September 4th, 2011 / 3:24 pm

BlazeVOX Goes Vanity Press?

I saw on Facebook where Matt Bell had written:

A really disheartening post at Bark about BlazeVOX’s new “acceptance” letter for book manuscripts, where they require a $250 donation from the author before publishing. BlazeVOX has published a couple books I’ve really loved, which makes me sorry and disappointed and angry to read this. I know times are tough, but preying on writers isn’t the solution.

I clicked on the link and read the article written by Brett Ortler, which outlines his exchange with BlazeVOX editor Geoffrey Gatza.

I echo Matt’s response: this is troubling and disheartening. For those of you out there who are new to creative writing, who are currently in the process of learning the ropes of publishing, it is considered unethical for a publisher to ask you to pay to have your work published. Back in the day, before the internet, there used to be this thing called The Writer’s Market (maybe it still exists?), which was this huge brick of a book that helped writers find places to send their work. It also included helpful essays about publishing. One of the first rules you would learn by reading The Writer’s Market is that anyone who asks you for money to publish your work should not be trusted.

Like Matt, I admit that BlazeVOX has published a few books I’ve loved (and written about or run promos for here), but this sort of pay-to-publish policy seriously threatens to diminish the press’s legitimacy in my eyes.


  1. michael

      Oh God, what a bummer for all the good writers who published on BlazeVOX when they were legitimate.

  2. Mittens

      Gatza says in his letter to Ortler “We have done this for the past two years…” — this practice isn’t exactly new.

  3. Roxane

      I was just writing a post on this. It’s a shame. I’ve really loved BlazeVox books in the past and I do not understand how the same press that could put out a book like Slave to Do These Things could also send out this kind of hackery conditional acceptance.

  4. Christopher Higgs

      Roxane, I hope you finish your post and post it.  This subject needs multiple voices.  I was a little hasty here because I wanted to get the topic up for discussion — what really irks me is that this policy prays on the uninitiated.  I keep thinking back to when I was a young guy starting out, trying to negotiate the protocol for all this publishing stuff, and how I could have easily fallen prey to something like this had I not been given good advice by veteran writers and by The Writer’s Market book.  I’m also feeling sort of guilty for promoting BlazeVOX in the past, if that meant that I legitimized them and that led to a neophyte falling victim.  (How crazy that GG’s letter suggests they’ve been doing this for a few years!)     

  5. mdbell79

      Thanks for reposting this, Christopher, and for opening the discussion back up. To repeat/expand on a couple things I said in the FB thread:

      BlazeVOX has published a number of books in the last couple of years I truly enjoyed, especially the books by John Dermot Woods, Evan Lavender-Smith, and Greg Gerke. (I blurbed Greg’s book, so that’s my tiny bit of contact with the press—although I’m pretty sure Greg contacted me directly.) As usual with this sort of thing, it’s not the writers who are the problem: Everyone I know who has published with them is not only a talented writer but a good person and a good member of the lit community. That’s part of what makes it so frustrating to see their press acting this way.

      Also: Who would ever want to be either the writer or the publisher under this arrangement? It seems miserable and miserly, and I wouldn’t want to be part of any organization that acted this way. It’s bad enough if everyone has to pay this. It’s even worse if there are tiers, and the pay-to-play people are subsidizing the others.

      Best case scenario: Here’s hoping that Brett’s blog post at Bark post will receive a measured and appropriate response from BlazeVOX, and that any writers who’ve paid this “donation” get their money back, from the beginning of this practice. That’s the right thing to do, if BlazeVOX wishes to be taken seriously as a legitimate press. For the good of the very talented writers they’ve published, I hope they handle this in the best possible way.

  6. Roxane

      You’ve really summed up what I would say. Fifteen years ago, I would have never even thought to question this kind of acceptance. I would have assumed it was legitimate and sold plasma and CDs to scrounge up the donation. When I sit here and think about how many writers may have felt obligated to take this option, I just get so frustrated, angry even. What’s even worse is that this has been going on for two years, and no one has said anything? That silence doesn’t say anything good about the way things are.

  7. Tummler

      I was hoping that someone here would relay Matt’s link and his response to it. What a shame.

  8. Mittens

      I don’t think you should feel bad for promoting books you liked.

      The policy certainly preys on the uninitiated. I think it is wrong, though, to assume that only the uninitiated fall for this scam. I’m certain that at least some authors who should know better have donated to blazevox in order to get their books published, so I would say that while the publisher’s policy is certainly problematic, that some (if not many) blazevox authors are just as much to blame by buying into it.

      But then, if you’ve enjoyed a blazevox book in the past, does knowing that the author may have paid 250 for its publication change anything?

      Doesn’t the fact that they’ve published books you’ve like in the past legitimize them (for you)? Meaning, if the book is good, does it matter who and under what circumstances it was published? I ask this only because BlazeVox has published books in the past by writers whose work I admire, so it’s not like they will publish ANY book for $250 – I’ve always thought that BlazeVox published a ridiculous number of books each year, for a one man operation, but I assume there’s some editorial selection going on, right? I think it’s wrong to assume that only the ‘bad’ blazevox books paid for publication. I think it’d be cool if some of the authors who paid blazevox would talk about why they did it, their experience, etc.

  9. Mittens

      I don’t think you should feel bad for promoting books you liked.

      The policy certainly preys on the uninitiated. I think it is wrong, though, to assume that only the uninitiated fall for this scam. I’m certain that at least some authors who should know better have donated to blazevox in order to get their books published, so I would say that while the publisher’s policy is certainly problematic, that some (if not many) blazevox authors are just as much to blame by buying into it.

      But then, if you’ve enjoyed a blazevox book in the past, does knowing that the author may have paid 250 for its publication change anything?

      Doesn’t the fact that they’ve published books you’ve like in the past legitimize them (for you)? Meaning, if the book is good, does it matter who and under what circumstances it was published? I ask this only because BlazeVox has published books in the past by writers whose work I admire, so it’s not like they will publish ANY book for $250 – I’ve always thought that BlazeVox published a ridiculous number of books each year, for a one man operation, but I assume there’s some editorial selection going on, right? I think it’s wrong to assume that only the ‘bad’ blazevox books paid for publication. I think it’d be cool if some of the authors who paid blazevox would talk about why they did it, their experience, etc.

  10. alexisorgera

      Yuck. I’d be really curious to know how BlazeVox justifies this. I mean, what’s the reasoning, other than shit’s expensive to publish. Maybe the glut of small-presses-as-labors-of-love is starting to catch up with us.

  11. alexisorgera

      Yuck. I’d be really curious to know how BlazeVox justifies this. I mean, what’s the reasoning, other than shit’s expensive to publish. Maybe the glut of small-presses-as-labors-of-love is starting to catch up with us.

  12. Sheila

      Roxane, yes. I’m not a novice writer, but I haven’t yet published a full-length manuscript either. When I got my letter from Gatza two years ago, there was this surprisingly insistent voice in my head whispering, “But what if this is your ONLY chance at a book?” I’m glad I told that voice to shut the hell up, but if I’m being honest, I was only able to do that because I had good counsel from people I trust. The idea of having a book of one’s own out in the world is tremendously seductive.   

  13. mdbell79

      I’m going to keep going out of my way to say this too: The circumstances of their publication (which, at present, I don’t know and don’t necessarily need to know) has no effect on my opinion of the BlazeVOX books I like. At least for me, I’m much more focused on the publishing practices on display here than the quality of any of the books. My guess is that most of the pay-to-play books were good manuscripts, as I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve read from BlazeVOX, so there’s no reason to assume any writers forced into this donation situation would be of a different caliber. It’s not like BlazeVOX printed 100 books last year, just to get $250 from more people.

      In my most generous reading of the situation, I can almost believe that this is just a case where a well-intended question—perhaps “How can I afford to print all these books I like?”—just got answered terribly. Again and again, for two years.

  14. Mittens

      Matt, I won’t argue that the people you list aren’t good, talented people, but if any one of them donated $250 to the press, then they’re certainly at least partially to blame because, I would argue, they probably felt uncomfortable with the transaction when they did it because they knew it was unethical at worst, sketchy at best. But because they went ahead and did it, they helped to legitimize the practice for Gatza. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I know for certain that some of the people who donated to Gatza knew absolutely that what they were doing was abnormal, but were so desperate to have a book published by a (seemingly) legitimate press that they went ahead and did it anyway. I’m not suggesting that I know anything about the deals the authors you mentioned cooked up with Gatza – for all I know they didn’t pay — all I’m saying is that at least some of the authors published by BlazeVox must have known that what was going on was fishy, and for that, they are at least partially to blame.

  15. Tyler Gobble

      “Meaning, if the book is good, does it matter who and under what circumstances it was published?”

      To me, this is the way I look at anything I spend my money on, or at least try to. Beyond a good product, things like customer service and how they are treating their employees matter great to me. In the same way that a company that pays their employees shitty wages or puts them in harmful (be it physical, emotional, or possibly in this case financial) situations leaves a sour taste in my mouth, this type of practice seems YIKESful. In any situation these are our friends, our peers, fellow human beings trying to do their thing and this type of treatment is unacceptable, no matter how good the product.

      Which is a shame, since as mentioned previously, they put out good books. 

  16. Roxane

      I definitely think the glut has caught up. There are too many small presses selling a product to too small an audience so it is nearly impossible for any small press to actually succeed in any meaningful way. The labors of love are only sustainable if you have the financial means to keep the press afloat despite these very real constraints. 

      BlazeVox publishes On Demand. I don’t know where their figure of $2,000 a book comes from. There are a lot of costs that go into the book, some of which you can absorb if you can do those things yourself–labor, cover and interior design, ISBN, advance (so rare at the small press level anyway), shipping, and so on. The real cost is printing but with the right printer and in the right quantities, it is (relatively) affordable to print books, through either a traditional printer or a POD printer.

  17. Roxane

      I really don’t think the writers are to blame. As writers, we have all been in that place where we wonder if a lesser or compromised opportunity to publish a manuscript is the only chance. The desire to be published, to have a book, is very powerful and if you’re in academia, the pressure to have a book is really intense. I’m sure some writers who may have participated in this thought something was fishy but the fishiness has nothing to do with the writer and everything to do with a publisher who would put them in such a terrible position. Maybe they didn’t know better and maybe they did and were willing to pay the donation because they thought it their best option. The writer simply cannot be at fault here.

