Notes on the Last Post

Thanks, Carol, for letting me know of a lively and relevant discussion that’s going on right now at the Eratosphere.  It focuses on an article by Sandra Beasley in the latest Poets & Writers, “From Page to Pixils,” which you’d think might have been the inspiration for yesterday’s post, but I actually hadn’t seen it yet.  Beasley offers an insightful rehash of the reasons why poets shouldn’t be afraid to publish online.

Good stuff, and I want to respond to a lot of it — but I’m out of underwear, and need to spend the next couple hours reading submissions at the laundromat.  So rather than a proper follow-up post, I’m going to throw down some random thoughts, bullet style:

<< As a response to just the first sentence of Carlin’s comment:  I was hoping folks would write in and let me know about journals that are doing interesting things online that I’m not familiar with.  I’m looking forward to checking out Open Loop Press and HarperStudio, thanks for sharing that.  Also, I have to say I regret not mentioning No Tell Motel as an online magazine that does poetry right.  They publish daily, five times a week, and focus on one poet per week.  So not only do you get your daily dose of poetry, but you also get to build a mini-relationship, a little fling, with one particular author (hence the clever title).  It’s really a great setup, and Reb publishes good work, too.

<< Both Beasley and (oops) [T]he Eratosphere folks imagine an editor being unfamiliar with a poet they’re trying to decide to publish, and then Googling them to see what else they’ve written.  This idea is just baffling to me — if I’m looking at a particular poem, what do I care what other poems that poet has written?  How on earth does it matter to the experience our readers will potentially have with that poem?  Seriously, I’m asking…

<< That said, I think what comes up when you Google a poet is very important — “managing that virtual dimension,” as Beasley puts it.  When I started writing, I was writing junk.  I never worried about my reputation or a career.  Writing was a hobby, publishing poems was fun.  So I published a lot of junk.  The funny thing is, junk in print disappears — tiny magazines are read once, by a couple hundred people, and never read again.  Junk online lasts forever.  If you Google my name, you can still find poems that I wish I hadn’t published.   When I started taking poetry more seriously, I realized that I had to do a better job of putting good work online, and I made a conscious effort to send some of my best poems to the e-zines I read.  Which is why a poem like “After Hopper” appears in Pedestal Magazine.

<< I don’t know a lot about web traffic or circulation figures, so I’m always very interested to hear other editors dropping insights into how large their audience is.  Several months ago, also in Poets & Writers, I learned that Rattle’s circulation is higher than Iowa Review and Georgia Review.  I probably mention this far too often, but, quite frankly, it made my day.  The same thing just happened online.  Beasley quotes the editor of Coconut: “”A new issue of Coconut gets about ten thousand unique page views in its first two weeks.”  Rattle.com receives 10,000 unique page views on a single bad week.  When things are going good, it’s 10,000 a day.

<< While I’m harping, try this: Go to Alexa.com and see if you can find any literary magazine that has a higher traffic ranking than Rattle.com.  If you find anything, let me know.

<< Since every poem we print appears online, publishing with us means that your work will see not only one of the top 10 (at least) print circulations of any literary venue in the country, but you’ll also find more web readers than any online magazine can offer.  We don’t pay our authors in dollars, unfortunately, but that’s not a bad reward.

<< And still Rattle gets very little publicity.  Beasley lists dozens of magazines in her article, and seems to interview several editors.  I can think of one time Rattle has been mentioned in Poets & Writers, a few sentences in an article about contests.  Another year has gone by with no Pushcart Prizes or BAP reprints.  I could whine on, but I won’t.  Instead I’ll ask Beasley to take the Google challenge.  Type “Theories of Falling,” her very good debut collection, into a search engine.  What literary journals come up on the first page?  Iowa ReviewAGNIAnti-?  Nope.  But Rattle’s review of the book is there.

<< Okay, sorry for that tangent.  In the article, Sven Bikerts of AGNI says: “”Philosophically, I’m of two minds about this. Proliferation is what every author is after. Yet too much proliferation undermines the authority and prestige of the printed material, as the poem becomes part of a flow—a generalized cultural avalanche.” I love AGNI and I love Sven, but I have no idea what he could possibly mean here.  Authority and prestige?  Is that what poets are really after?  Not an intimate and  memorable connection between the writer and a large audience?   Not having a positive effect on social lives?  You want the ivory tower?  Huh…

<< Over on the Eratosphere, Mark Allinson says: “I don’t bother submitting to them anymore. Mainly because I am convinced that only submitting poets and their immediate families will ever read them.” I beg to differ (see above).

