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New Writers: 11 Publishing Tips

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Sandra Marchetti published a poetry chapbook last year and has published or will publish poems in The Bakery, Subtropics, Flycatcher, and others. She is the new poetry editor at Minerva Rising and wsa kind enough to write a guest post for the New Writers Column. Review part one for Lessons 1 through 6 of lessons learned the first year after publishing.

 

Things I Learned in the Year after Publishing a Book

7.     Fans Can Lead to New Writing Opportunities.

Even if you are publishing in the most obscure genre, if you sell books, you will gain fans.  There is one woman who I speak to nearly every day on Facebook who is an endless champion of my work. She is on the board of at least one major writing organization and is a published author herself. Kim Brown, a novelist and reader of my work, recently offered me the Poetry Editorship of her literary journal, Minerva Rising. These people might not have found my work without my book publication.

8.     A Book Publication is Not the End Goal. 

This is the part no one told me about. Ted Hughes talks about it eloquently. Once I published the chapbook, the desire for my full-length collection of poems, “Confluence,” to be published increased dramatically. I started to think of The Canopy as a stepping stone. This thought process helped me to realize that publication really is just the cherry on the sundae. Writers are told that, but we don’t ever believe it. I wanted to write, and publish more, but I began to realize that my needs wouldn’t be sated by this book. And they won’t be sated with the next book publication either. That’s not why we write.

 

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Being published is grand but don’t forget to consider what happens after

9.     This is not (Necessarily) Your Golden Ticket. 

Just because my chapbook was published doesn’t mean that my full-length collection, will be published any time soon. “Confluence” was a quarterfinalist for Able Muse’s Book Award this past year, and it has received some recognition, but no one has picked it up yet. This has been incredibly frustrating, mostly because “Confluence” is a project I have labored over for for three and a half years. However, this has given me the opportunity to re-evaluate the manuscript, which has made it into much better work.

 10.     Don’t Stop Writing to Focus on Publishing

I’ve only written a few poems this year between publishing one book, going to conferences, getting married, and moving house. The work I have written is my best yet though, which should be motivation to write more. In some ways, the siren’s song of attention and satisfaction through publication has been all too alluring. My solution: I have applied to some writers’ residencies (MacDowell, Ragdale, and VCCA) to get writing again!

11.  You’re a Published Author.  Enjoy it.  Take Yourself out for a Sundae.

 

Marchetti currently teaches writing & literature at Elmhurst College outside of her native Chicago. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing–Poetry at George Mason University in 2010. Sandra was named the winner of the Midwest Writing Center’s 2011 Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest for her volume, The Canopy. Her full-length manuscript, “Confluence,” was a quarterfinalist for Able Muse’s 2012 Book Award (Open Competition). She was also a finalist in Gulf Coast’s 2011 Poetry Prize and Phoebe’s 2009 Greg Grummer Poetry Contest. Read more on her blog.

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Previous posts feature world traveler and Go! Girl Guides founder Kelly Lewis and short fiction talent and Pushcart nominee Doug Silver. Robert Brewer arrives later this month. The Writer’s Market guru and mind behind MNINB and annual Author Platform Challenge, which kicks off in just a couple weeks.

NW Column: 11 Publishing Tips

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We’re mixing up the New Writers Column with a two-part guest post by poet Sandra Marchetti. She gave me the push I needed to start submitting in 2011. Read about her chapbook here. Marchetti has published or will publish poems in Ohio State U’s The Journal, Nashville Review, Gargoyle, Flycatcher, and elsewhere. She is poetry editor at Minerva Rising.

Here Marchetti offers publishing tips for the year after publication.

Sandy Marchetti has continued to publicize The Canopy since its release in early 2012-- time permitting.

Keep promoting your book– long after publication

Things I Learned in the Year after Publishing a Book

In March of 2012, Midwest Writing Center Press published my first short volume of poems, The Canopy. The Canopy was the winner of the Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest. The book is comprised of Midwestern landscape poems and also some domestic (interior) scenes. Press releases announced the publication in newspapers and I went on a short book tour throughout the Midwest to promote the book. The publisher recently sold out the first print run and more copies are on their way. So what did this process teach me about my work? About the publishing industry? About my goals after this first publication? Below are some lessons I’ve learned in the year after publishing my first book.

1.     Keep Promoting Your Book Long After Publication.

As soon as I found out that my book would be published, I scrambled to find venues that would host me for a reading or a signing. I read at some great places: St. Ambrose University in Iowa’s Quad Cities, Elmhurst College outside of Chicago, at Anderson’s Books in the Chicago suburbs. In the first few months after publication, I did a few readings a month, especially during April for National Poetry Month. However, after the summer was over, my reading schedule thinned. I didn’t schedule as many events once I started teaching and readings have been sporadic since. I’ve now learned that I need to promote year round! To sell copies or even meet important people to give copies to, be out there. I read at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago last month and participated in a panel presentation at the AWP Conference in Boston this month.

2.     Bring Books and Business Cards.

I have talked to at least five people who wanted to buy my book on the spot but couldn’t— because I didn’t have books with me. I didn’t want to be the author who carried books in her car and goaded readers into buying them. Even if you’re out of books, keep business cards with you that list your contact info or the website where books can be purchased.

