Monday, September 05, 2011

The BlazeVox Publishing Conundrum

Search on the term BlazeVox and you will find bubbling opinions about the publisher’s attempt to make financial sense. The focus of concern icenters on  the press’ stated policy requiring money from authors to publish the work. Additionally, there is a question of how clearly Geoffrey Gatza, the publisher of BV, made this requirement.

None of this agitates me.

A poetry press, especially a small one, is a ridiculous business qua business. Money goes out and little comes back. Beth and I know, we ran Potes & Poet’s Press for 6 years. Incoming money went directly to the next book. At the time, Small Press Distribution was taking something like 6 months to pay us for books sold. They also neglected to send out standing orders to libraries. Thanks for that support, SPD. Grolier Book Shop thrilled us by ordering 2 copies of every book in the catalogue, enough to finance another book, and paid us zilch. I’m whingeing here but the fact is, poetry is not well supported, not even by those directly involved. Shrug.

Forced by necessity, Geoffrey Gatza made a business decision. Friends, if you will look around, a lot of businesses, real businesses, seek ways to survive. It appears that Gatza has rescinded his policy, because of firestorms, but I’m sure he had to do something. Throw the flagpole in the moat and see if anyone salutes.

Frankly,  do we need poetry presses? The audience is too small and unforthcoming to support presses as currently envisioned. Just go POD, and if you have 10 poet friends, publish 10 books: no waste, no extra expense. The poetry potlatch.

I’m not trying to be mean, but one might as well accept that poetry presses provide an underappreciated service. And do we need all this poetry, really? Are poetry books exciting and important? Let’s publish those ones, then buy them, then talk and write about them. The other ones, the publish or die ones, the churned out calling cards, let’s just give them a pass.

Critics of Gatza’s move call it vanity press. They are decidedly too secure in the comfort of gatekeepers. You can make you own books, you know. That’s what computers are for.

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