Joey’s small press adventure

Moving on to my second recently-published friend, Joey (not his real name).

In the interest of full disclosure, I really don’t know Joey all that well. We just kind of happen to travel in the same circles and, in passing, we discovered we had both graduated from the same writing program, only a handful of years apart.

Now, Joey’s specialty is poetry, and though I don’t tend to read much of the stuff, I do appreciate good poems when I happen upon them, and I have to say Joey’s work seems pretty darn good to my untrained little eye. And my untrained little eye must be on to something, because Joey’s poetry has won at least one small-but-significant poetry award for emerging artists. He’s also just been recently published by a small, but very well-respected literary press.

While it’s possible that Joey happened to know someone who knew someone at said small press, and therefore he somehow had an ‘in’ with them, chances are he didn’t and he actually got in the good ol’ traditional way: By submitting his work. A few months ago, he proudly announced that his collection of poems had been accepted for publication. He got an advance, a contract and all the traditional bells and whistles. The publisher even threw a book launch for him, and has had him out on a mini-book-tour with another handful of poets. His poetry collection is available for purchase at any regular old bookstore.

Being a poet, it’s not surprising that Joey didn’t bother with agents and the querying process in the traditional sense. He knew where he stood in the market and he approached the handful of respectable small presses that were likely to be interested in his work.

Like with Diane, there’s no point comparing Joey’s work to mine. Diane and Joey are evening wear and cultured pearls; I’m slacks, funky shoes and silver rings. And I’m OK with that. I, in fact, like it that way. My writing may still have some residual literary flair from my days at writing school, but that’s all it is: Residual. And flair. May aim is to tell a story. I like having a plot with a discernible beginning, middle and end. And though I like words, and I’d like to think I’m reasonably adept at stringing them together, I have no illusions or even intention of writing literary fiction, much less high calibre poetry.

Still, since learning of Joey’s experience, I’ve started considering small presses a lot more seriously that I had in the past. I mean, while Joey’s publisher is high-end literary, obviously not all small presses are created equal. So, I started doing some research and I’ve even come up with a handful of small publishers that may actually be a pretty good fit for the novel I’m currently shopping around. But like I said in my previous post, I’m not quite ready to take that step just yet. I still have those fulls and partials out and I can’t even say I truly regret the relentless querying I’ve put myself through–never mind how harrowing, heart-breaking and thankless it’s been at times. The thing is, deep inside, I still think going through a literary agent is what’s going to be best for my book and my writing career in the long run. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

Do I wish the odds weren’t so stacked against me? You bet I do!

Do I wish the traditional publishing industry didn’t move at the speed of tortoises slugging through a swamp of crunchy peanut butter? Well… Duh! Don’t we all?

Am I tempted at this very moment to just start querying small presses, even when I still have a handful of fulls and partials out there in Agentland? Uhm… Yeah. But like I said in my previous post, I’m also sorely tempted at times to just go the Diane route and self-pub. And who knows? I might end up doing just that. But not yet. Because, even as my impatience is sometimes borderline asphyxiating, I just have to force myself to stop and really, really consider what I think will be best for my career. Because I’m not talking about this one book I’m currently shopping around. I’m talking about any and all others that will come next. I’m talking about what I’m working on right now and what I’ve been working on while querying this novel; I’m talking about what I will be working on next year or the year after that. Because the day I stop writing altogether, the day I fully, truly give up hope… That’s the day I give up my soul.

OK, that came out a little more melodramatic that I intended. But it really is true. Giving up my dreams would mean dying a little. Resigning myself to failure. And I’m really not ready for that. Not when I’ve got people who still believe in me–which just humbles me into believing in myself.



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