  18. Mittens

      Yes, it’s a terrible way to treat an author, but they AGREED TO PAY (at least some of them, who knows.) So yeah, it’s a terrible way to treat an author, but nobody needs to publish a book with BlazeVox. I’d argue that’s way different than an employer putting its employees in danger, or paying shitty wages. The conditions that make it possible for sweatshop labor to exist today are not on par with the conditions by which a publisher like blazevox can demand (and get) its authors to pay 250 bucks to publish with them. Shitty, yes, but there are no conditions in place that make it necessary for authors to pay blazevox except that they really, really wanted to have a book published. Maybe somebody got tenure, but other than, I can’t think of any reason why anybody would need to do this except their own desires outweighing reason.

  19. mdbell79

      One of the things I’m constantly thinking about at Dzanc and at The Collagist is the power imbalance between writers and editors: It is very, very easy to put a writer in an unfair position, whether it’s when offering terms of an acceptance or suggesting edits or any other step of the process. One of my tasks, as I see it, is to never put the writer in a position where they have to compromise their integrity or the integrity of their art in order to get published. Maybe more than anything else, that’s what infuriates me so much about this practice. Because, as you and Roxane and Chris and others have said, some writers are going to do this even when they know they really shouldn’t. And that’s taking something away from the writer in a gross and unfair way, even if the writer doesn’t necessarily recognize it. To me, it’s always unethical for any publisher to put that power dynamic into play.

  20. Lincoln Michel

      I find it pretty hard to blame the emerging writers in this case. If they take some of the blame, it is a tiny fraction of the blame that goes to the people actually running BlazeVox and issuing the policy

  21. Bryan

      Chris, This is interesting timing. I’ve noticed, during the past few week or so, an odd flurry of book publication status updates on FB, and nearly all were from BlazeVOX…some writers who have, in their own words, “been trying to get a book published for a long time.” Which leads me to believe Brett’s argument that the press accepts two tiers: very strong manuscripts, and then so-so manuscripts, with the hope that the latter might, ever so slightly, help fund the former.

  22. Lincoln Michel

      Yes, and let’s also just not assume every writer on BlazeVox paid this fee. Doesn’t seem clear how long they’ve been doing this. 

  23. Mittens

      I’m not saying the authors are 100% at fault, but I’m also saying they are not blameless. I understand that people really want to have their books published — I’m arguing, though, that I’m guessing most of the people who have agreed to this scheme have struggled with it, that they knew on some level that it was uncool, but that blazevox was legitimate enough for them to go along with it. None of these people would have done this if the publisher was Publish America. Those authors that go along with it legitimize the practice by making blazevox look like a ‘real’ press, making it more difficult for those who don’t know better, or maybe even do know better, to say no.

      I understand tenure pressure, for sure, but let’s say you were up for tenure and had published with blazevox – would you tell the tenure committee that you had to donate $250 to the press to get your book published? No, you wouldn’t. So yeah, I get that tenure pressure might make somebody make a bad decision, but I’m also guessing that nobody’s disclosing because they know that participating is on some level unethical.

      Here’s the real problem, though – let’s say that blazevox is preying on the unitiated, those that don’t know that usually writers get paid for their work, not the other way around – let’s say you get this letter from Gatza, and you say, hey, I’ll check out the press again. You go to their website just to make sure they’re cool and not some vanity press – you see a bunch of legitimate writers! They publish 20 books a year! They publish people you’ve even read about in the internet magazines! Hazza! Those authors, maybe they have NO idea that Gatza does this (although I’m certain that some of them do) – and in that case, sure, they’re not to blame, but if any of them knew that on some level what they were doing was unethical (these are the same people, I’m guessing, who would never disclose to a tenure or hiring committee that they donated money to get their books published) then yeah, they’re to blame, because they’re attaching their names to something, and by doing so, they’re making it easier for those who don’t know better to go for it.

  24. Johannesgoransson

      I wonder why this makes Gatza’s operation illegitimate? Isn’t this kind of like a co-op arrangement of sorts? Does the fact that many small presses (including my own) don’t pay their authors de-legitimize us? Does legitimacy depend on pay for the author? Especially when you consider that Gertrude Stein etc used similar arrangements. Is legitimacy important? 

      Of course there are other issues involved. Such as all american writers wanting to have books but nobody wanting to buy or even read other people’s books. Gatza’s practice is in large respects a response to this situation. 

      I’ll write something about this on Montevidayo tomorrow.

  25. Mike Mlek

      It also appears that Gatza is lying about how many submissions he received–several different numbers have been cited in various emails from him and his website. I think that makes this situation seem even shadier.

  26. Bryan

      Legitimacy, in part, depends on transparency, and it appears BlazeVOX did not disclose this potential publishing agreement in their submission guidelines. Such a “suggested donation” is shaky at best, and wouldn’t your small press make that possibility clear in your guidelines?

      The statement about “all american writers” is silly, and a generalization. Which writers are you talking about, exactly? The writers on HTMLGIANT threads tend to be people who write/read a ton, who review and discuss books, and who seem to buy their fair share of books.

      And the Stein mention doesn’t quite apply–contextually, historically. Why don’t we all use vellum for our books, then? Or [insert past publishing practice yoked to a respected writer]?

  27. Mittens

      I don’t necessarily think a co-op arrangement makes the press illegitimate, but after reading through the emails to the author, I think it’s hard to say that what blazevox is doing is legitimate.

      Does your press not pay authors royalties on books? I didn’t think this was common for a small press – for journals, yes, but I thought that even small presses commonly paid some percentage of sales to authors.

  28. mdbell79

      Johannes, I think that not paying your writers is very different than asking your writers to pay you. Dramatically so.

      And I think that if the situation was setup in the guidelines from the beginning in this way, I’d feel differently about it. I still wouldn’t like it, but at least writers would know what they’re getting into when they submitted, instead of having the power of the offered acceptance being held out at the same time the “donation” is being asked for. That’s unfair.

      I think I’m reasonably uninterested in “legitimacy,” but I still think it’s a questionable business practice, and a poor way to begin your relationship with an author.

      As always, looking forward to your Montevidayo post.

  29. mdbell79

      Another writer (who asked to be kept anonymous, for obvious reasons) just emailed me an acceptance letter from BlazeVOX dated in 2009, saying the exact same things as Brett’s, more or less word for word. The writer basically described to me the situation we’ve all been posing above: Excited about the acceptance, knowing it wasn’t a good idea or quite right, then considering it anyway, wanting to have a book. Ultimately, this writer decided not to do it, and is happy about the decision. But it shows again how long these form letters have been going out, and how they affect the writers who receive them.

  30. Jamieiredell

      It’s been going on since at least 2008, since I earned myself one of those emails back then.

  31. Roxane

      I don’t know a writer who doesn’t read and buy a great many books. It is just nonsense to suggest that American writers want books without buying or reading books. Every writer wants a book, yes, but those who don’t read and support other writers are the exception not the rule.

  32. Roxane

      I’d also add that what delegitimizes BlazeVox’s approach is that they don’t disclose that some writers will be asked to pay $250 to be published. If they were up front about this donation, writers could make an informed decision about the disposition of their work.

  33. Dawn.

      Actually, when I was younger, I was the exact opposite. I had always assumed that even small presses could afford to print/distribute/market their own books and provide advances and royalties, so if I would’ve received an “acceptance” letter like that one I would’ve totally freaked out haha. I didn’t know submission fees existed and I also wasn’t aware that a large amount of literary magazines don’t pay their contributors. I knew most writers weren’t making Stephen King money, but I assumed it was a lot more and a lot more frequently than it really is.

  34. Dawn.

      When I saw this on Matt Bell’s feed, I laughed. Like, really BlazeVOX? WTF?? If you can’t afford to run your press, stop publishing so many damn books. If you still can’t afford to run your press after slimming down your catalogue, close down your damn press until you can.

      Not only is this a misleading practice, but those letters are obviously a series of sloppily re-assembled passages from an old form letter with a few typo-ridden sentences thrown in. Really unprofessional. Also: the math doesn’t work out at all. Makes no sense.

      This reminds me of the time my old poetry professor brought one of her royalty checks to class. She passed it around and said that every writer is entitled to compensation for accepted work, and if you’re not getting paid, don’t do it.

  35. Tyler Gobble

      Oh yeah, of course, the authors chose to pay the fee, but I was merely addressing the idea of company practices holistically as a criteria, beyond product quality, for purchasing books from and supporting a press. My biggest reaction is to how they go about their business, which devalues the work they’ve done in putting out good books for me (and some good ones for sure!). 

      I wasn’t really talking about sweatshops, so sorry if I mislead you. There’s a lot of legal jobs that take advantage or attempt to take advantage of their employees. So that’s where my association came from. 

  36. Bradley Sands

      My friend has a book through them and she told me the royalty rate she receives is super tiny. I think the book came out like 4 years ago and I think she’s only made like five or ten bucks off it, although that may also be due to poor sales.

  37. Johannesgoransson

      I agree that was a big generalization and certainly HTML Giant is one exception (and of course there are others). I’ll make myself clearer tomorrow. /Johannes

  38. Johannesgoransson

      Also, I didn’t want to come off as being totally in defense of BlazeVox. Clearly I have problems with this practice. /Johannes

  39. Domain Admin

      I’m not trying to be snarky here–but I’m not exactly sure how asking a write for $250 to publish their books is any less ethical than asking a writer for $30 to CONSIDER publishing their book… Of course I say this as a publisher who doesn’t charge reading fees, but honestly: I’m not sure where this outrage is coming from, considering the current state of poetry publishing.

  40. Janaka

      I’m not trying to be snarky here–but I’m not exactly sure how asking a write for $250 to publish their books is any less ethical than asking a writer for $30 to CONSIDER publishing their book… Of course I say this as a publisher who doesn’t charge reading fees, but honestly: I’m not sure where this outrage is coming from, considering the current state of poetry publishing.

  41. Amber

      Yeah, the lack of professionalism here really disturbed me. From beginning to end this process seems shady, weird, and oddly careless. I agree totally and had the same thought as you, Dawn: don’t publish so many books if you can’t afford to! Or don’t publish any for a while until you find a new source of funding. All this whining about how their donor pulled out or whatever–as someone who’s work in the non-profit world forever (where we rely on donor funding), that just struck me as hideously unprofessional and crass. Writers are the ones buying your books anyway. Maybe not as many as you would like, but at least try Kickstarter, try ads, try social media, try different ways of increasing sales. Maybe BlazeVOX has done that, I don’t know. But what I do know is this: this whole thing, right or wrong, has not been run openly or in sunshine, that much is clear. And that begs all kinds of questions about whether the editors themselves truly believe they’re doing the right thing–or are getting away with a scam and damn well know it.

