Salt + the state of poetry

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb?
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Tim Love
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Salt + the state of poetry

Post by Tim Love » Tue May 21, 2013 5:57 am

Lots of good stuff by Neil Astley et al about Salt + the state of poetry on http://clarepollard.wordpress.com/2013/ ... of-poetry/ and http://sonofabook.blogspot.co.uk/

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Re: Salt + the state of poetry

Post by Ros » Tue May 21, 2013 7:49 am

I find the depressing thing is the number of people wanting to write poetry versus the number willing to actually buy it. It does seem wrong that there are tons of talented people kicking around, getting poems into the better mags, but never getting any further. It's one reason why I think online is a way to go - it's a niche market, but a wide one across the world - online reaches that audience.

Ros
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Re: Salt + the state of poetry

Post by Nash » Tue May 21, 2013 8:02 am

I have a lot of collections and chapbooks sitting on my shelf, but not a single one from Salt. No idea why that is, or if it's relevant in any way.

I'm surprised that they only use print-on-demand, it doesn't really show much confidence in their own output. I wonder what sort of a deal they were offering their authors. Anyone know?

I think the idea of self-publishing is becoming more appealing. Although I'm sure it's still deemed as some sort of a failure on the poet's part it does give them complete control over the marketing and sales, something which I'm convinced the small presses don't do very well.

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Re: Salt + the state of poetry

Post by Ros » Tue May 21, 2013 8:27 am

I agree about Salt - don't think I have anything from them, either.
One problem with small presses is that they don't have the resources for marketing and publicity, so it tends to come down to the poet anyway. The advantage is that it gives some sort of external recognition to the poet, and that an editor should have improved the work - but given that the editor is sometimes just someone working from their bedroom, there's not guarantee of a great deal of input.

Ros
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Tim Love
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Re: Salt + the state of poetry

Post by Tim Love » Tue May 21, 2013 9:39 am

I've many Salt books. I looked upon them as an important feature of the poetry and fiction scene. Their yearly Best British Poetry/Story anthologies sell well, and they had a book shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year. I think their author contracts were at least as good as those of comparable publishers. I'm told they didn't edit much though, and expected the authors to do marketing (but the latter is pretty much standard practise nowadays anyway).

"I find the depressing thing is the number of people wanting to write poetry versus the number willing to actually buy it." (Ros). Some stats -
  • "In the US there are 900 regular buyers of hardback poetry books and 2500 regular buyers of paperback poetry books" (NYT, 1979).
  • "in the late 1940s, America was a nation of 150 million people, with an annual total of 8,000 book titles per year of all types and something under 200 publishing poets who were active enough to generate books. Today, the United States has twice as many people, but is now publishing, according to Bowker, over 290,000 book titles per year, of which some 4,000 titles alone are poetry. There must be somewhere between ten and twelve thousand publishing poets in the U.S. today in contrast with 200 fifty years ago." (Ron Silliman, 2007)
  • In 2002 "fewer than 25 books of short stories were produced by mainstream UK publishers. And two thirds were by writers from abroad." (Debbie Taylor, Mslexia)
I think online publishing has exacerbated the problem Silliman identifies without yet dealing with discoverability and selectivity issues.

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Re: Salt + the state of poetry

Post by Ros » Tue May 21, 2013 9:59 am

The major problem though has to be that the bigger publishers in the UK, who presumably have their choice of all the poets, still can't sell the poets they do publish. There does seem to be a groundswell of interest in poetry - but is that all people wanting to be published, rather than wanting to read it?

The US is a much bigger market and I would have thought their more popular poets sell pretty well - Billy Collins, Sharon Olds etc. Presumably all those other poets sell a small number each, so in fact there must be plenty of people buying poetry. I thought the number of books being published and bought (including ebooks) was rising greatly. I don't see the death of reading any time soon.

Ros
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Tim Love
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Re: Salt + the state of poetry

Post by Tim Love » Wed May 22, 2013 11:13 am

The US is a much bigger market - yes. I'd guess that their Creative Writing courses not only generate a need for course books but also produce people capable of reading (and maybe even buying) "poetry".

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Re: Salt + the state of poetry

Post by BenJohnson » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:07 pm

I'm truly saddened by the demise of Salt as a poetry publisher, they had a range of exciting and talented poets on their lists. Thankfully many have found new homes. Salt has been struggling for a few years though I'm not sure what the real reasons are for that. I would say that print on demand was a pretty good way for them to go, the costs are pretty much the same and the benefits are greater.

Poetry sales are generally pretty dire. I was talking with Tom Chivers (Penned in the Margins) a couple of weeks ago and he reckons that 300 books per author is a pretty good print run. At that rate the publishing houses don't make enough money from sales to spend on decent advertising, the profit from that would barely cover the print run for the next author, let alone make money for the print house. Most small presses therefore expect the authors to do a huge amount of self publicity, selling books at readings, etc. As a result talented authors who don''t have a following or don't do readings are going to find it harder to be published. The advantage that presses have over self publishing is that they can work with organisations like Inpress who market their books to the main bookshops.

The biggest problem is one of advertising, how do you advertise poetry with a tiny budget? How do you increase your budget without being able to make sales? The market seems to be in a state of catch 22 at the moment. It is a shame because there is a huge interest in poetry though it tends more towards performance poetry which doesn't always make good page poetry.

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