Small Press Points

Kevin Larimer
From the January/February 2007 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

What started out as a playful—nay, flirtatious—bid to attract readers to an online poetry journal has turned into a rather serious publishing proposition for editor Reb Livingston. In August 2004 she, along with contributing editor Molly Arden, launched No Tell Motel. The two self-avowed housewives promoted the journal with this, among other come-ons: "There's no telling what you'll get at the No Tell Motel, but we think sneaking out and keeping everything hush hush is kind of sexy. We're hot for discretion." Early last year Livingston launched No Tell Books with the publication of The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel, an anthology of poems that had originally appeared in the journal. To promote the new press, Livingston is using a slightly more straightforward approach. Consider, for example, her submission guidelines. After informing readers that she only solicits work from poets who have submitted to the journal, she disavows contests, rejects reading fees, and adds: "No Tell Books earns money by selling books. Selling really kick-ass poetry books." Whether they will kick the proverbial ass is open to debate, but four new poetry collections—Elapsing Speedway Organism by Bruce Covey, The Attention Lesson by P. F. Potvin, and the chapbooks Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home by Rebecca Loudon and Wanton Textiles, a collaboration by Livingston and Ravi Shankar—are now available through Lulu, a digital print-on-demand service founded in 2002. (If a reader orders a No Tell book from Lulu, a copy of that book—and only that single copy—is printed and mailed directly to the customer.) The full-length collections by Covey and Potvin are also distributed by Ingram Book Group. Livingston says she pays authors of full-length books $150, throws in twenty gratis copies, and offers a royalty that starts at 20 percent of the net income from each copy for the first hundred sold and rises incrementally to 40 percent after five hundred copies are sold. Authors of chapbooks get fifty copies and, once the press sells enough to recoup its investment, 50 percent of the net income from all subsequent sales. Forthcoming this winter from No Tell Books are a second volume of the No Tell Motel anthology and Never Cry Woof by Shafer Hall. Books by Jill Alexander Essbaum, Karl Parker, Laurel Snyder, and Hugh Steinberg are slated for publication in the fall. "And there's at least one more title I can't yet announce at this time," says Livingston—still very hush hush.

The editors of Switchback Books say they are looking for young women writers who "aren't afraid to look for answers in all directions." For ten years now women writers have been looking 915 miles to the east of Chicago, to Florence, Massachusetts, where Perugia Press is located. The nonprofit feminist press founded in 1997 by Susan Kan is marking its tenth anniversary with several events in June, but readers needn't wait six months to celebrate the press's work: The ten books that Perugia has published—one per year—are all available for sale on its Web site.

Kevin Larimer is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.


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