  42. lily hoang

      A friend of mine got an acceptance from BlazeVOX back in 2008, maybe 2009. It was phrased as a “donation,” a way to “help” a small press. I advised him to try to find another publisher. That being said, I have respect for Geoffrey and BlazeVOX. He’s published some phenomenal writers (like those Matt listed above: ELS, Greg Gerke, etc), writers I have the utmost respect for. And the BlazeVOX journal was one of my very first publications. So, there’s that bit of loyalty.

      For the record: he doesn’t ask every writer for money. 

      But presses are expensive to run and if asking for a small amount of money works… It’s not the route I would take, and I admit the acceptance letter’s wording is very manipulative, but so what? If it means Greg Gerke can have his book published, if it means I get a chance to read FROM OLD NOTEBOOKS, does it matter?

      And, and, I’m really frustrated with all this “legit” bullshit that’s been thrown around lately. A few days ago, someone said Starcherone wasn’t a legit press. Now people are saying that the WRITERS who published with BlazeVOX, who may or may not have even known what Geoffrey was asking of other writers, aren’t legit? WTF, people? The view must be nice up there, huh?


      You’re so right, Roxane. The silence is really creepy. To me it says that food writers and poets agreed to pay up, and probably felt ashamed about it. And that the press has NEVER put it in their submission guidelines speaks volumes. That’s just a horrible situation, and you’re right, as a young writer I probably would have stopped spending my plasma money on beer and spent it on the publication of my first book instead. It would have been too tempting, especially from a respected press, to resist.

  44. Kate Zambreno

      I don’t think BlazeVox is the only press to practice this policy…Two years ago Spuyten Duyvil offered to publish Green Girl, and for a while I was seriously considering it, because it had been rejected so often, and I thought at the time there was no chance of it getting out there. They sent me a list of the costs for publishing, and if I had them do everything (design, copy-editing) it would have been definitely more than $250, and at least $250. I sent out emails asking advice to everyone I knew in publishing (which at that time was about three-four people), and finally decided I didn’t want to finance the book myself, that I would continue to send it out, which I did, for a couple more years (although I think the unsaid here is also that small press writers many times in other ways do finance their books, through paying to go to readings, etc.) This wasn’t presented to me upfront as the policy of the press, however, I was actually confused for a while when I was sent the PDF of charges (going rapidly from a bizarre elation that I was being accepted seemingly so easily to a sort of, yes, deflation)

  45. Kate Zambreno

      But I also do agree with Lily and Johannes that this discourse around legitimacy is problematic – I don’t necessarily think this makes a small press illegitimate, but yes it should be extremely clear and upfront that this is the model of the press. And I would think should be heavily tied into the royalties the author then receives (a sort of co-op arrangement).

  46. Amber

      Exactly so, Kate. I don’t think this kind of thing makes a press “illegitimate,” whatever that means anyway, but I don’t think they can be defended as a co-op unless: a) there is some kind of return on investment if the book is successful and b) the press is up front about it being a co-op to begin with. When this isn’t the case, the co-op thing sounds like an afterthought/excuse.

  47. mdbell79

      I’d be very, very careful about assuming that any or all of the writers on BlazeVOX already actually paid this: Some did, presumably, but that doesn’t mean all, and I don’t want to diminish anyone’s book by assuming that it’s 100% a pay-to-play press. I believe that’s incorrect, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s particular book by making that blanket assumption. And obviously the writers on the press aren’t going to join this conversation here. I think that’s a given.

  48. Nick

      I just went on the BlazeVox homepage and found, among other things, this cryptic note:

      “We will rescind this program immediately and I am sorry for the troubles it has caused.”

      I think however the damage is done.  I really feel sorry for anyone who has an upcoming book through this press.  Even if they never were asked for a “donation,” their books are going to be tainted.  It’s sad. 

  49. mdbell79

      I wasn’t here for the earlier conversation, but I hope it’s clear that I don’t have any interest in the questions of legitimacy. A good book’s a good book, regardless of who published it. But a bad business practice is a bad business practice, no matter how good the press’s books are, and I think this is a bad business practice: I don’t think some writers should be subsidized on the dreams of others, especially in such a manipulative, hidden manner.

  50. Mittens

      I’m not sure where, above, anybody questioned whether an author was ‘legit’ or not – only talk about how paying to publish with blazevox legitimizes the practice, which is different.

      Doesn’t it make it worse that he doesn’t charge everybody to publish? That means he’s got a system, right? Is it based on his perception of how desperate an author is? To me, that makes it worse, in that the lesser known authors are subsidizing the books of those who don’t pay, when it should be the other way around. Who knows, I can’t imagine any blazevox books sell that many copies, but how does he decide who pays?

      I also don’t get the feeling that this was any big secret – how many people who have commented either had been asked to pay themselves or knew somebody who was (I know two blazevox authors, one told me he had paid, and the other made sure I knew he didn’t as if his scheme was pretty much public knowledge. both of these were conversations had far prior to this thread) So while I’m sure it’s possible all the ‘good’ authors that have been mentioned here may not have paid to publish, it seems likely, at least to me, that they knew about it.

      Maybe it doesn’t matter – I think it’d be fine if the whole scenario was laid out for everybody before they submitted. I think the weirdness of the emails sent to potential authors just makes it creepy. If blazevox had laid out a plan for ‘cooperative publishing’, I actually could see that being cool.

  51. Mittens

      I have heard of this with other presses, too.

  52. BAC

      That’s when I got mine too.

  53. BAC

      Nope, sorry, it was 2009

  54. Jeffrey Morgan

      Hey all, Jeffrey Morgan here. I thought I would weigh in as
      I’m a recent BlazeVox author. I’ll try to be as honest as possible about my
      position and what I’m thinking about this. Geoffrey Gatza accepted my book, Crying Shame, for publication and I got
      and accepted “the deal” ($250 donation) being discussed. He’d wanted to do the
      book a couple years prior in a different form, but I decided against it. (I
      should say that at that time there was no talk about the $250 donation—that wasn’t
      discussed then.) I hope that what follows comes off as neither defending what
      I did, nor being embarrassed about it. Here are a few of my thoughts.


      When I took “the deal” (I think there should be some sort of
      ominous music that cues in here, but I digress…) I was not naïve. I’m very
      proud of my book. I worked on it for years. I’d put poems/sections of Crying Shame in journals like Diagram,
      Fourteen Hills, La Petite Zine, LIT, Octopus, Pank, Pavement Saw, Spinning
      Jenny, and many others. I realize and lament the fact that I now (in this
      conversation) feel it necessary to mention those journals as a way to establish
      credibility for my work, but I’m proud of being associated with those places as
      well.  Anyway, the book was finished and
      the offer was there. I do admit that at first I thought “the deal” was a little
      weird. The more I thought about it, however, the less I felt it was problematic
      for me. So I took it. And how do I feel now? While I do feel compelled to
      discuss this here, my basic thoughts about “the deal” remain unchanged.


      At issue here, it seems to me, is a credibility that doesn’t
      have much to do with anyone’s actual writing. Is the book interesting or is the
      book not interesting? I guess it’s true that I felt I had enough “good
      publications” (whatever that means) to defend my poems to people who didn’t
      want to read them without some sort of up-front credibility established. I
      guess I did want to publish the book with Blazevox, and part of that has to do
      with credibility. I guess it’s also true I that wasn’t in a hurry to discuss “the
      deal” with anyone. I don’t think, however, that my past (or present) reluctance
      to discuss is about my own guilt, embarrassment,
      or uncertainty. I don’t feel that way. Maybe I should. Maybe I will later (cue
      music). I should say that I do think it’s entirely possible that Blazevox
      authors who did and didn’t take “the deal” will feel very differently than I do.
      Spoiler alert: hope ahead.


      I need to say that Geoffrey Gatza worked closely with me and
      put a lot of hours in. I am a pain in the ass to work with. He was patient,
      attentive, and the book went through 4 full proofs before we got it where we wanted
      it. I have nothing to compare it to, but the process satisfied me and I’m very
      happy with the results. I didn’t and don’t think of it as vanity publishing,
      but maybe I’m wrong. I hope no Blazevox authors feel their work has been
      compromised or wrongly associated by “the deal.” More than that though, I hope
      people will read and champion the books that interest them, and I hope Blazevox
      books still do interest people. They still interest me.  Lastly, I hope HTML Giant will consider
      reviewing my book (hopefully not with extreme prejudice, but I’ll take what I
      can get).

      Very sincerely,

      Jeffrey Morgan

  55. guest

      I’m glad I came here today. I got an acceptance from BlazeVOX days ago. And yes, I was asked for a donation. Like many here, I respect a number of their writers. I didn’t send in the donation. This whole thing is a bit disheartening. Now even if they decide not to ask for donations, would my book be valued by the literary community?

  56. Jeffrey Morgan

      PS: Sorry about the formatting problems in the post. My books doesn’t have those problems, I swear.

  57. mdbell79
  58. Lincoln Michel

      I have a lot of different feelings about the various stuff discussed here. I will say I find it sad that BlazeVox is apparently shutting down (per their recent posts on the website)

  59. Anonymous

      Christopher Higgs, you are an idiot, or at the very least, you clearly don’t know much about the small press world. Many (most) presses run off contributions from authors, authors’ friends, contributions, “reading fees,” “contests,” etc., and always have– even presses you probably know and love and evidently haven’t researched. BlazeVOX gets funding from many sources and publishes good manuscripts. It’s not like accepting money from the authors compromises the editor’s ability to edit. Your ignorant blog post has ruined a great experimental press. 

  60. mdbell79

      Me too, especially since I know it’s going to end up hurting a lot of the books we’ve all been praising here. I don’t really think that’s the answer to this criticism, although I can certainly understand feeling under siege on their end. Honestly, I’d hoped we’d see some more open transparency, rather than a shutdown.

  61. Laura Carter

      If it gets the work out there, it might be worth paying. I’m not sure how this de-legitimizes a press, and if you look at writers who have published their own work, well, it’s still work to be read for its own merit. 

      I am a fan of BlazeVOX and wouldn’t feel offended by this; I think the separation between good writing and the economy of publishing (money, etc.) is still pretty clear in many ways, at least to me. 

      Poets and writers generally are not the most practiced businesspeople, and there are arguments to be made as to why this is not a bad thing, but one that can be to poetry’s advantage.

      So, why all the ruckus? It is, indeed, at least an honor to be chosen, I think. At least today.

