And Sometimes You Say No

And Sometimes You Say No

Perhaps I’m getting cantankerous in my dotage, unwilling to admit that I can’t expect good things to continue coming my way, and should consider settling for what’s offered. After all, the age reel isn’t rewinding, and my inbox is not exactly buzzing with publication offers. There are more funerals than weddings in my future. I limp. Each day is indeed a blessing but my remaining minutes do not feel unconstrained. Far from it.

A few months ago I received an acceptance email from a chapbook publisher affiliated with a literary journal that had published one of my poems. The chapbook is strong, I think, and I felt good about the acceptance, until I read the one-sided contract. You can guess which side received the greater benefit. I emailed a reply asking for clarifications, and received one back the next day. To sum it up: the publisher would deign to publish me, but I’d bear responsibility for all promotion beyond their announcements on social media. Furthermore, their standard policy was to provide no review copies, and I would have to meet their minimum pre-publication sales order in order to be published. I could deal with these annoyances if there were hope of some payment, but in this case payment would be limited to 12% of the initial print run, which would likely run from 40 to 100 copies. So let’s say I was one of the fortunates who merited a 100-copy printing (which, to be frank, is on the low end). My total payment would consist of twelve copies, out of which I would need to provide any copies sent to reviewers, leaving me with oh, let’s say nine or ten to sell at readings. Chances are after a couple of readings, I’d have no chapbooks remaining, and would need to purchase additional copies from the publisher if I wanted to sell more. But under their terms, I’d receive only a 30% discount. Bear in mind that bookstores generally require a 40% discount to sell a book – they have to make something on the transaction. The publisher’s price was $14, so each consignment sale through a bookstore would net a loss of $1.40 per book. Uh, no. I may be a poet, but I can add and subtract, and I will not a) pay a publisher to publish my work, b) lose money merely to see my words in print, or c) work for free (I’m willing to do my part, but the publisher must also function as more than just a printer).

What to do? Stay on the same track? Submitting to publishers, and then on the rare occasion a manuscript is accepted, peruse the publisher’s terms and sign only if they’re agreeable? Self-publish? I haven’t wanted to take on the headaches of self-publishing, but am leaning in that direction more and more. I have two chapbooks scheduled for release during the next year, and am grateful to the publishers for offering good terms to their writers. But after these are in print, what course should I take?

Poem to Appear in Eclectica’s 20th-Anniversary Poetry Anthology

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I’m thrilled that my poem “Memorial Day” has been selected to appear in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th-anniversary “best-of” poetry anthology, scheduled to appear in spring 2017. If you are at all inclined, please consider donating to their Kickstarter Campaign to make this possible. The campaign ends, I believe, on January 31.

Memorial Day

Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,

the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost

in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet

altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing

clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,

only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,

the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something, she says,

and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.

Here’s what they say about the campaign:

“Eclectica Magazine has been online for two decades, publishing work by authors from around the world. We’re taking our 20th anniversary as an opportunity to share the work of 250 of those authors in four “best of” anthologies, including volumes for poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and speculative literature.

This Kickstarter campaign is designed to raise, at minimum, $6,500, which is just enough funding to publish all four volumes through Amazon’s CreateSpace program, covering the rewards and providing a contributor copy for each of the authors, artists, and editors involved. However, the campaign is also designed to exceed that minimum goal.

If we can raise our “stretch” goal of $21,750, we will be able to pay a competitive (for small, independent presses) rate of $20 per poem and $50 per short story or nonfiction piece. Over twenty thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, but if the more than 250 people involved with the project are able to recruit three $25 donors each, we will meet that goal.

This is an exciting project. The quality of the work we’ve selected for inclusion is exceptional, and many of our authors have enjoyed major publishing successes since appearing in Eclectica. If we can raise our “ultimate” goal of $58,000, we will do offset print runs through Lightning Source, which will enable us to distribute the books to brick and mortar stores. And if we sell out the first run of any of the four volumes, we will double the payments made to the authors appearing in those sold out volumes.

We have pursued a single-minded goal all these years to publish the best, most unique work we could find in a clean, easy to access format available for free to everyone on the planet. We still believe in that goal. We also love books, and above all we want to do something to honor the authors appearing in these anthologies and the over two thousand others who have helped Eclectica thrive over the years. That is what this campaign is about for us, but we’re also hoping our efforts will help shine a positive light on online literature in general. We’d like to demonstrate what can be accomplished without corporate or academic sponsorship, banner ads or $23 submission fees.

