Interview with Anthony Frame, Editor
How did Glass Poetry Press start?
Glass started in 2008 as Glass: A Journal of Poetry. Essentially, my wife and I were watching online journals open and then close within a few weeks of releasing their first issue and after watching the sixth or seventh promising journal completely disappear from the net, we decided to go ahead and do our own with a commitment to not disappear. We went in with an open aesthetic which allowed us to attract a wide variety of contributors and we started with a free Blogger site and a free Yahoo account. We loved the journal for six years but ultimately life got complicated so we decided to stop publishing new work but we promised our authors to keep their work available online for as long as we could afford the web fees (by that point, we had obtained our own .com).
This past year, I decided to reopen Glass as a micro-press. I had wanted to work with authors more closely and I love the chapbook form—the short form collection. I had won a poetry grant from the Ohio Arts Council and decided a micro-press would be the best way for me to give a little back to the poetry community. When I announced I was reopening Glass, I received such wonderful feedback from folks who remembered the journal so I decided to reopen it too. Last year, I published Glass: A Journal of Poetry as a weekly featuring a single poem. This year I’m transitioning to a monthly publication with around 5 to 10 poems. I hope that the journal and the press work together to shine a light on poets and I hope the two projects inform each other. It’s still early and Glass Poetry Press is still pretty young so, mostly, I’m just hoping to be able to grow and evolve as an editor/publisher as the press grows and evolves.
Tell us a bit about Glass Poetry Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
My mission is to put out books that are as beautiful as the poems in the books (to the best of my ability). I am also committed to treating authors—all authors, whether their work is selected or not – as fairly as possible and certainly as fairly as I want to be treated when I’m sending my work to a press. My other commitment is to creating a safe, supportive, inclusive space, which I think is vital for the literary world. Because I am completely independent (without university or grant funding, I only have to answer to myself), I have incredible freedom. I can publish whoever and whatever I want however I want. That freedom also comes with responsibility, though. So, I figure since I am able to take greater editorial risks, I should.
But mostly, I want to publish the work that I want to read: beautiful, musical poems that call out to be read. There are poems that feel vital and those are the poems that I am drawn to. (And Tori Amos poems—I dream a bit of the day I can publish a chapbook of Tori inspired poems, but that’s more of a personal problem.) Everyone says this, but it’s true: to get a real sense of my aesthetic, you should check out what I’ve already published. The chapbooks are, I think, fairly inexpensive, and the journal is completely free to read online.
As for influences, I admire the work done by Sibling Rivalry Press, dancing girl press, and YesYesBooks, and I love the books, the missions, and the products put out by Hyacinth Girl Press and Hermeneutic Chaos Press, to name just a few.
Can you give us a preview of what’s current and/or forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what you’re hoping to publish in the future?
Glass just started publishing in August. The first two titles—Ariel Francisco’s Before Snowfall, After Rain and Steven Sanchez’s To My Body—are now available and I’m about to start shipping Jennifer Givhan’s Lifeline. I love these three books. Ariel’s is a remarkable collection of meditative narratives and Steven’s is a powerful and lyrical exploration of faith, sexuality, and family. Jennifer’s is an amazing collection of poems about motherhood, childloss, love, and mental health. Givhan’s lines and images are fierce and demand attention.
I’m also really excited about the last two books in the first series. Kate Fadick’s Self-Portrait as Hildegard of Bingen is an amazing mixture of personae and confession with some global extinction throw in for good measure. And Jennifer Met’s Gallery Withheld offers a series of concrete poems that draw on Jennifer’s dual life as fabulous poet and medical researcher.
I don’t want to predict the future. I’m in the middle of the first open reading period and I’m looking forward to reading the manuscripts that are being offered to the press. The initial chapbook series has exceeded my wildest expectations and so has the journal. I’m confident the reading period will too.
We used to ask, “What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?” We’re still interested in the answer to that, but we’re even more interested to know what you think needs to change.
It’s hard for me to think about what needs to change. I’m still so new to this part of the community and I’ve been welcomed so warmly that it’s hard to say, “this needs fixed” or “why are people doing that.” And I’m fairly hesitant to tell other publishers how to run their business, especially when I don’t know the details about their business. I will say, and this goes back to my answer about my mission, that I hope more publishers will think clearly about how they are treating their authors and what expectations they have of their authors. Any model that requires the author to fund the publication of the book is a model I’m going to be critical of. Any model that relies on submitters to fund the press is a model I’m going to be critical of. It feels like, a lot of the time, some publishers (both presses and journals) are looking toward the writers, potential and accepted, to carry the financial weight of the publishing world and I’d love to see a more active and engaged conversation about what we, as the publishers, can and should do to carry that weight.
On a happier note: there’s so much to be excited about. There are a lot of presses doing a lot of great work and helping a lot of great poets to find audiences. I can’t be more grateful for a press like Sibling Rivalry introducing me to writers like Ocean Vuong and sam sax, or the incredible talent being published by Hyacinth and diode editions, for example. And I’m seeing a lot of great ideas being tried out. Like Ghost City Press’ mini-chapbook series that they offered to readers on a pay-what-you-can-basis, with all proceeds going to the author. And I think there’s so much potential with e-chapbooks. I’m fascinated by the idea of a hypertext/new media chapbook. I don’t think I have the webskills to do it but I know that there is a press out there that can create (and maybe already is creating) something really remarkable. Surveying the field, it really looks like the sky is the limit for small chapbook presses, which is really exciting.