3. Go to a Writers’ Conference.

The year after you publish a book is the perfect time to go to a writers’ conference. I applied and was offered a spot at both the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference during the summer of 2012. I went to Sewanee. It was an intensive, amazing experience and built connections that turned directly into publications. A writers’ conference is also one of the only places where it is perfectly okay to hand out copies of your book as free party favors (with a business card tucked inside, of course!). Why wouldn’t I want to give a copy of my book to Mark Strand?

 

Don’t Stop Writing to Focus on Publishing, Marchetti Warns

Take Advantage of the Unexpected Ways Book Sales and Further Publishing/Writing Opportunities Come About

4.     Seven Degrees of Publication: Marshaling Connections into Opportunities.

I got to know the writers who worked for my press, the people I met while manning the AWP booth, and the Sewanee participants I sold copies to. I friended them all on Facebook. I talk with many of them every day and most have read my work. These folks post contest and submission opportunities, run magazines, and write recommendations. How do I use this to my advantage? When I submit poems to a journal, I immediately go to the masthead and recent contributors’ pages. I ask, “Who do I know?”, “Who encouraged me to submit to this journal?”, “Who can I mention in my cover letter?” If nothing else, I receive much sweeter rejections. However, I’ve published at least three pieces this year as a direct result of my connections with Sewanee writers and the MWC Press.

5.     Your Friends and Family Generate More Sales than Indie Bookstores. 

My mother-in-law ordered copies of The Canopy to give out as party favors at my engagement party. The word of mouth and excitement your loved ones can generate is more than your average indie bookstore can do on its own (especially for poetry books). Set up readings at bookstores, and support those stores, but know that the royalties may come from your Mom’s best friend and the stellar reviews your MFA buddies left on Amazon.

6.     Your Small Press Publisher Will Help More Than You Think.

My independent, nonprofit press was, and still is, dedicated to my book. It is an extension of a community organization, The Midwest Writing Center, in the Quad Cities on the Illinois/Iowa border. They invited me to participate in a reading series, set up a signing/reading at a local university, and announced my prize-winning book in print and online. They are dedicated to printing as many copies of my book as will sell, and have invited me to read at more events than I can count. God bless the small press!

 

See more of Marchetti’s post-publishing tips in Thursday’s continued New Writers Column.

Marchetti currently teaches writing & literature at Elmhurst College outside of her native Chicago. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing–Poetry at George Mason University in 2010. Sandra was named the winner of the Midwest Writing Center’s 2011 Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest for her volume, The Canopy. Her full-length manuscript, “Confluence,” was a quarterfinalist for Able Muse’s 2012 Book Award (Open Competition). She was also a finalist in Gulf Coast’s 2011 Poetry Prize and Phoebe’s 2009 Greg Grummer Poetry Contest. Read more on her blog.

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Previous posts feature world traveler and Go! Girl Guides founder Kelly Lewis and short fiction writer/Pushcart nominee Doug Silver. Robert Brewer arrives later this month. The Writer’s Market guru and brain behind MNINB and annual Author Platform Challenge, which kicks off in just a couple weeks.

 

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Writing Tips

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I’ve been hellbent for several months now on incorporating and/or improving a few literary techniques. Some of them are foreshadowing, the opening, and the double narrative arc.I write about the process here not as if it’s a journal entry but in the hope that my fellow writers reading this will relate. Hopefully you’ll even chime in to express your own battles with literary technique.

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Come up with a better blimmin’ first line! Image credit

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing has its purposes, and they are very important, but the more I wrote (and read) the more I realized something: foreshadowing can come more simply in the form of signposts. For instance, you can use simply say, “More on that later.”

I’d always liked that technique in other people’s writing. Why did I think my using it would be a copout?

 

The First Graf: Get in Late, Leave Early

I’d was taking this advice too stridently. I have a post-it on my lemon-yellow colored wall that reminds me to write a smashing good first line. Instead I was relying on trying to get in as many facts as necessary in the first graf so I could then amaze my readers with stunning literary writing. Bollocks. I had coopted what an undergrad professor tried to teach me and dozens and dozens of grad school essays had trained me to do: write the first line only after you’ve finished your draft.

But literary writing isn’t an academic paper. Or journalism. Unlearning these styles of writing has been difficult. The first line and the first graf, the overall opening of your piece is the encapsulated essence of your work. Make it pretty.By trying to shove in all the info first the work reads as smoothly as a rusty old, bullet-riddled can.

 

Double Narrative Arc

I’ve never written a double narrative arc before this past two months. In draft after draft the two arcs seemed disparate as two pairs of shoes. Finally, when a beta reader said he couldn’t figure out how they related to each other, the duh! factor kicked in. I linked them.

Why on earth had I been so stringently opposed to uniting them? They’re like DNA-like threads; they belong together, easily connected with rungs between. By uniting them I not only pulled the meaning of the second arc into focus, the piece befitted also from a bigger, more resounding kick than it has ever had.

We’ll see how well these lessons have taken root when I receive word of acceptance or rejection for my latest batch of three submissions.

What techniques are you working on? What have you improved upon lately?