On Writing The Book

So I’m half-way through How (Not) To Get Your Poetry Published, the new, enlarged, revised, authorised, homogenised edition containing the Answer To It All.

What gets me about self-help books is the knowing tone. So I’m trying my best not to write in a knowing tone. But the knowing tone keeps getting in.

Poetry publishing has obsessed me now for over a decade. I know some things about it, but I still don’t want a knowing tone. I want a questioning tone, a raise-one-eyebrow tone, at the same time as some of useful facts and some ideas. A bit of ‘you need to know this’ and a bit of ‘have you thought about that?’

And it’s got to be funny some of the time. If you don’t have a sense of humour when it comes to getting stuff published, it can only end in tears. Or as Roberto Calasso says in The Art of the Publisher: ‘. . . if our life as a publisher fails to offer sufficient opportunities for laughter, this means it’s just not serious enough.’ This applies just as much to poets.

But I’m finding I can’t bear too many pages about how to prepare, how to make your approach, how to develop a strategy etc. It gets so far away from the joy of writing. Periodically I have to leap out of this book and go and look at something real, like a blob of mud in the back garden or the light reflected in the lenses of my glasses.

So I’m working some reading/writing stimuli into this book – optional, of course – to cheer people up as they go through. If anybody reads it, that is.

If you are reading this now and you think you might, one day, read this book titled How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published) and there’s something you’d particularly like covered in this hypothetical book, could you let me know what it is? You can use the comments section at the bottom of this page or the contact box on the website if your idea’s more private.

What have I got so far? Good question.

Apart from the enjoyable bits (the reading/writing pages) and the case studies (what not to do), this is what I have, but not in this order. (One of the points below is a lie: it’s not in the book at all.)

— motivation (fourteen reasons why)

— understanding the publishing process

— thinking like a publisher (but try not to on a Sunday, it’s very wearing)

— researching a publisher

— choosing the right publisher for you (if there is one!)

— how to make your approach (swinging the odds in your favour)

— thinking outside the box

— DIY publishing

— how people get books published, other people!

— how to gauge whether you’re ready

— track record in magazines

— why you have to use the web

— how to win the National Poetry Competition

— social networking for poets

— thinking about poems in sets: what makes a collection work?

— how to build a readership

Ideas welcome please as soon as you can manage them. But no knowing tones, towing groans or flowing moans, right? Things are bad enough already in the head of Nell.

The graphic shows a little girl or small female. It's a cartoon depiction. She could be little red riding hood. Her mouth is open wide with all her teeth showing and a bird on strings seems to be escaping from it. Three butterflies, also on strings, seem to be escaping from her back. Her arms are stretched out for help and her feet are on backwards.