One measure of what can be accomplished is our performance over the years in the storySouth Million Writers Award. In the twelve years the award has been active, Eclectica has scored twice as many notable (54) and top ten (11) stories as any other online publication, beating out such luminous competitors as Narrative, Carve, Blackbird, Clarkesworld, Agni, Barrelhouse, and Anderbo. Those are some great venues for online literature, and there are many others deserving of recognition. We want to draw attention to Eclectica’s amazing body of work, and then we want to say, look at all the other amazing things to read on the Web.

Whether you are a friend or relative of one of the authors in question, or you’re a reader and supporter of online literature, or you just love literature–online or not–we ask you to help make these anthologies a reality, and the best reality they can be. Help us make our goal of getting these books made, or if we’ve done that, our stretch goal of paying our authors, or beyond that, our ultimate goal of seeing these volumes in your local bookstores.”

 

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project (August 2015): Why I’m Writing 30 Poems in 30 Days, or, Poetry Needs You!

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Tupelo Press 30/30 Project (August 2015): Why I’m Writing 30 Poems in 30 Days, or, Poetry Needs You!

Dear Friends,

Tupelo Press, one of our very best independent presses, could use our help. Like many nonprofits, Tupelo depends upon donations to augment their programs, which vary from a Teen Writing Center to publishing literary works of emerging and established writers. To this end they’ve instituted innovative fundraising approaches to achieve their goals, including the 30/30 Project, one of their most exhilarating and interactive efforts – every month, approximately eight poets pledge to write 30 poems in 30 days, and raise funds by soliciting donations from sponsors (as many nonprofits do via sponsored walks, runs or rides). In August I am one of the participating poets.

I invite you to join me in this project and help out by reading, commenting, heckling, encouraging, insulting, cajoling, praising and yes, if circumstances allow, sponsoring me and donating funds (to Tupelo Press, not me). This might not be of much interest if the poems were simply going to languish in a file somewhere, but such is not the case. They will be posted online daily, warts and all, for the world to peruse. That’s right – you’ll see our daily work, unpolished and raw, finished or not, and if you listen closely you may hear a whimper or two oozing out from Austin.

Why am I doing this? I love poetry and admire small presses. Independent literary publishers produce 98% of the poetry published each year, and Tupelo Press is one of my favorite presses. If I, poet, reader and book buyer, don’t support their work, who will?

Previous participants have sweetened the pot by offering interesting incentives such as baked goods for certain levels of donations. Since I don’t bake in the August heat here in Texas, I’m offering other enticements (although you may consider a few of them half-baked). And of course the donations are tax deductible (at least to those who must pay U.S. taxes). Please consider donating any amount, but I’m offering these incentives at the specified donation levels:

Name That Poem! For a $10 donation in my honor, you can provide a title, and I’ll write the poem during the marathon. Be imaginative. Make the title as long or as interesting as you wish – consider this a dare! But this incentive is of course limited to only thirty titles, and reduces by one every day of the marathon, so reserve your slot soon!

$25 donation will get you a signed copy of my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. 10592324_10153113120915120_689180005_n

For $35, I’ll produce and send you, in September, a unique, signed, mini-chapbook consisting of any six poems (your choice) I’ve posted on my blog.

For $50, I’ll provide one of my limited edition (only 50 copies were printed), letter press mini-broadsides of “Jingting Shan Hill.” It’s a beautiful piece designed and printed by Emily Hancock of St Brigid Press.

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If none of these incentives appeals to you, but you’d still like to help, I’m open to suggestions, particularly for larger donations. But no, I won’t streak a convent for a mere $100. Been there, done that (hey, I was once young, dumb, thin and fast).

If you choose to sponsor me, please visit the 30/30 blog at: https://www.tupelopress.org/donate.php. Scroll down to “Is this donation in honor of a 30/30 poet?” and select my name, “Robert Okaji,” from the pull down so that Tupelo knows to credit the donation to me. And please inform me of your donation and provide your contact info via email at robertokaji at yahoo dot com or through Facebook so that I may acknowledge and send your premium.

If you’ve seen through this blog or other outlets enough of my writing to last your remaining days, you might consider a $129 subscription to Tupelo’s regular subscription series, which garners you ten books from one of the country’s top literary presses! If you choose this option, please specify “in honor of” and insert my name, “Robert Okaji” to show your support for my efforts. Click here to subscribe: https://www.tupelopress.org/books_subscribe.php.

For more information on the 30/30 Project, and to read the daily poems, see: https://tupelopress.wordpress.com/3030-project/ I plan on posting updates two to three times a week, but we’ll see what happens. Things are going to be hectic. No matter what, I look forward to reading your comments. Thanks very much!