Literary publishing is an odd business. I was talking to James Robertson about pamphlet publishing last year – he runs Kettillonia as well as being a fine novelist and poet. He said it was usually more difficult to sell fiction pamphlets than poetry ones. Then he gave me a copy of Lorna Moon’s “The Sinning of Jessie Maclean”, which bore a striking resemblance to the story of one of my Buchan ancestors. Perhaps not altogether surprising as Lorna came from Strichen, as did several of my grandmother Mutch’s relatives.
Anyway, it got me thinking, and later, when my friend Mary Johnston was talking to me about getting some of her Doric short stories published, I thought, “Why not?” So now the pamphlet (Kennt His Faither) is at the printers, and it’ll be published in the next couple of weeks by my own imprint, Calder Wood Press. I’ll be interested to see how it does. I’ve no doubt it’ll wash its face, at least.
I’ve also no doubt that James is right. It is easier to publish poetry pamphlets than prose ones. The next one from Calder Wood Press is one by another friend, in this case Mercedes Claraso. When she told me she had a collection of her poems about unicorns, and that the collective noun is a Blessing of Unicorns, I just knew immediately that (a) I wanted to publish it, and (b) it will be a popular project. So that goes on the stocks next. The first thing will be to sort out the order of poems, and to produce a mock-up as an A5 pamphlet. That’s not difficult, by the way, and you can learn a lot about assembling a collection of your own work by doing it for someone else first. I recommend it for all poets struggling with their first collection.
As far as my own work goes, I’m going to send out a batch of 2006 and 2007 poems to magazines some time in August, and I’m at the stage now of trying to match the poems to specific magazines. You have to know what type of poem they normally publish to have any chance yourself. That’s Helpful Hint No 2 for this evening. The Suilven Sequence of six poems is a particular problem though. I’d like them all kept together, but there aren’t that many magazines that would consider that. I only know of two or three, and one will never publish anything of mine (I’m not saying which one it is).