3 minutes reading time (547 words)

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.

On Finalising the Book
Ten Reasons for NOT reading today's HappenStance b...
 

Comments 11

Jinny Fisher on Sunday, 31 January 2016 11:40

Really looking forward to the book, Nell. Have you set us a quiz? My guess is that "How to win the National Poetry Competition" is not in the book.

Really looking forward to the book, Nell. Have you set us a quiz? My guess is that "How to win the National Poetry Competition" is not in the book.
Guest - Nell Nelson on Sunday, 31 January 2016 11:54

Correct, Jinny. But what a shame, eh?

Correct, Jinny. But what a shame, eh?
Guest - Annie Fisher on Sunday, 31 January 2016 11:58

This is looking like a great read already Nell. The chapter (definitely needs a whole chapter) on how to win the National Poetry Competition is an absolute hoot - got me chuckling even before you've written it...... Uh oh! ... Oh no! Don't say that's a fib. You've GOT to include it. xxx

This is looking like a great read already Nell. The chapter (definitely needs a whole chapter) on how to win the National Poetry Competition is an absolute hoot - got me chuckling even before you've written it...... Uh oh! ... Oh no! Don't say that's a fib. You've GOT to include it. xxx
Guest - marion tracy on Sunday, 31 January 2016 12:36

Hi Nell

Yes I spotted the National Comp would not be in the book.
Seems so far competitions are not on the agenda either maybe because they are a mine field in terms of opinions, varying from they are obviously the easy way to fame and fortune ( as is believed by many beginners) to an evil plot to take as much money from us as possible and then make most of us into failures but only of course if we are foolish enough to accept that ( I veer towards this opinion).

I suggest as an extra approach - How to be Different
and the idea of creating your own audience for your work. mxxx

Hi Nell Yes I spotted the National Comp would not be in the book. Seems so far competitions are not on the agenda either maybe because they are a mine field in terms of opinions, varying from they are obviously the easy way to fame and fortune ( as is believed by many beginners) to an evil plot to take as much money from us as possible and then make most of us into failures but only of course if we are foolish enough to accept that ( I veer towards this opinion). I suggest as an extra approach - How to be Different and the idea of creating your own audience for your work. mxxx
Guest - Nell Nelson on Sunday, 31 January 2016 13:58

Aw, okay. I will include it. (Publishers always lie.)

Aw, okay. I will include it. (Publishers always lie.)
Guest - Nell Nelson on Sunday, 31 January 2016 14:01

Thank you, Marion. Creating an audience is coming up, and I think How to Be Different may be embedded, but thoroughly good ingredients. Many thanks!

Thank you, Marion. Creating an audience is coming up, and I think How to Be Different may be embedded, but thoroughly good ingredients. Many thanks!
Guest - Andrea Samuelson on Monday, 01 February 2016 07:47

I really like your blog and if your book is written in the same voice I am sure it will be an easy read! Really looking forward to seeing the finished book.

I really like your blog and if your book is written in the same voice I am sure it will be an easy read! Really looking forward to seeing the finished book.
Guest - Colin Will on Monday, 01 February 2016 07:54

Some new authors tell me they have problems putting their poems into a sequence that makes sense to them and to potential readers. You've got a lot of experience in this, and it would be useful if you could put down some pointers.

Some new authors tell me they have problems putting their poems into a sequence that makes sense to them and to potential readers. You've got a lot of experience in this, and it would be useful if you could put down some pointers.
Guest - Nell Nelson on Monday, 01 February 2016 09:57

Good point, Colin -- yes, you're right. That must go in. And thank you, Andrea! :-)

Good point, Colin -- yes, you're right. That must go in. And thank you, Andrea! :-)
Guest - Kathy Gee on Monday, 01 February 2016 11:06

How to know when to give up? There must be some collections that have tried every known publisher.
How to take rejection? Positive ways to start again.
Tips for your second collection. Are the tips any different from a first collection?
This is going to be a 'must buy'!

How to know when to give up? There must be some collections that have tried every known publisher. How to take rejection? Positive ways to start again. Tips for your second collection. Are the tips any different from a first collection? This is going to be a 'must buy'!
Guest - Nell Nelson on Monday, 01 February 2016 11:24

I think I've covered rejection, at least I have in a roundabout way. I might think about the collections that have tried every known publisher when in the chapter about structure and concept. I wonder if there ARE collections that have tried every known publisher? If they have, it suggests to me something's far wrong with the tactics of the poet, since there's no such thing as a collection that's suitable for every known publisher. And if at least a good proportion of the contents of the book had been published in good quality magazines, I'm sure there would be a publisher that would be interested, provided the proposal was well presented.

But it could only ever be in with a chance with SOME of them. There would never be any point in sending to them all because they're too different from each other.

If the author is determined enough to have sent a collection to over fifty publishers, without changing the game or the collection's composition, I think they would normally at least consider self-publishing -- if they still believed in the set of poems, that is. That takes some bucket of self-confidence.

But don't you think they might get some expert advice somewhere in between? I would!

I've also thought about dealing with the second collection but I think it might be too complicated to get that into this book. But it might not. I'll add it to my list. Thank you, Kathy! This is all hugely appreciated.

I think I've covered rejection, at least I have in a roundabout way. I might think about the collections that have tried every known publisher when in the chapter about structure and concept. I wonder if there ARE collections that have tried every known publisher? If they have, it suggests to me something's far wrong with the tactics of the poet, since there's no such thing as a collection that's suitable for every known publisher. And if at least a good proportion of the contents of the book had been published in good quality magazines, I'm sure there would be a publisher that would be interested, provided the proposal was well presented. But it could only ever be in with a chance with SOME of them. There would never be any point in sending to them all because they're too different from each other. If the author is determined enough to have sent a collection to over fifty publishers, without changing the game or the collection's composition, I think they would normally at least consider self-publishing -- if they still believed in the set of poems, that is. That takes some bucket of self-confidence. But don't you think they might get some expert advice somewhere in between? I would! I've also thought about dealing with the second collection but I think it might be too complicated to get that into this book. But it might not. I'll add it to my list. Thank you, Kathy! This is all hugely appreciated.
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