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DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative

May 12, 2007

"Don't Call It a Vanity Press"

Time Magazine's got an article up on digital printing services like Blurb and Lulu. [via Jilly Dybka]
Self-publishing, the only real success story in an otherwise depressed industry, is booming, thanks to the Internet, digital cameras and more sophisticated digital printing. It's also gaining respect. No longer dismissed as vanity presses, DIY publishing is discovering a niche market of customers seeking high-quality books for limited distribution.

Read the rest.

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  • "high-quality books for limited distribution" is a good way to put it. poetry is such a niche market, it seems more fiscally and environmentally responsible to use POD. if only the "high-quality" were a little higher, POD would surely take over as the preferred mode of publishing for us.

    By Blogger Jessica Smith, at 12:09 AM  

  • but i don't know how you can't call self-publishing a vanity press since yre publishing yr own work.

    like many small presses i used ferlinghetti's pocket poet series as my model at the beginning. boog's co-founder and i opened a copy of pictures of the gone world to see how we should make our books--ok, first page of ferlinghetti's guts is a title page, so we made a title page, next is a copyright page, so we did that, too, aping him throughout.

    and like ferlinghetti started his press with his own work, so did we, making a flipbook of our own work as boog literature #1. that was the last chapbook of my work that boog has published.

    when i decided i wanted to self-publish chaps of my own work i started a non-boog offshoot--euclid avenue, which became 213 euclid avenue, named to honor my mother, born on february 13; henry rollins, also born that day, and whose 2.13.61 gets the word out well and quickly, especially his own; and d.a. levy, who did much of his great work on euclid avenue in cleveland.

    and so every featured reading of my own work that i have done for the past seven years i have made a chapbook of all the work i read that night, in the order i read it. (i have a flipbook i'm preparing now for my wed. june 6 poproj rdg with buck downs.)

    so 213 euclid avenue is self-publishing and diy, boog city is just diy.

    By Blogger Boog City Events, at 6:16 AM  

  • hi DAK,

    self-publishing rocks, as you know. i think every poet should do it at least sometimes, depending on their technical skills and the nature of the project. go boog!

    when i first moved to nyc in 1995, i was interviewing around trying to get a job in publishing. i applied for allllllll kinds of shit, copyediting, editorial assistant, production assistant, etc., and landed in that publicity department. but one of the interviews i went on was at Vantage Press (yes, i think it was meant to sound like Vintage, the Knopf paperback imprint!) a classic vanity press. it's self-publishing, but unlike Lulu et al, the author pays fees to have the book printed and distributed, and there are various packages, kind of like ordering family portraits from Sears. that particular place did a lot of family histories and memoirs, and seemed to handle the issue of literary merit rather gracefully, but other places/services (like poetry.com, for instance) are not so ethical, and exploit the hopes of the authors, who are flattered into thinking their work is being selected for some other reason than the money they are forking over. (Lulu and these other POD services make no pretentions about judging the work's merit, etc.) "Vanity Press" has this connotation, and when applied across the board to self-publishing is dismissive, and inaccurate.

    i'm of the mind that any time a poet publishes her work she is really self-publishing. that she's found an editor to agree with her own assessment that the work is good and worthy of being read by someone is coincidental, you know? the poem is the poem. the poem is all that matters, not who/where/how it was printed. the assessment of merit happens at the site called WRITER and at the site called READER, and every other site of judgment is a tributary branching off from that most refreshing stream. self-publishing, particuarly DIY style, strips all else away and lets writer and reader get together without all the middlepeople.

    i object to the term "vanity" in that it's imprecise. EVERY INSTANCE OF PUBLISHING IS AN EGOTISTICAL EXERCISE, and could perhaps fairly be called vain. But that's true of practically everything else a body does on any given day, particular under the labelumbrella of "Art."

    Oops, this is a long comment. Maybe I'll repost it up top.


    By Blogger shanna, at 7:40 AM  

  • Hey Shanna et. al,

    Sure, I remember seeing that ad for vantage that I remember seeing run in the nyt book review from the time I was a kid, and probably longer than that.

    I’ve had authors pay for their books on three occasions, all at their own insistence, saying they had money and that I should take it for the good, hard work I was doing. So after a few back-and-forths I did, though I did give them a cut of their book proportionate to their contribution. Though in the case of one author they insisted I keep any profits from their book.

    The one thing I still can’t stand, though, is when journal editors publish their own work. As I mentioned in my previous post, many small press editors begin by publishing their own work and then move away from that. I have a strict policy here at Boog City that the poetry editors can not print their own work (nor can the art editor or, when we have one the fiction editor). I mean, how would it look if Rodrigo Toscno and Laura Elrick picked work of Rodrigo’s to go alongside the work of the two to three ohers they pick each issue? How would it have looked if when I edited our instant NYC anthology, The Portable Boog Reader, in 2000, I placed work of my own next to the work of the 75 NYC poets who were featured? Pretty weak I think.

    as ever,

    By Blogger Boog City Events, at 2:17 AM  

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