<< Kate Benedict of Umbrella says that she would put audio poetry onto her e-zine, but that it would cost too much time and bandwidth.  The audio mixing software I bought cost $25, adding audio to a poem takes about 5 minutes, and with a hundred of mp3s in our archive and a lot of traffic, we’ve never come close to going over bandwidth.  I think our hosting costs $112/year; it’s not like we have an extensive plan.  Kate, if you see this and want some help, shoot me an email.

Well, I’d like to add more — some interesting discussion about how to engage readers, whether or not there’s a publishing ladder, and so on — but my roll of quarters calls.

6 thoughts on “Notes on the Last Post

  1. Pingback: Poetry Publishing for the 21st Century » Timothy Green

  2. Pingback: poetry publishing « Very Like A Whale

  3. It was surprising to see that Rattle wasn’t mentioned in that link (in your previous post), but I’m not at all surprised about Rattle having such a high ranking. : )

    A word in for online publications: they’re much more likely to accept email submissions than all-print ones. There are many problems with only accepting postal submissions, but for me, the biggest is that I’m an “international submitter” and there are no IRCs where I come from (I hunted). I lose out on a lot of rejections because of it…

    What I really don’t get is magazines that claim to be international in their outlook but don’t accept email, not even from us international folk. That just screams to me, “We don’t want you!” Even if it’s unintentional.

    I’ll always be submitting to online mags (but not just for the reason mentioned above).

  4. Dear Tim,

    I really appreciate your thoughtful response to my P&W article. Just a couple of quick comments:

    -It’s possible something got garbled in the editing process, but I don’t see editors googling a poet _while_ deciding on the poet’s submission. I agree that would be a subversion of the submissions process (much like taking one’s bio note into consideration). People should be judged only by the particular piece they have submitted.

    What I meant to refer to was editors who, having accepted and become excited about a poet’s work, Google to see what else they have published. Or–and in this case Google does assist in deliberation–someone who hosts a reading series receives a poet’s name in recommendation and, before extending an invite, Googles them to find a sample of the work.

    I hope those scenarios make a bit more sense.

    -I was extremely grateful to Rattle for the review of Theories. But in order to focus my argument in a limited space I had preemptively decided that the bulk of the article should only mention journals for whom the web version is the sole publication. In other words, they were conceived and launched as online lit mags. If I’d had more space, I would have (should have) mentioned Rattle alongside AGNI and Iowa Review in the article’s closing, as a prestigious print venue with an online dimension. So it goes.

    But I hope the omission isn’t taken as a signal that I don’t respect and read the magazine.

    Thanks for all you do for poetry–

    Cheers,
    Sandra Beasley

    Washington, DC

  5. Hi Sandra–Sorry for mischaracterizing what you wrote. I think it was a consequence of me responding to both the article and the discussion thread at the same time as I was trying to rush out the door. Someone else’s comment bled back to you. I’ll add a little correction for anyone not reading the comments. What you said here makes a lot of sense, although I don’t think it applies any more to editors than the general reading public — I think everyone these days Googles to find more after reading someone new they like.

    Also, I hope I didn’t sound like I was upset at you personally for not mentioning Rattle, or worse, that I expected some kind of quid quo pro after running the little review. Obviously the odds of being mentioned are slim when there are hundreds of magazines to choose from — it just gets frustrating that it never happens. We have one of the largest audiences outside of Poetry Chicago, sift through more submissions than anyone, publish scads of reviews, etc, etc, but we never make it onto the industry’s radar.

    It makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong…although I know the answer. I’m a very poor social networker. Chances are, you’ve met Sven Bikerts and Bruce Covey, and that’s why you thought to ask them for comments for the article. Or maybe you even talked about the subject already at the AWP. And there’s nothing wrong with that, perfectly natural and understandable, and I wouldn’t expect any different. It’s just frustrating that I can’t do a better job in that respect.

    Anyway, thanks for the article — if my halfassed post above isn’t enough, know that I enjoyed reading it and wholeheartedly agree with your points. Poetry’s going digital anyway; the sooner we embrace it the better off we’ll be.

    Tim

  6. Aditi–excellent point about email submissions. This is another way poetry publishers really need to grab the bull by the horns.

    I was going to make a post about email submissions sometime–Rattle has accepted email submissions for as long as I’ve known, but for the first time ever, starting maybe six months ago, we’re actually receiving more email submissions than hard copy. And I used to say that hard copy submissions tend to be stronger, because there’s an admission price (even if it’s only 44 cents), but that’s no longer the case. We had a meeting last week where we accepted 12 poems and 10 had been submitted via email. Those numbers would have always been reversed just a couple years ago. Times are changing fast.

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