Making the Publishing Leap

04 April 2018

My first book was “Cordwood”, brought out by 22 Press in 1985. Shortly after publishing my book, 22 Press folded, the publisher ran off with his secretary, and I started getting calls from the publisher’s wife, other 22 Press authors, and 22 Press creditors, all wanting to know if I had any idea of where he could have run off to. “Cordwood” was instantly out of print. An exciting first book debut.

My second book – more of a chapbook, actually – was “Sciences, Social”, 1995, from Palanquin Books, then an imprint of the University of South Carolina at Aiken Press. I suspect the University press is still there, but Palanquin Books most likely has evaporated. Nonetheless, there is at least one copy of “Sciences Social” on sale at Amazon, at twice its original asking price.

I took a while off. I had published perhaps 700 poems and stories in places like “The Iowa Review”, “The Alaska Quarterly Review”, “The Altadena Review” and many, many other venues. It was time to reflect.

When I came back in 2009, the world had changed. Now there was the Internet. MFA programs had exploded – even the local University had one. There were still print publications, but webzines had taken the place of the mimeograph collections, and some of the off-set print efforts, I had been part of before. Whether or not it was read, you could now publish your work in a venue that, theoretically, was available to a billion readers – instantly. E-books were beginning to come into vogue.

As an aside, my two latest published fiction pieces have in the last few days come out in “Tuck Magazine” and “Spank the Carp”:

Be one of the billion.

After re-inserting myself into the fast-moving literary world, I began to think about doing another book. I wanted to bring out my first collection of mini-fictions, “Constant Animals”. I started looking at the small presses, but I noticed more of them in this modern world were charging reading or contest fees, and that many of the published authors were coming out of the MFA production line. I sent out some trial balloons that slapped my checking account and which fell with a thunderous disapproval at my feet. I felt I had a publishing resume that would indicate a favorable outcome for a book launch, but I was not finding like-minded publishers.

I thought about it and said maybe I should be doing my own e-book. This is when I found the generational divide. My older writer friends, from the pre-1995 days, said, “Eck, vanity publishing”; my younger writer friends, post-2009, said, “Sure, why not?”

I felt I was on solid ground. Of the 42 stories in “Constant Animals”, 39 had been previously published, and one had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Unlike a novelist publishing his own work, my stories and poems got to roam about the literary world as individuals, providing me feedback about their efficacy.

The high days of vanity publishing entailed sending your manuscript and check off to a “publisher” who would print X copies of your book, ship them back to you, and you could hand them out to your friends. Self-publishing an e-book, or a print-on-demand (POD) book, seemed more a personal investment in self than a display of ego. Maybe that is the rationale of a revisionist.

So, initially, I did “Constant Animals” as an e-book. After six months or so, I realized that a lot of people wanted physical books, so I went through Amazon and produced a CreateSpace book.

It was surprising to me when I found that many authors were doing this. And that many presses were fronts for collections of writers who were using the press to bring out their own books.

So, I came up with Barking Moose Press: I manage my current four books through the LLC:

  • “Constant Animals”, mini-fictions
  • “The Book of Robot”, speculative poetry
  • “Victims of a Failed Civics”, speculative poetry
  • “Avenging Cartography”, mini-fictions

Since the books are carried by the distributors Ingram, and Baker and Taylor, they can be bought on just about any bookselling website, can be ordered at most bookstores, and are carried in my local area by two independent bookstores.

I control the type, I control the proofreading, I control the covers. The dream of a megalomaniac.

If you want the specifics surrounding the actual mechanics, I can provide that in another column at a later time.

“Avenging Cartography”, mini-fictions
“Avenging Cartography”, mini-fictions

“Constant Animals”, mini-fictions
“Constant Animals”, mini-fictions

 “The Book of Robot”, speculative poetry
 “The Book of Robot”, speculative poetry

“Victims of a Failed Civics”, speculative poetry
“Victims of a Failed Civics”, speculative poetry

Ken Poyner has been writing for many effing years. Here he lays on the ways and means of his literary success. Like a bull he pushes through with his works and he is unlike that bull able to share with us what his experience is like. He does readings, workshops and enjoys sharing his work. As far as the business goes he is learning like the rest of us. He toils. He farms. He produces. We thank him for his service!

© Ken Poyner / OgFOMK ArTS -- 2018 All Rights Reserved.

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