How do you cope? There’s been a lot of conversation lately about charging reading fees, printing costs, rising book costs, who should pay for what, etc. Do you have any opinions on this, and would you be willing to share any insights about the numbers at Glass Poetry Press?
Oh, I have lots of opinions about this! Let me start by saying, again, I’m really new here so I may find myself eating my words in a year or two, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Next, let me lay out my commitment to the authors I publish and the authors who send their work to me for possible publication. Mine is a DIY press. Everything is done in house, except for the covers. I work with the authors on designing the covers and the interiors. I print the interiors (including a fancy translucent vellum insert that I think is awful pretty). I send the cover files to an amazing printing company who turn the images into wonderful glossy cardstock covers with full bleed. I side staple everything together, put the chapbook in an envelope and send it off into the world. I have no distribution beyond myself and no advertising budget. And I try to make this very clear upfront to everyone I work with.
So, poets who decide to go with Glass aren’t going to see their books on Amazon or in SPD. But they will have an editor who has selected their book because he loves it and thinks people need to read it. So, they will have a publisher that will champion their work for as long as it takes to get their book in people’s hands. And they will have an editor who will do everything possible to create a book that they are in love with. And they will never have to send a penny to me (the poets selected for the Glass Chapbook Series get, in return for letting me publish their work, fifteen complimentary copies plus a copy of the other chapbooks published in their year. They can purchase additional copies at cost but they are not required to purchase any). This is the basic agreement I make with my authors: Glass isn’t big and fancy but Glass will put in 1,000,000% in order to make your book a success.
I do not charge reading fees. I hate reading fees. When I started writing and submitting there were only a small handful of places that charged reading fees but now they seem to be the industry standard and I hate that. I honestly can’t imagine how new writers manage. I have a pretty solid job and make a pretty solid living and I can’t really afford to pay reading fees—not unless I stop buying books/chapbooks which, of course, becomes the industry’s Catch-22.
As a publisher, I want to publish the best manuscripts available to me. If I charge a reading fee, I’ve put up a barrier to a number of writers, blocking them from being able to send me their work. That makes no sense to me as a publisher. As a business-person, it also doesn’t make sense to me. It’s my job to fund the web costs of the press. It’s my job to sell enough copies of the chapbooks to cover the costs of printing the chapbooks. It’s not the job of writers, most of whom aren’t going to be published by me.
I expect my authors to do their part to spread the word about their books and I also expect myself to do the same. I hope the Glass authors will tell their social media contacts about their chapbook. And I hope they’ll do readings. And as they do these things, I hope that they’ll spread the word about both their book and about the press. But I have to do that too. I have at least as much responsibility to make their chapbook a success as they do and I certainly have a much higher responsibility to make the press a success.
So, to your original question: how do I cope? Well, I’m not sure. It’s a constant process of looking at what I’m doing and asking if that is the best option for the business. For example, the Glass chapbooks are each assigned an ISBN number. That’s a decision I made when I started the press. Was that the right decision? I honestly don’t know. It was an emotional decision based on how I felt as an author when I saw my first collection with an ISBN, and I definitely value that emotional response. I bought a pack of them that’ll cover me through the rest of 2017 and probably through 2018 too and then I’ll have to decide if they’re worth that extra cost.
Another example: Submittable. I like Submittable. There’s a great convenience to it and a number of the features make my life as an editor a lot more organized. But it’s damn expensive (and getting more and more expensive each year). Everything I do with Submittable, I can do with an email account and a notebook. So, again, is it worth the extra expense? I calculated it and figured that I have to sell between 20 and 30 chapbooks (depending on whether they’re sold at the presale price or the cover price) to cover just the cost of Submittable. I then have to sell more chapbooks to cover the cost of printing and shipping those 20 to 30 chapbooks. So, I don’t know. It’s a massive part of the Glass budget and, likely, I’ll ditch it once my subscription ends. Because if it comes down to using Submittable and charging reading fees or not using Submittable and not charging reading fees … well, that’s an easy decision to make.
I’m also looking for different ways to expand the Glass readership. I’m starting to accept international orders now. I’m always looking to get the chapbooks reviewed. And I’m constantly reading and researching about the business side of the industry to see what options are available to me.
Now, I hope writers who are going to submit to the press will check out one (or more) of the chapbooks put out by the press. Not every writer can do that. But I hope those writers who can support the small presses are supporting the small presses. But I’m always going to argue that the only reason someone should send money to Glass Poetry Press is to buy a chapbook.
So, this is how I cope. I go through this process, usually once a month (and I’m constantly thinking about it throughout the month). I look for ways to help spread the word about the press. I look for possible venues for reviews of the chapbooks. I’m basically always working on the press. How can I put out a high quality product at as low a cost as possible so that I can sell these incredible collections at a reasonable price point (Glass Chapbooks cost $8.50, which includes shipping costs. They presale at $7.50 and the cost per book for subscribers is $7.00)? And, again, it’s my job to answer that question, not the writers sending their work to me.