  62. Kent Johnson

      I’ve had a couple of titles with BlazeVOX. They go back about seven or eight years. One of them was recently put on Kindle, and I believe Geoffrey Gatza has done this with a number of his better-selling titles. This is the very first time I’ve heard of this pay-to-publish thing. I’m surprised by it and certainly don’t agree with the practice (the commenter above says Gatza has publicly canceled the arrangement. I think it’s good if he has). However, I feel compelled to say I’ve known Geoffrey Gatza for many years and I don’t doubt for one second his commitment to poetry and to small-press publishing. In some ways, the labor has been so spectacularly prolific you could fairly term it heroic: the incredible volume of titles (and as a number of people have noted, the quality of much of it), his internet magazine, his e-books, his Thanksgiving poem-menu dinners for an annually chosen poet, all of this has been done by Gatza with little or no remuneration. Poetry doesn’t sell too well, and perhaps the years of struggling with great energy *for* the sake of other writers became too much, and he was trying to find a way to fund his press. So let’s keep that in mind, perhaps. And, too: Let’s remember that this pay-to-publish practice everyone is so up in arms about (again, to be clear, I think it’s a bad practice!) is, in fact, the echo of a fundamentally similar, very common, largely unchallenged one in the poetry world, and I’m surprised NO ONE has mentioned it: Every time each of thousands of poets submits every year to poetry contests and pays a $100 (or whatever it is) fee, that poet is being asked to do something basically identical to what Gatza was doing, even if he was maybe asking for a bit more cash from each poet: to pay for the chance of publication. Except in the case of contests, the poet is begin asked to fork over money not for a guaranteed book; she is being asked to fund a press that MIGHT (and likely won’t) choose her book. So just to throw that into the mix, too, as something we should keep in mind before too much indignation gets heaped on one individual whom I’ve known to be a sometimes cantankerous, but also good and generous person–someone who has given much to poetry and poets, all while living at a more or less subsistence level, I happen to know.

  63. Emily Lloyd

      A friend recently received a similar acceptance letter from BlazeVOX and asked my opinion. To be honest, I don’t think it’s that bad–I don’t think it means BV has turned into a vanity press, either. I’m a librarian & writer and follow publishing (and articles about the future of publishing/books) very closely…for a print book, I’m not at all surprised to see this press (or any press) asking for the writer’s help. The offer to publish it for free as an ebook (with the BlazeVOX name on it), to me, legitimizes it. Publishing just ain’t what it used to be, folks. My response to her was that what mattered was what the press’s name & rep meant to her, meant for her as a writer. I assume BlazeVOX would announce publication of an ebook the same it would for a print book, and have it on their list. Self-publishing (which, I should say, I’m not at all opposed to as I would’ve been to “vanity” presses a decade ago) leaves all promotion, the burden of convincing readers that yours is one of the books worth reading, to the author…and that’s no small amount of work. I think BlazeVOX did a good job with the letter….it was friendly and honest enough, not creepy or slimy…and they *did* still offer to publish the book in e-form (which will soon be, if we’re not talking about artist’s books or books that otherwise need to be made of paper, the only way to fly if you want to be read). If I were to find out that BlazeVOX was now sending this letter to everyone who submitted, that would change things completely; I’d be with most of the commenters here. But as far as I can tell, that’s not the case. I consider BlazeVOX a good name–when I hear they’ve put out new titles, I’m more interested in looking into purchasing or reading them than I would be with scads of other presses. Is their stamp on a book, their look and production, and supporting them as a press worth $250? That’s got to be up to the individual writer. I don’t think it’s out of the question. I do think, finally, that they *should* be announcing this condition up front from now on…letting writers know before they submit that this would be necessary.

  64. Nick

      Whoa!  This is sad.  I hope it can be reversible.  I’m right now reading Evan Lavender-Smith’s FROM OLD NOTEBOOKS, which i think is incredible.  I personally know at least one BlazeVOX author and reviewed (favorably!) another BlazeVOX book.  At it’s best, it is/was a fantastic press. 

  65. Anonymous

      This is a real bummer. I met Gatza when I moved out to Buffalo and attended Daemen college. He was the first person to ever publish my garbage (some poems for the college lit journal) when I was like 17yrs old, and really, such a great guy and super supportive when I needed it. Part of me is like, “he should be able to run his press any way he wants and still publish a ton of shit and fuck yall” and the other part is the 27 year old me getting an acceptance for my first book and I have to pay money and being like “jesus christ.” But I think what is really sad is knowing that Gatza (and maybe he’s changed in the past fourteen years) just really wanted to publish a ton of shit by a ton of writers and not being able to do it money wise and getting desperate and making a bad decision and everyone jumping on him. 

  66. Anonymous

      You guys should really read the original letter b/f you go off half-cocked (but then again it is a blog and a comment stream so I guess there is no hope of people actually getting the information they need before they open their fat mouths):

  67. Blazevox’s $250-bucks-for-publication Policy “Rescinded” | Bark: A Blog of Literature, Culture, and Art

      […] Sam Ligon, Matt Bell and Jeremy Halinen on Facebook, and Christopher Higgs via our pals at HTMLGIANT.Thanks are also in order to all my poetry pals for their comments in Facebook messages, emails, and […]

  68. Geoff Munsterman

      I’m not sure I think falling prey to this kind of “royal scam” diminishes the book. What’s been bothering me about this conversation, over and over again, is that the assumption is that authors who pay to have their books published are bad. I know that many people posting here and in other posts I’ve seen about BlazeVOX, consider vanity presses to be lesser than. I guess I’m just not sure why? Let me be clear: sneaking this “fee” or “donation” on submission-weary poets is dirty pool. It is an absolute betrayal. But…if the books are good, whose business is it but the authors and the publisher? If the book is good, then how does finding out the author wanted their book published enough to shell out some lettuce to get it on shelves diminish it? Finding out a press asks for them to certainly diminishes them. How do they select which books to publish (quality or who’s willing to pay), how much of the money goes to promotion, how much chance does the author have to recoup that expense.

  69. Amy

      First, Roxanne – thank you for the shout out!  Made my night.  Second, I’ve just caught wind of this and am trying to think through it.  I’ve done three books through Blazevox and Geoffrey has been great.  He’s a one-man operation who wants to get poetry out into the world and has worked very hard for years to do so.  He’s done good work with my books with his limited resources (basically, he does everything:  the designs, the proofs, and all that follows) while working a full time job to support himself and his family.  He takes very few breaks (none in awhile that I can recall) and keeps consistently getting the books out there.  He has never charged me a penny.  In fact, I’ve earned royalties on my books.   I do know that a couple of years ago, he found himself in the hole because of the initial set up fee he has to pay to get each book up and running on Amazon, B&N, etc.  A big hole.  If memory serves (which it may not!), I think it was like tens of thousand of dollars – a bill came rolling in.  He scrambled to keep the press afloat by doing a huge fundraiser, and folks chipped in — a lot — for months, and he dug himself out.  I know nothing of this fee he’s charging now, but I can imagine it’s a way to offset this initial set up fee he has to pay.  I can’t imagine he can afford each one on book sales alone, nor can his one-man salary that feeds his family cover those costs.  I’m guessing, as I said, but I imagine that is what the fee is for.  You’ll have to ask one of the authors directly what he says it’s for.  And with that, I’ll head over to read Brett’s article to see what he says.  I know that Geoffrey just posted a note that Blazevox will shut down in response to this issue.  This makes me sad, not selfishly, but because I know he has put a lot of work into his press and really believes in the work he is doing – I’m sure he’s disheartened by even a small amount of ‘bad press.’  I can’t speak on the two hundred dollar fee right now until I find out more information.

  70. Dan C.

      Hey Roxane, why don’t you ask Amy King how she feels about BlazeVOX having published “Slaves to Do These Things”? She’s pretty approachable on the Facebook.

  71. Brett Ortler

      Actually, it was mine. I was the writer who set all this off. So if you want to blame anyone, blame me.

  72. Ana Bozicevic

      The ethics of these financial arrangements aside — a complex issue in and of itself in our Capitalism (TM) society where the funds for publishing books of poetry are so scant — I fail to see how they have anything to do with the credibility of books Blazevox publishes. If a book is good, can someone explain to me how exactly its publisher’s practices can “taint” it? How about corporate publishers whose operations are nakedly profit-driven — and scalp authors on royalties if not upfront — are the books they publish “tainted” too? No, because they follow the established rules of Capitalism (TM), right? Small presses are struggling from year to year and experimenting with financial models to keep themselves afloat — I don’t see how guilt-tripping and smearing a press into closing down can do anyone any good.

  73. Alan Cordle

      If you have received an acceptance from BlazeVox along with a donation request, please forward to foetry AT foetry dot com. I am tracking them and will provide a count while protecting authors’ names. So far, I have letters from multiple years. This is not a new practice. Thanks! 

  74. Kent Johnson

      Here’s an interesting anecdote. Maybe it’s not that relevant, but I’ll bet some of you don’t know about it. When John Ashbery turned 80 a few years back, he invited a small crowd over to his home to celebrate; it was a private affair. And one of the people invited was Geoffrey Gatza, perhaps in thanks to Geoffrey for doing one of his lovingly eccentric annual BlazeVOX Thanksgiving menu-poem books in Ashbery’s honor. Geoffrey, in fact (who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America), was the person Ashbery asked to bake the birthday cake. There is a photo of Gatza cutting it, with Ashery beaming behind him. 

  75. Geoff Munsterman

      I mean, if they’re doing it for compensation.

  76. Geoff Munsterman

      Sure it was. It’s exactly what was going to happen. Don’t be sorry now for calling BlazeVOX a vanity press, a scam, a sketchy and shady publisher, illegitimate, shameful, and capable of such hackery.

      So what shut BlazeVOX down? Was it this post? No. It was money. They ran out of it, because publishing poetry is really damn hard. Especially good poetry.

  77. Laura Carter

      Thanks, Ana—I think that is what I was getting at. 


  78. Daniel R.

      Got an acceptance from them three days ago! I thought it was a bit weird to ask for a donation, but they are/were? a respected press so I almost went through with it. They don’t charge their authors much for their books, so the money made on book sales would more than cover the $250. Guess it wasn’t meant to be.

  79. Geoff Munsterman

      I’d love a list of all the small presses to have shut their doors since the economy tanked. I’d bet many of them maybe tilted their values toward the end of their runs to keeping the doors open instead of giving the authors some false sense of legitimacy. For me, it goes back to Jeffrey Morgan’s post of an hour ago. He took “the deal” and was okay with it. He didn’t brag about taking “the deal” partially because he was too busy working on getting the book out. Getting the book out was worth $250 to him.

      I think it’s great that after tarring and feathering Geoffrey Gatza, we now feel compelled to claim remorse. Others sing his praises. I don’t know the man, but I know the books and I’m hopeful that Mr. Gatza doesn’t end up in a shack in the woods like Neil Azevedo.

