bill Berkson; including a full biography with links to poems, reviews and interviews. In years past we have celebrated Anne Waldman, John Ashbery, Robert Creeley, Charles Bernstein, and Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop.

 

Please visit our page at:

http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/thanksgiving-poems/

 

Print Books and Ebooks

 

 

o   BlazeVOX [books]

 

In 2005 we began using print-on-demand publishing to bring out our very first books. To date we have published 350 books.

 

o   BlazeVOX [ebooks]

 

We have 150 Kindle version of our print books and publish them through With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). They are for sale from 99 Cents to $2.99 and are available for purchase on Kindle devices and Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, and Android-based devices. With KDP, we can publish books in many languages - including English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian - and specify pricing in US Dollars, Pounds Sterling, and Euros.

 

 

Our co-operative model at BlazeVOX involves the author with many aspects of the work to get the book published. We are in direct communication in the design of the book, setting the text by sending documents back and forth, editing together, deciding on cover layouts together and even promotion the book together. We are expanding our focus in marketing, which I will discuss in just a moment.

 

It would be remiss of me to not discuss the recent controversy that BlazeVOX was involved in at this time last year. On Sept. 5, 2011 I was pilloried on HTML Giant for BlazeVOX's co-operative fundraising model. There were also charges of not being fully transparent in the way we presented our acceptance information. Within 24 hours BlazeVOX was being praised and most of the controversy died down and we received thousands of communications of support for our press and how we do business. We have ceased our co-operative funding model and are working on forming as a not-for-profit organization. Here is our statement about the whole controversy. It best explains what I hope to convey.

 

Our now discontinued model of charging some authors a portion of the costs of publishing their poetry books, as Anis Shrivani said in the Huffington Post, ‘inflamed [the] passions in the generally staid world of independent literary publishing.’[1] The controversy grew when the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) decided to ban poets from listing books published by BlazeVOX on their grant applications.

 

Things are much more staid again and we have had a wonderful response from the NEA with what we dubbed a ‘smile campaign’. Many, many, many people voiced their opinion directly to the NEA and in the end all things have been ironed out. We are now in the final stages of becoming a not-for-profit so that we can operate within the framework of our audience’s demands. I am amazed by the support we received during this awful period, but now that so much time has passed and I can breathe easier. I am very happy we weathered the storm and have become a stronger organization because of it. I am excited about the future and the projects we can produce. We have the resources, on hand now, to produce 800 more books and an unlimited number of Kindle books.

 

 

Now, after rudely interrupting myself, I will return the idea of marketing. We had been marketing the book as a simple sales pitch using only the back cover blurb and a simple email campaign to market several books at one time, in one email, that came out monthly. So far this has lead to not many sales of our books. We want people to consume our books, read them and talk about them online with friends and other readers whom they share like-minded interests.

 

So we plan to change the way we market our titles. We are setting up marketing campaigns for each title using the author’s story rather as well as what is inside the book. We need to market the poet as well as the book of poetry. Each writer has a story that brought him or her to write the book we are publishing. That story is interesting to readers, as a bridge into the book by developing our relationships between the writer an the reader, why it is important for them to buy this book now, and how that book will affect them in their reading mind.

 

Method to develop one marketing plan that will fit each title:

1.     Have author fill out our Author Kit

2.     Develop an email interview of sorts, 10 to 15 questions to probe the authors mind and have them be revealing. Use this interview on the webpage in the Online Journal section a few weeks before the book is released to build momentum.

3.     Develop marketing copy from this interview, their bio and back-cover blurbs

4.     Find one hard-hitting line for the email marketing campaign from this interview or blurb.

5.     Email a newsletter once every other week that highlights one book.

6.     Develop Twitter and Facebook copy from this interview, their bio and back-cover blurbs with a link to their page. 

  

We will also employ Google Trends to find SEO terms that truly relate to our books, authors and themes. Then implement these terms into our webpage metadata and calculate how they help the press. Two ways to measure this would be to follow the trending of our books on Google Trends and to track sales in relation to that books marketing campaign.

 

Just as Claxton had to figure out what to do with his finely printed books, we too have to figure out how to get books in reader’s hands, and we don’t have a Chaucer manuscript to print. The new is out there and changing every day. We have opportunity in out hands and as we can see by how many people are here, at AWP, there is an eager audience to serve and a wide group of talent to publish. To conclude, the future of small press publishing lies with the audience. Listen to your audience, as they know what your press is capable of and what you should be doing. They also know what you are not doing and what you should be doing better than you know yourself. More often than not, your audience dictates your mission and what you should focus in on. Your publications should match their tastes. If you cannot stay relevant to them, no matter whom you are publishing, they will find another place to be informed by what is current in literature.

 

Thank you.

 

 



[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anis-shivani/blazevox-nea-ban_b_1374042.html