I don’t know how many posts I’ve written on this blog about having manuscripts rejected, failing to win competitions, not being a proper poet etc etc. I didn’t think I’d ever get there, but I’m now extremely pleased to report that somebody wants to publish a poetry collection of mine. Yes, a whole collection – 58 poems, to be precise – by me and nobody else. I’ve had going on for 50 poems published by magazines, anthologies and websites but I wasn’t at all sure if or when I’d get to the book stage. I could have decided to try to publish a pamphlet (about 20-30 poems) first, but in the end I plunged in and went straight for a collection. And a publisher took it! I did have a rejection from the first publisher I tried, though they did think it was worth trying elsewhere. This was my second attempt, which isn’t bad at all by fiction standards. (I don’t know how many agents I tried with my novel before realising I’d need to rework it – again. Of which more anon.) And the acceptance arrived, as if by magic, the same morning that I sent in the full manuscript. Yes, I know – it is unbelievable. It just so happened that the publishers were having a reading day….
So here I am, a to-be-published poet, getting geared up for my book’s emergence in the second half of next year and already thinking about who I’m going to invite to the launch, where it’s going to be, what refreshments to have etc etc. Some people are a bit squeamish about launches, but if you’re a poet you have to get out there and sell your books. And the way to do it is to have as big a launch as possible, then follow it up by giving readings wherever you can, preferably with other poets who are also launching their collections. If you’re lucky you may be invited to read at various sorts of poetry gigs, but you will also need the chutzpah to ask for invitations and set up your own readings. No room for shrinking violets here. And it’s good to read and have your poems received by an audience, and to get better at it so that you really feel you can communicate, not just on the page but in person too.
Unlike most prose authors, poets don’t get paid an advance on royalty. They are given the opportunity to buy a number of their books at reduced price and sell them at full price, which hopefully makes some sort of profit, even taking into account all the copies you feel obliged to give away. I’ll get five free copies from the publisher, but I imagine I’ll hand out far more than that to people without whom… And of course you get a royalty on the copies that the publisher sells, but the publisher won’t be likely to sell very many unless you do the work of publicising the book.
Which brings me – ahem – to the book itself. I may as well mention now that it’s called A House of Empty Rooms and that it will be published by the lovely Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams. (Don’t you love the names people give to poetry presses?) Watch this space for further details. I may even reveal my name in due course, having ditched the pseudonym as it was just too complicated to be two people at once. I decided the likelihood of my therapy clients reading my collection and knowing it was by me was so small that I might as well come out and be named. But you never know. I’m always surprised at the way people from one corner of my world seem to link up with people from other corners, and I’d just have to cross that bridge in the best way I could.
Anyway, I can now say that I’m officially A Poet and can well and truly stop worrying about whether I am one or not. I can feel equal to all my poet friends who have published or will be publishing collections, and when people ask me if I’ve got a book, I can say, ‘I’ve got one coming out next year,’ which is a lot better than ‘I hope I’ll have one sooner or later’. Now I have to start thinking about the next one, not to mention that novel…