  80. Laura Carter

      So, also, anyone who publishes Anne Waldman can charge me, maybe, $500. 


  81. Nick

      Ana, I presume your comment about a book being “tainted” was directed at my earlier comment.  It wasn’t the capitalist or profit angles I took issue with– it was the issue of BlazeVOX possibly being perceived as a glorified pay-for-play vanity press. 

      While most of us have read at least one really good BlazeVOX title, inevitably they might publish something that might be, um, not up to reader expectations.  Not everything can be consistantly brilliant.  And when that inevitable dud is published, there will be some readers who will be thinking to themselves, “Heh heh, I wonder how much that writer had to pay to be published?”  Cynicism, after all, is rampant. 

      That’s what I meant about being “tainted.”  And I wondered how people might regard a writer’s accomplishments if there is the sniff of suspicion about how they got published. 

      [I say this as someone who has never published a book-length work.  I say this as someone who, frankly, would have been mighty tempted to go along with the donation scheme if my work had ever been accepted by BlazeVOX.]

      No one, I think, wanted to lay a “guilt trip” on BlazeVOX.  We were all just saying that this particular practice gave off a bad odor.  It would have been my hope/expectation that they remain an active publisher. 

  82. Jamieiredell

      It really sucks that Geoffrey’s decided to close shop. He’s published great books by many of my friends and by folks I’ve never met. I admit, when I received that “offer” to publish for $250 I was surprised (since there was no mention of such a program in their guidelines), and I ultimately decided not to go with them. There’s no question about the “legitimacy” of the books that have been published by BlazeVOX. Those books are great. They speak for themselves. Any BV author that feels delegitimized: don’t. Clearly, despite this “offer” G.G. knew a good book when he saw one, and he was willing to publish those, however he made could make it possible. It’s not like he made this “offer” to every four-year-old for a memoir. Still, it probably would have been better to air such a practice. It’s unnerving to submit to any press–such as BlazeVOX, or another that does not publicly announce its “vanity” structure: Spuytin Duyvil–assuming that the “game” is played on the same court, with the same rules. But I feel confident that we haven’t heard the last from most BlazeVOX authors, that their writing will proliferate from various presses and magazines. And that’s what really matters. 

  83. Roxane

      Please. No one has tarred and feathered anyone. Nearly everyone here has said we think very highly of BlazeVox books and those who know Gatza have sung his praises. The legitimacy of the books is not in question. What people are questioning is the practice of charging writers for publishing their books and doing so without disclosing that there might be such a fee in submission guidelines. What people are questioning is that not everyone is asked to pay this fee. No matter how good the press or editor is, that is a questionable practice. For the response to questions to be, “Well, we’re closing up shop,” is… strange, I suppose. The press isn’t closing because of this conversation. It’s closing because, as the editor notes, the books are expensive to produce and no one is buying them. This is a problem of supply and demand and unfortunately, many of us seem to be creating a supply for which there is no demand. 

      People say writers have to contribute to their books being published. You know what writers contribute? They contribute their writing and they often do so without compensation. That should be enough. The economy is bad. Poetry publishing is endangered. Most small presses, regardless of what they publish, are struggling. If the solution is for writers to sustain the publishing of poetry using their own funds, then our problems are far graver than we ever thought.

  84. Roxane

      I’m quite certain she feels fine about that book having been published by BlazeVox (and she should) because it’s an outstanding book. She’s also commented in this thread.

  85. Roxane

      I’m currently reading your book, Jeffrey. 

  86. Roxane

      The difference is disclosure. When you’re asked to pay a reading fee, you know about it up front. 

  87. Dan Moore

      I feel bad that the publisher has had to close up his labor of love, and even worse that the poets who’ve published through BlazeVOX will have to wonder about how other people see their credits forevermore, but if we’ve gotten to a point where small presses can’t succeed without the monetary contributions of the authors they’re publishing we have a problem that’s much more serious and fundamental to poetry and publishing in general. Letting it go on like this without comment only props up a dead system longer, delays the introduction of something new. 

      If I were being asked to contribute $250 to the publication of my own book I’d do that by learning InDesign, signing up with Lulu and Amazon, and buying Project Wonderful ads myself. At this point I’m not sure what the difference is unless (of course) you’re trying to get a job in academia—but even then, I’m sure the committees would look askance at a publisher that’s earned this kind of reputation. 

  88. Geoff Munsterman

      Uhhhh, no. It’s really not enough. As my old poetry teacher told me, “it’s also usually better for one’s soul (and one’s book) to steer clear” of pay-for-publishing places like BlazeVOX. However, any good publisher will tell you that poets who simply contribute the writing (even great writing) make for bad partnerships. Poets who believe their job is to write the poems and the publisher’s job is to sell the poems are simply mistaken. Hell yeah, the economy is bad, and maybe poets who shelled out $250 of their own money to get their books out worked a little harder selling their own books. I do agree with you that it’s about supply and demand. Bad economies thin out the supply because the demand slims out, but really great poetry still gets published along with mediocre poetry. GG suffered from a poor business model (as far as I could tell they were publishing WAY too many books without recouping costs).And I think calling someone a hack and questioning the legitimacy of the authors is close enough to tarring and feathering for me to suggest it. And while people are now singing GG’s praises, earlier posts reflect serious questioning of the man’s character. The lack of transparency in regard to “the deal” as Jeffrey Morgan calls it may lack dignity, but the books don’t. Some in this conversation feel GG’s practice called the quality of the books into question, and that’s been upsetting my gut from the start.

  89. Geoff Munsterman


  90. Terry Bzx 22:13

      A few belated thoughts on this shit storm…

      1. Gatza – if you are reading this, there are more options than ‘charge authors 250 without being open about it and hope nobody notices’ and ‘shut down press’.

      2. Folks, why is nobody questioning why he has to charge $250 in the first place to make his press viable?

      Even if the $2000 cost of publishing a book comes from Gatza’s blood, sweat, and tears, it doesn’t make any sense why a press that publishes at least 15 books in a year wouldn’t publish FEWER books in order to avoid charging its authors. OR, they could charge their authors less money. Blazevox is a POD press, so there’s absolutely no upfront printing costs. If other associated costs have to do with work that Gatza himself puts in, I don’t get why he wouldn’t just publish 5 books, rather than 15. That cuts his costs by 2/3.

      3. Further, it’s perfectly legitimate to question a small press whose tactics approach those of disreputable businesses. I get it, good books are good books.

      I’m not calling BlazeVox ‘illiegitimate’, but in a world where there ARE predatory presses, agents, and contests, it’s PERFECTLY VALID to question why a seemingly reputable press would take on a tactic (as a regular business practice!) associated with unethical businesses! And yes, such practices DO taint their reputation. Yes, some of their books are still good books, but here’s a hyperbolic example: Let’s say you really fucking love your MP3 phone. Then you find out that the company that makes your MP3 Phone makes another product in China, using child labor, and uses parts of the children that die in the factory to make screens for that product. You say, that company is still okay because my MP3 Phone is fucking incredible and doesn’t contain any children! Of course that’s ridiculous – their business practices taint ALL of their products. Of course, I don’t think Blazevox kills children, but I think people are being dense RE this topic. Of course unethical (if they are unethical, I feel like Gatza could easily turn this around by just saying upfront how blazevox works) practices taint all of a company’s products. It doesn’t mean that MP3 Phone isn’t awesome, but I certainly don’t feel as great about it knowing how the company that made it operates.

  91. Roxane

      Any writer needs to also work with a press to shape the book and promote it and collaborate and so on but to suggest that you need to contribute both money and writing? I can’t swallow that. If writers choose that alternative, fine, but when that becomes the norm, I think that is a problem. A writer who wants their book to be noticed will work hard to hustle that book regardless of whether or not they pay a fee. The desire for a book to succeed comes from being passionate about your work, not your checkbook.

  92. Christopher Higgs

      This comment thread blew up while my house lost electricity due to bad weather.

      At issue for me — i.e. my reason for posting this story — centers on the lack of transparency.  I understand the need for small presses to find ways to remain sustainable.  I understand the market, the lack of buyers, the lack of readers, etc.  But there is a big difference between a “co-op” as Johannes put it, a “reading fee” like Janaka mentions, “contests” as looktouch mentions, and a policy of bait-and-switch, which is what troubled me about the Bark post I link to at the outset.  As I said before, a covert practice of compulsory payment-for-publication can easily prey on the uninitiated, a practice that seems unethical to me.
      I don’t see my post as an attempt to “smear” or “guilt-trip” as Ana has suggested.  Instead, I see it as a call for response.  The title of this post is a question.  I was hoping to start a conversation and receive an answer from Blazevox.  The answer, it seems, is that Blazevox will be shutting down.  I think that’s a rash response.  I think it could have been handled differently.  I think it would change things in a positive way if Gatza would simply make his policy transparent.  Post “the deal” on the BV website and let authors choose whether or not to submit.  As many people have pointed out, plenty of places charge reading fees, but they do so in a transparent way.  That’s, for me, the crux of the problem.  The secrecy aspect makes me inclined to think that there’s some kind of underhanded business going on.  If not underhanded, why the secrecy?

      It was my mistake to bring the question of legitimacy into this discussion.  I agree with Johannes and Lily and others who call me out on that point.  I should have given more thought to the post, as I mentioned to Roxane above I know I was hasty.  Lack of transparency, not legitimacy, should have been my focus here. 

  93. Jeffrey Morgan

      I think all of this is Roxane’s fault. :) Seriously though, in the midst of a serious, mostly good conversation about a touchy subject something really bad happened. I hope Geoffrey reconsiders. I think I can get another $250 together…


  94. Geoff Munsterman

      Sure. I guess the disconnect comes from my feeling that your comment re: “You know what writers contribute?” doesn’t really reflect how much money writers spend on publishing. The disservice GG did to BlazeVOX was not being upfront about the financial troubles his press was facing. Clearly that’s the big gripe folks here have. I’m with you that it boils down to passion. As someone who doesn’t have a checkbook (lost my job in this bad economy, dwindled all my savings for school to pay for an apartment I lost…now back living with ma) I can tell you I’m not paying anyone to publish a book of mine. If a press offered me “the deal” I’d be suspect from the word go. Especially if it came in an obvious form letter. But, if the straits are as dire as you think they are, it’s time to admit that ‘passion’ and ‘desire’ may not be enough. Musicians pay for studio time to cut their own demos. Part of hustling your work sometimes means investing in it’s success. I don’t find anything wrong with that, that is, as long as you know what you’re getting into.

