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Publish and be damned

Telltale Press logo

Call it ‘self-publishing’ if you will, call it an unhealthy desperation, frustration or whatever –  I’m not sure exactly what my prime motivation is but it feels good to be taking charge!

Here’s what’s happened …. I have named my new poetry press. I’ve named my pamphlet. I’ve (almost) decided on the content and order, thanks to some super insightful comment and expert suggestions from an experienced poet. I have applied for my first batch of ISBN numbers. I’ve had several print quotes, and have juggled various options regarding size/format. I’ve pored over many pamphlets to see how they’ve been made, the typefaces, line height, paper weight, where the acknowledgements go, etcetera. I’ve done most of the typsetting and layout myself in Illustrator. I’ve decided what I like and don’t like in terms of cover designs, and have briefed a talented artist to come up with something beautiful.

So far I’ve really enjoyed the process and haven’t had any big problems. I realise it’s still a novelty for me. And I’m doing this as an investment, not to make money or even cover costs, although that would be nice, and not utterly impossible. So I guess the difficult thing about publishing must simply the business of money – where it comes from, how not to lose it, and how to finance the next project and stay sustainable.

My own pamphlet is being financed by moi. But in so doing, I’m getting excited at the prospect of publishing other poets. That was the point of creating a new press – to publish my own first pamphlet alongside a few other people in the same position as me, namely, those feeling ready to publish but as yet unlucky in winning a pamphlet competition (because that seems to be the only way to one’s first pamphlet). What does this mean? Am I setting myself up as a publisher? Yes and no. I see the pamphlet projects as being fairly collaborative and ‘self help’. I don’t have the experience to be an editor. And I don’t have the funds to publish endlessly out of my own pocket. So any fellow poets coming on board have to be prepared (as I am) to share the financial burden of production (although on the positive side this means sharing the sales income too.)

That said, being prepared to PAY is not the only criterion – too much like a vanity press. And I do (of course) have strong feelings about the kinds of collections I’d like to be published alongside. So there are artistic criteria, if you like. And quite a few other criteria also, the nuts and bolts of which I’m still working out. Most of all I think of a Telltale pamphlet as being a first step, maybe a springboard. It feels important to me that it’s for first pamphlets, because it gives newcomers a chance. (But will I change my mind once I’ve done one, and can’t get anyone else to publish me? Ha! We’ll see!)

The way I see it, there’s room for all kinds of publishing enterprise. This one has yet to earn its stripes. But it’s fun to try.

Published inPamphletsPublishing

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  1. Congratulations – I think it is a very good step to take. The history of self publishing is interesting and it seems to go up and down in fellow poets’ estimation but it must surely be on the up now that self publishing on the internet is so easy. My decision has been to spend this year trying to ‘win’ a pamphlet and then ‘sit and think’ (a Sussex saying) if I don’t succeed. I might be back in touch with you! GOOD LUCK anyway and put me down for a copy or two when it’s out please.

    • Hi Meg – thanks a lot – I love ‘sit and think’! I think I’ve been doing a bit too much sitting and definitely too much thinking! Good luck to you also, I’d love nothing better to see some familiar names on the winners’ lists. And thank you for the forward order – I’m chuffed R x

  2. ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits’ (for the unSussex)

  3. Brilliant. A brave step but worth the gamble. Good luck with the venture, with both your poems and others.

    • Thanks Rebecca … brave? Oh dear, now you have me worried! x

      • Well, brave in thatis a new step. And you will have to be in charge of marketing, in fact all departments!!!! A friend of mine had her book pub’d by an independent publisher Mudlark Press and she said it was v special to choose everything herself…ie cover, type, paper, shape etc She had to pay for everything and is going to do it again.

        • Ah I see – yes, but marketing is the one thing I ought to be able to do, given my background. Although I don’t think I’m going to go all out to market it, if that doesn’t sound too perverse. Very interesting to hear about your friend’s experience with Mudlark, I must check that out. Thanks!

  4. I actually avoided the word ‘brave’ which kept trying to creep into my comment because it is so …… euphemistic? But it is what I meant as well, and meaning just that.

  5. I love your logo, your ethos, your ideas, your energy! Applauding you all the way, Robin.

  6. jaynestanton jaynestanton

    Wishing you success and fulfilment in your new venture, Robin. I agree, there are too few opportunities out there for first pamphleteers. It’s a pre-order from me, too. 🙂

  7. Good for you. I’ve just started entering pamphlet competitions as I see this as a way forward but I guess the question is how long do you wait until you self-publish? I always said I wouldn’t but I think there may come a time… the not too distant future when I’ll consider this.

    • Hello Heather and thanks very much for commenting and for your support. How long indeed? That’s the question isn’t it. I’m hoping that by doing this it will take the edge off my impatience. I’ll still be trying to be published by tall-lighthouse etc but at least I won’t be touting the old poems about any more, I’ll have got them off my chest.

  8. I’ll be publishing my own chapbook this year as well. I have a lot of poetry laying around and no time to query presses and wait for the inevitable rejections. I’m using CreateSpace as my printer. You can order bulk from them at discount prices if you wanted to do some distribution yourself. Otherwise it’s print-on-demand and shipped through the mail.

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Robin Houghton 2021