  95. Pay-to-publish and the end of BlazeVOX books « Bat Terrier

      […] now requires a $250 “donation” from the author before publishing a book. See the news  here.  (Thanks to Christopher Higgs and HTMLGiant for posting the […]

  96. Ana Bozicevic

      Hi Nick,
      I just object to this vocabulary of “tainted,” “odor” etc. A small press publisher wanted to publish more books than they could afford, and tried out what sounds like a co-operative model. Sure, more transparency would have been good — a disclaimer on the site and so on — on the other hand, as many have pointed out above, the authors were not obliged to accept such a “deal,” though it, as opposed to contests, actually guaranteed publication. It sounds like Blazevox is pretty much a one-man show, not run for profit, and a bit of realism & understanding wouldn’t hurt. People are always going to judge books by their covers — your press is too small, or too mainstream, or whatever —  ultimately a good book is not going to be harmed by cynicism.

  97. Amber

      Oh, totally agree, Matt. And I just want to be clear that I’m not implying anything whatsoever about authors, those who paid or those who didn’t, or diminishing their work in any way. I’m only saying I feel bad for anyone who might have felt taken advantage of in any small way.

  98. Guest

      “it is considered unethical for a publisher to ask you to pay to have your work published. Back in the day, before the internet, there used to be this thing called The Writer’s Market (maybe it still exists?), which was this huge brick of a book that helped writers find places to send their work. It also included helpful essays about publishing. One of the first rules you would learn by readingThe Writer’s Market is that anyone who asks you for money to publish your work should not be trusted.”

      ^^^ bourgeois as fuck

      christopher higgs is not to be trusted

      i run a small press and i ask writers to go halfers on books, or less sometimes, simply because i don’t have any money

      if writers have solidarity with the aesthetics of the press, there is nothing wrong with people helping each other out

      is blazevox really a big enough press for people to be acting like pathetic prima donnas if their precious writings aren’t paid for with room service?

      vanity press = paying for your own publication

      pitching in a bit and helping each other out != vanity press

      please blog some more about the avant-garde for us, mr. higgs, we t0tes need yr perspective

      these entitled mfa grads are a joke

  99. Let Us All Be Guests

      And yet you comment anonymously so you don’t appear to have much solidarity with your own press.

  100. Guest

      hell no, why would i break with anonymity in a pathetic thread like this? in this case, remaining anonymous is equivalent to complete solidarity with the aesthetics of my own press

  101. Josephpatrickwood

      Guest: I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask authors to pay half/half. To echo some of the earlier comments, I just think a different, upfront tact would have helped. Shit, I would be down trying to fundraise. A one-man job is a bitch, no doubt, and there is no doubt Gatza loves poetry and poets and that BlazeVOX puts out terrific work. It’s just maybe simply a case of being overwhelmed with material and work.

  102. MFBomb

      This is my first time reading about this matter–here, on
      this site– but the title of this blog post seems irresponsible and

      “Vanity press” is not a phrase to throw around
      lightly, mainly because a true vanity press doesn’t have any editorial
      standards whatsoever and “accepts” anything for a fee.  A vanity press would “accept” this
      poorly written post I’m currently writing while half-drunk as a prose poem, as
      long as I paid them a fee.

      It’s interesting to me how easily some folks will slam this
      small press while overlooking the plethora of university-supported journals
      that make thousands of dollars each year off “contests” that
      certainly prey on naive writers. Where’s your outrage over these so-called
      “contests”? Anyone who is honest and worked at such a journal knows
      what’s up. The only reason college journals run contests is to make
      money–you’re lying if you say otherwise, or naive– and the only people
      eligible to win are people who fund the coffers. But are these contests a form
      of vanity publishing? No. But they’re still okay because they are judged by
      reputable writers who also judge other such contests each year for
      “fees” (I think Robert Olen Butler judges like 20 every month) and the
      winner gets a prize and a subscription.

      Here’s what this small press should’ve done instead—they should’ve
      set-up a “contest” with some fancy name and charged like $25 to “enter.” Any
      old dead, famous writer will do and make the contest instantly credible.  They should’ve paid some fancy-pants judge a
      grand to read the MS’s (they would make more than enough to cover his/her
      payment and still make a nice profit). 
      If they would’ve done this, there’d be little to no outrage or charges
      of “vanity publishing.”

  103. Roxane

      The key difference is that magazines (not just college affiliated) who run contests, are up front about the fee. It’s not a secret. It’s not something that is disclosed after a story is accepted as a winner. I don’t think BlazeVox is a vanity press but this is a strawman argument to try and conflate contest-based fees with a request for donation upon acceptance that is not disclosed upon submission. I’d also add that it’s a conspiracy fantasy that writer’s contests bring in so much money. For maybe the top 5 magazines, yes, but for everyone else, we don’t even break even on contests. We are lucky if they pay for themselves. I can say at PANK we have never made a penny on contests. All the money and then some has gone into prizes. We wish it did make money.  Our guest judge reads for free as do most guest judges. 

  104. Cic3ad

      As a small press publisher and a BlazeVox author who forked out some money to help support a worthy cause, I am disappointed in many of the comments here. I was asked for $250. I paid $125. I told Geoffrey I could only pay him in increments and he had the audacity to tell me not to worry about it, that I obviously needed the money more than he did. And as further evidence to what a scoundrel he is, he let me make changes to my book AFTER it was uploaded to CreateSpace, or whatever POD service he was using, even though the re-upload fee would cost him another hundred dollars, which he did not ask me to pay.
      I think a lot of poets need to wake up. Most of us aren’t going to be celebrated, now or ever, nor do we deserve to be. I’m sorry, but I do not believe having one’s book published for free by a top press guarantees validation of any sort. Some of the worst books of poetry I have ever read were published by W.W. Norton and Knopf and Milkweed.  Do you think that validates anyone as an artist? BlazeVox books are beautiful and demonstrate an overall aesthetic consistency, so I don’t really get the vanity press thing.
      And OF COURSE this goes to basic economics—everyone wants to be published but no one wants to buy a book. I get twenty queries a day, but not one order. So what are publishers—small press publishers, micro even—supposed to do? Grants are not easy to get, WE’RE IN A DEPRESSION and, oh yeah, no one buys poetry books. Securing non-profit status is an enormous undertaking and even getting fiscal sponsorship from NYFA requires a budget of at least $15,000 in the year prior to application. If I had that much money, I wouldn’t need a fiscal sponsor in the first place.    
      Another point: I’m sure many of you have spent FAR MORE than a lousy $250 in contest fees. Personally, I do not have money to spend on contests. And then there’s that hopelessly clichéd and outdated idea of eating. Yes. I like to eat once or twice a day. So as far as I’m concerned, the BlazeVox offer was a good deal.

  105. MFBomb

      I disagree that it’s a strawman argument simply because BlazeVox is (or was) more sloppy in covering up its desire to make more money to run its press and I wasn’t suggesting that the average literary journal makes a ton of profits off contests (though the top 50 ones that bring in 500+ submissions per contest at $15 a pop often do make a profit).  

      Big name guest judges are also paid to read for the top literary journals, and by top, I’m not just talking about the top 10–I’m talking top 50, 75 in–let’s say–Perpetual Folly’s annual pushcart rankings. You even have big name judges reading for journals like The Pinch or whatever. 

      I don’t have a problem with journals doing what they have to do to make money, but I also don’t see all of this transparency elsewhere, either, unless someone can point me to a lit journal that openly states that they need to run such contests in order to stay afloat.

  106. Roxane

      Does that need to be spelled out? It’s not rocket science that some journals cannot stay afloat without contests. All of this speaks to the reality that we’re functioning under unsustainable circumstances as presses and magazines. Most of us are treading water but eventually, our legs are going to give out and that’s a shame. 

  107. MFBomb

      Which is why why I don’t see this as a form of “vanity publishing.” It seems weird and sloppy, more than anything else.  

      It’s sort of hard to take Higgs’s post seriously when the title, in huge font, contains “vanity publishing.” Vanity publishing implies a clear, nefarious attempt by the publisher to scam writers–the lack of any editorial standard is the primary tip-off in conjunction w/ a free–when it’s pretty clear to me that isn’t the case here at all. 

  108. Guest

      quoted for truth

  109. MFBomb

      Seriously, man? (that’s not a real question, by the way–it’s rhetorical, like your title, no matter what you say now, after the fact). You really can’t see how “asking” if the press is “vanity” is over the line? 

      Some might even consider the title of your post defamatory or libelous.  You could’ve done without the sensationally-charged “question” in your title.  

  110. Guest

      where i come from, if someone is strapped for cash, it’s usually a *good thing* to pool resources together and help them out to reach a common goal

      also, yes, the author of this blog post is clearly clueless about the poetics of small press practices

      squabbling prima donna middle class publishing managerial entitlement complexes gone wild, buy the dvd! watch [author] who is too vain to be published at a slight fee strip naked at an AWP booth as a 1000s of xeroxed sheets of his legitimate MFA degree are shredded into confetti and showered upon the lusting crowd!

  111. Guest

      re: half/half it just depends on the author and on the financial situation at hand

      when i ask authors to go halfers, however, it’s just that – a casual question, not a required publication fee. if they can’t pay or don’t want to, that’s fine, i’ll eventually get the book published 100% out of my own pocket. it’ll just take longer, as i never have much money. if they want to expedite the publication and they have some spare cash lying around, why not?

      also, a serious press like blazevox is, ultimately, a great service for writers and should be treated with respect. how much money do you spend on your internet and cell phone bills and the subway sandwiches (or whatever) you were eating while shitting out another stanza and university tuition and blah blah blah… and then, finally, when asked to pay another $250 to the very service that is eager make a book out of the written result of the thousands and thousands of dollars you spent funding the constant orbit of resources it took to turn you into a writer, you scoff at this final fee? kill yourself

  112. MFBomb

      Are you really the guy from Foetry? Just wondering. I’ve been looking for your old posts about how 90% of the Iowa Fiction award winners graduated from the Iowa MFA writer’s workshop and figure investigative reporters interested in exposing vanity publishing could dig deeper into that story as well. 

  113. Geoff Munsterman

      Maybe JUST MAYBE the so-called unsustainable circumstances are part of a larger problem. MFA grads who feel entitled a book. Contests that are often slapdash and sometimes flat-out rigged. Magazines that publish their friends instead of the best work. Presses like BlazeVOX that publish way too many books in a calendar year. And people who snub presses doing whatever it takes to get the books out.

      Once again, it boils down to “Is the book interesting, or is it not interesting?” To me, it doesn’t matter how the book gets published, just that it does.

      On the flip side, small presses are often labors of love. I mean, you’d HAVE TO LOVE poetry to want to try selling it for a living. Not always the best business-centric folk in the world. I think that’s why a lot of small presses crash after a few years; it’s not always that the money isn’t there but sometimes that the money is mismanaged.
      I definitely think some contests and prizes are shady, but not all of them. Just recently, I learned how the newly-formed Bob Kaufman Prize isn’t letting screeners sift through manuscripts. The guest judge is reading each entry. That takes a dedication most people don’t even ask from guest judges anymore. I’ve even heard of judges being told “these are the ten; if you don’t like them…too bad.”

      There are presses that do it right. There are presses that last. There are presses that manage to sell their stock. It’s discouraging to hear when presses fail, or go to extremes to get the books out. It reminds us that being a poet (and a poetry publisher) isn’t easy. Even when the work is interesting, you’re dedicated, you’re pedigreed with degrees up the wazoo, you know the right people, and you know how to work the system, there a no guarantees. NONE. Not ever.

      But if you think your book is the new hotness, do whatever the hell you have to do to get it read because your book might be the book that saves this whole mess of an art form for the next 100 years.

  114. Geoff Munsterman


  115. Cremistress

      Oh god, don’t feel sorry for this guy (but perhaps feel sorry for some of the authors). Is English his second language? That is a sincere question…This press has been doing unethical things for years. Dopey money making schemes…One year they had a first book contest-maybe 2004-supposed to be judged by kent johnson-20 dollar fee and it never happened. The shady letter the author received is below. The author has only entered like three contests – late at night with a credit card, usually drunk. The author’s book was to be published by a legit press by the time the author received this letter. Good riddance to this dopey press.
       Contest Cancelled It is my sad duty to inform you that the BlazeVOX [books] Mobilis in Mobili  prize was a failure has been cancelled due to not enough participants. We stated in our rules that we needed to have 150 entrants but only received 98 manuscripts. Thank you for sending your manuscript along to us, we did read it and we are thrilled with your work!  Your money is being returned! Please see below for info! The goal of this contest was two fold, one, to receive manuscripts from new voices beyond the usual suspects we so readily see and too help broaden the book list of BlazeVOX [books]. I am very sorry to have this happen and for the long time it has taken to respond to you. We have gone through several ideas to make something out of this perceived failure, and your patience is a testament to your good faith.  The Good News I am particularly embarrassed by this and I have struggled to make a spark of this opportunity but I cannot come up with the cash award to make this a real contest. So we read all of the submitted manuscripts and made decisions on what to do. We returned 78 manuscripts to their authors along with their entrant fee and wished them well in the future. The other 20, of which yours is part, we decided to offer you an option of what to do next. Donate your entrants fee to BlazeVOX [books] Your $20 will be added as a tax deductible donation to BlazeVOX [books]. We will use this money to help fund our online journal expenses. We receive exactly zero dollars in public funding and this contest was to be the method of our expansion into the larger poetry publishing world. This donation would greatly help us as all of our workforce are unpaid volunteers. Accept a book as repayment of your entrants fee If you wish, please choose any title from our book selection from either BlazeVOX [books] or from our experimental fiction centered sister, Starcherone Books. We have over 20 titles of excellent texts to choose from that is sure to peak your interest. Please email us with your selection, address where book is to be shipped and we’ll happily mail that off. This could also be an excellent gift to send to a friend as well :-) Just tell us where to send the volume! This is the preferred method of returning funds. Please go to our online shops to see our titles BlazeVOX [books] Starcherone Books  Mobilis in Mobili series We are opening a series entitled the Mobilis in Mobili series in which we would offer your wonderful manuscript as an electronic book with the ability to have it printed if the reader wished to do so. This will be an online gallery mixed with a printed chapbook. This is a viable method of book production while also providing the readers of BlazeVOX [books] a chance become familiar with your work in the large format. Please Return My Entrants Fee And if you cannot find solace in any of our above methods, we will happily refund your entrants fee and wish you well. Please email us your current address and we’ll get it into the mail.  Again, thank you for your faith in our press to send us your manuscript in hopes of publishing with us. I hope that this can make things right and restore your trust in BlazeVOX [books]. Your thoughts are most welcome and please feel free to email me directly on any questions or concerns. Best, Geoffrey GatzaExecutive,Yahoo! Far

  116. Cremistress

      shut up kent johnson. barf.

  117. alexisorgera

      Oh Jesus. When did we all get so sensitive? If you’re going to put yourself in the public eye (ie, publishing), then you’re subject to the norms of your profession. If your business practices are being questioned, address the questions, fight for your point of view, ask people are are succeeding in this economy how they’re doing it. But how dare any of us blame the questioner. Come on. This is a culture of mania and desperation. I’m getting so fucking sick of it.

  118. alexisorgera

      Oh Jesus. When did we all get so sensitive? If you’re going to put yourself in the public eye (ie, publishing), then you’re subject to the norms of your profession. If your business practices are being questioned, address the questions, fight for your point of view, ask people are are succeeding in this economy how they’re doing it. But how dare any of us blame the questioner. Come on. This is a culture of mania and desperation. I’m getting so fucking sick of it.

  119. Waxpapermark

      At least a few of Jargon Press’ books were self-financed by the author. And that’s one of the greatest poetry presses EVER.

  120. Waxpapermark

      At least a few of Jargon Press’ books were self-financed by the author. And that’s one of the greatest poetry presses EVER.

  121. Janaka

      There are items in a book contract that aren’t disclosed ahead of time, that also involve money–terms regarding royalties, rights and permissions… Many things aren’t disclosed until after a book has been accepted. So from that ethical view as well, there is no difference. If an author doesn’t like the terms they can walk away at any time…

  122. Janaka

      There are items in a book contract that aren’t disclosed ahead of time, that also involve money–terms regarding royalties, rights and permissions… Many things aren’t disclosed until after a book has been accepted. So from that ethical view as well, there is no difference. If an author doesn’t like the terms they can walk away at any time…

  123. Poetry Publishing, BlazeVox Drama, “Vanity,” Internet Discourse « Liz Ahl Poetry

      […] connected with accepted mss. If you’d like to get caught up, start here, then go here and then probably here. I imagine there will be other posts as […]

  124. Janaka

      I also think in the context of this discussion it’s important to dispel the notion that a contribution of ~$250 is considered a significant subsidy… or anything close to making BlazeVOX a vanity press. Doing some quick math: if they publish 20 books a year, and take in $250 per book, that comes to $5,000. Depending on their print runs, all the money they receive through this practice might cover the PRINTING cost of 2-5 books (let alone shipping, storage, etc.). Which, I’m sure, makes them less risk avers and more likely to take chances on lesser known authors.

      Meanwhile, most contests bring in enough money to print the winning book, pay a judge, and sometimes pay for an additional book.

      When we talk about “subsidizing” a press, I just want to make sure people understand the figures here.

  125. Archambeau

      If what they’re doing counts as a scam (and I’m not sure that it does), then entrance-fee-having writing contests should count as a super-scam.  But generally speaking, people don’t seem to regard them that way.

      I’m a little uneasy with the notion that poetry books are only really legitimate if they’re either commercially viable or subsidized by some kind of patron, so I’m less inclined to be critical here than some people seem to be.  I mean, stepping back from the particulars of BlazeVOX case to “vanity press” publishing more generally, what is really behind the stigma?  The source of the money not being commercial customers or institutional patronage?  Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and a host of the modernists we now consider great published at least occasionally with self-subsidy.  So there’s that.

      Bob Archambeau

  126. Justin Hamm

      I don’t understand the obsession with “transparency.” Are we saying that the terms of publication should be publicly available for every book that comes out from every publisher? So what if a publisher asks one author to kick in and pays another author a $10,000 advance? So what? Not everybody gets offered the same deal in life. It’s up to the writer to fend for himself and decide what’s a good deal or if she can do better elsewhere. 

      How the author is compensated or not compensated or whether everyone is offered the same deal shouldn’t have anything to do with the reputation of the press. That is built on the books it puts its name on–and in this case, no one seems to be questioning those.

      If Publish America has a bad reputation, it isn’t because people pay to publish; it’s because the books are too often not worthy of publication. If suddenly a bunch of Publish America books were good enough to win The National Book Award, the reputation would change.

      What I’m saying is I haven’t heard anybody put forth a BlazeVOX book yet that they think was paid for and wasn’t worthy of publication, though I’ve heard several mentioned that people loved. So the idea of a “second tier” of accepted (but not worthy) manuscripts at BlazeVOX seems to lack evidence. But even if that tier did exist, you don’t think publishers like some manuscripts they publish more than others? If you believe that, then you probably believed your mother when she said she loved you and your Ivy-League brother exactly the same.  

      To me, this thread and the blog post it comes from are precisely why a publisher WOULDN’T want to disclose that it might need to ask for a bit of cooperation from the author–because that publisher knows everyone is going to get wrapped up in the money end–again, whose business is that anyway?–and it is going to unjustly and unfairly call into question a reputation, which ought to have to do with nothing but the quality of its books.

      And when it all blows up this, something you’ve worked your ass off on for a long time, something that has been very good when judged by fair criteria, you’re probably not going to react in the most reasonable way.

      The book matters. The terms through which it came into the world do not matter. And if you are judging a book or a publisher by those terms, then you’re way off base.


  127. MFBomb

      Seems like you’re the “sensitive one” and using my post to rant about something else.  My concern, which is pretty clear from my reply, is that the methods used here are unprofessional and not even convincing or compelling (assuming you know what real vanity publishing is).

      You don’t get free cookies and a pat on the back just because you raised some tough questions about an entity in an article. 

  128. Ana Bozicevic

      Hi Christopher,
      My note referred primarily to the initial post on Bark, which I thought unnecessarily incendiary–the author is talking about the “Blazevox scandal,” about how his “trust was violated” etc. Huh? This is no level-headed thinker who’s only after transparency–he sounds like a bride pissed off about a prenup. You can always say “no.”
      I have no special allegiance to Geoffrey nor have I formulated an opinion of his practice–still thinking it through–but I find the Bark pileup & scandalmongering totally immature.

  129. Ana Bozicevic

      Hi Christopher,
      My note referred primarily to the initial post on Bark, which I thought unnecessarily incendiary–the author is talking about the “Blazevox scandal,” about how his “trust was violated” etc. Huh? This is no level-headed thinker who’s only after transparency–he sounds like a bride pissed off about a prenup. You can always say “no.”
      I have no special allegiance to Geoffrey nor have I formulated an opinion of his practice–still thinking it through–but I find the Bark pileup & scandalmongering totally immature.

  130. Sarah Sarai

      I assume you investigated, talked to Geoffrey Gatza and a fair number of BlazeVOX [books] before posting this and defaming.  Right?  You worked on getting background and guiding readers so no one jumped to conclusions and so everyone had facts at-hand.  Right?  I recall a few years ago –and I really don’t remember the proper nouns– someone posted a complaint about a literary journals.  No one investigated.  Everyone believed BECAUSE THEY HAD READ IT ON THE WEB.  The esteemed poet who was to judge a contest pulled out without investigating.  It was astonishing, absolutely astonishing to see how quickly reps get ruined and by people who have no skill with discernment.  Right? 

  131. MFBomb


      “But how dare any of us blame the questioner. Come on.”


      How dare some of us have higher standards for questioners.  But I realize this is the internet and people don’t actually investigate or think things through anymore and that knee-jerk, thinking-out-load articles/pieces/whatever are the norm.

  132. Josephpatrickwood

      For clarity, I don’t scoff at the final fee nor believe that book publication exists in some rarified air. I’ve been out of school for over a decade, would write from a gutter, and have had experience both grant writing to do poetry events and also punching holes in chapbooks that we will always lose money on.

      The more I think about this discussion and its viral nature, I think that there is an inherent conflation of the book as “professional validation” and “artistic document”. I mean AWP–right–book tables of people like Cannibal or Forklife who make books for the love of books next to MFA programs and panels on professionialization. In short, it’s great that the writing community can be so diverse, but it also creates a cosmic clusterf___ of mixed expectations.

  133. Geoff Munsterman

      Don’t forget Whitman. His buddies let him use their typesetter, but _Leaves of Grass_ was a “vanity publication” as well as a score of books you already mentioned. It used to be a kind of right of passage; people didn’t assume an MFA meant your book should set the world on fire.

  134. Cic3ad

      Reading through this comment thread, I am once again reminded why I avoid poets like I avoid dog turds on the sidewalk and why I dropped out of an MFA program after two semesters. It is ironic that we’re lambasting BlazeVox for vanity publishing practices, yet all I detect throughout these comments—or a good number of them–is a truly offensive, unending vanity, this idea that everyone’s work is “first rate” (a system of appraisal that is pure illusion) and deserves to be lauded the second the ink dries on that MFA degree (the absolute WORST scam, by the way). It reminds me of all the poets I asked to send work to my journal, the ones who, when I told them the name of the journal, condescended with a curt “Pfffft. Oh sure. AS IF.” Or my favorite, “I saving this poem for The New Yorker.” I was offering a form of validation, or at least the encouragement that someone liked their work. And they spit in my face.
      Underlying many of these postings is the disturbing idea of a “first rate” and “second rate,” a naïve assumption that some press or journal can bestow an irrevocable stamp of validation that will last for eternity. Well, IT CAN’T. What needs to be said here is that most, if not ALL of us are producing work that is LESS than second-rate. I consider myself a second rate poet AT BEST. I’m probably third rate, though, or worse. And I’ve been in journals like Fence, Colorado Review, Harvard Review, Versal, Bomb, Salamander, etc. I say this not to brag but to back up my point that “validation” is a mirage perpetuated by the mainstream American culture that tells us everyone deserves to be famous. And the MFA programs are just as insidious.
      So if you think you’re too good to help out a truly independent press with its financial survival, its ability to continue publishing work it believes in, then fine. Keep shelling out those twenty or twenty-five dollar contest fees. Keep the machines of general crappiness churning. Keep feeling secure because the contests you fall for, I mean send to, offer disclosure and transparency. See how long you can withstand the weight of that delusion and the one that says the best books will win eventually. Trust me, though, the delusion WILL come crashing down on you. And then maybe you’ll be human once more.    

  135. deadgod

      Here’s the lingering-but-operationally-defunct (??) foetry site: .  Here’s a page devoted to perhaps the most well-known foetry exposure: .  (‘Well-known’?  –Check the name of the “Rule” by which contests are supposed either to conceal entrants’ identities from judges or, more practicably, to make connections between judges and entrants public knowledge.)

      To my internet-only knowledge, it’s been a while since Cordle spent much time exposing these now-lanced pockets of corruption.  It’s a hilarious story, to one who has a taste for this kind of grift.   If you know of more recent or current flimflams of this ilk, do tell.

  136. Kent Johnson

      From Mike Kelleher’s blog today. An excerpt from the post here:
     work that he does in producing and distributing these books is a gift to the authors he publishes. Authors like Ortler think it is the other way around: that their work is a gift to the world and that publishers should get down on their knees and thank them for writing it. Well, go fuck yourself.The great crime that Geoffrey has committed in the eyes of these people is not a lack of concern for their work or a desire to scam young authors out of their money (both false charges), it is that they thought he was going to give them legitimacy and authority and all he gave them was a lousy, beautiful book, a worldwide distribution network and some marketing support. He even gave them his logo, telling the whole world that he personally liked their work and thought others should read it, too. How dare he?I would like all of the Brett Ortlers and Lavender Smiths of the world, before they go fuck themselves, to understand the following. Geoffrey Gatza has devoted his life to publishing them. He has no job. No source of income. He lives entirely on the very, very modest amount of money he has leftover after he publishes their books. He has no health insurance, no dental insurance, and no independent income. He is not a non-profit, which means he cannot receive grants. He is dependent for his meagre livelihood on book sales and the small fees he charges to offset costs to publish them.And he publishes more quality books per year than most other presses in the country.

  137. Kent Johnson

      I just heard from Geoffrey Gatza. He is writing a statement on all this and will be releasing it soon at the BlazeVOX site. It’s possible that the press will continue.

      In meantime, folks might want to check out the entire post by Mike Kelleher, linked above.

  138. M. Kitchell

      i was mostly with you until you started name dropping your publications to “make a point” and then drew some sort of binary between either just “being totally ok” with what is ostensibly a “dick move” on BlazeVox’s part and paying contest fees, as if there’s no room for anything outside.  

      If you want to help out a “truly independent press with its financial survival,” you should donate money to it.  Don’t tell me (“me” here being hypothetical, I don’t write poetry so would never find myself sending a manuscript to BlazeVox to begin with) that being ‘tricked’ into paying to finance your book’s publication and then being like “wtf that’s shitty” is somehow some refusal to support independent publishing.  If most people wanted to finance, even partially, the publication of their own book, I imagine they’d either self-publish it or approach a smaller press they already have a relationship with and be like “hey yr press is awesome and I have this book I wanna self publish but i’d rather be on yr press let’s work something out.”  

  139. Guest

      This was posted by the same guy who admitted he doesn’t support independent bookstores / who takes money from kids that want to know ‘how to write” / and whose own writing is not as ‘experimental’ as he claims it is. Best shut up.

  140. MFBomb

      But that would actually require some work. Much easier to rant and rave on Facebook and Twitter status updates. 

  141. deadgod

      This difference is not “key” if the parallel has less to do with an operation’s income and more to do with lack of transparency of the operation itself. 

      Entrants to contests whose ‘judges’ are acquainted with their ‘winners’ (or which are remarkably profitable) might suffer from the consequences of a lack of transparency similar to the suffering from lack of transparency experienced by an accepted-but-now-for-$ submitter to a press.

      Where I think MFBomb might be erring here is in his assumption – if that’s what it is – that that there would be less dudgeon shown by the pitchforkers here if a major contest or enough mid-sized contests to constitute a pattern were shown either to be rigged or lucrative.

  142. Tanya

      On an unrelated yet positive note:
      I had never heard of BlazeVOX before this, but after sifting through these comments and reading the good remarks over the books I think now I may have to purchase one or two. Anyone have any recommendations? What about Christine Hamm’s Echo Park or You’d Be A Stranger, Too by Weston Cutter? Anyone read those?
      Also unrelated: The cover art for a lot of these books is pretty fantastic.

  143. Sarasoo

      Is $250 really that big a deal? Kind of nasty to have gone public with that. Wonder how many copies Matt Bell and Christopher Higgs bought of their own book/s. More than $250 worth? Assholes!

  144. MFBomb

      A contest doesn’t need to be proven as “rigged” to raise questions about its purpose.  Such contests are nothing more than fundraiser s. Again, I don’t have a problem with contests, more than I have a problem with people cherry-picking where to apply this flawed and weak definition of “vanity publishing.” Evan Lavender Smith, for instance, wants to write an “open letter” expressing his moral outrage over BlazeVox, yet his most well-known story was published in Glimmer Train, a for-profit magazine that charges writers $20 to submit to one of their 90 yearly contests. I would never call Glimmer Train a “vanity publisher,” but I wouldn’t express moral outrage over some small poetry publisher asking for help from writers while ignoring a larger, for-profit press that requires runs a new “contest” every other week, either. 

  145. christine hamm

      Wahhh.  I’m trying to control my sobbing enough to type this — if you look down at the bottom of “Christine Hamm’s Echo Park” you will see there is little statement about “coming soon”  — it was going to be ready in a month, maybe less!  Now, never!

      2 yrs ago, when I was first accepted by Blazevox, I was asked to donate, but it was not phrased as “donate or don’t get published” — more along the lines of, donate, or it might take a while, but it will still happen.

      Geoffry has been nothing but great to me — and the time he’s spent on my drafts and questions has been over 25 hours, so if people really think he’s scamming authors for money, then I guess he’s doing it for … 10 dollars an hour?

      (proceeds with the slitting of wrists)

  146. deadgod

      lax babe

      whatever else they are, poets are 100% vain

      praise the power gods of language and loser gods of art

      if your point is that cw classes, mfas, mags, contests, prizes, books, internet threads, literary ambition, and berets+porkchopfrappe are rackets – $ rackets and personality rackets – ,

      you are coh rect

      praise the gods of language and art

  147. Tanya

      Oh man, I’m sorry. I should have paid better attention. After reading the quotes and the bio it was enough to get me interested so I didn’t scroll down to the very bottom. If it’s any consolation the book looked really interesting. 
      So wait, now I’m confused, are none of the “coming soon” books happening? Can’t a Kickstarter campaign or something be created to at least publish the rest of the books before the press shuts down, or is that too much to ask?

  148. Daniel R.
  149. Paul Clark

      elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me the sucker was racist and plain mother fuck him and john wayne

  150. Alban Fischer

      Thom Donovan has led a good discussion of this on Facebook. It’s so reactionary to just immediately trash BlazeVox. At least consider the other side of it.

  151. Chris Gaton
  152. Coldfront » BlazeVOX will not close amid criticism

      […] Higgs at HTMLGiant calls BlazeVOX a “vanity […]

  153. MFBomb

      Are you surprised? This website, despite the posturing, is often conservative and Chris “Experimental” Higgs already has his coterie of friends ready to blindly jump to his defense and shout down any criticism of his tactics. 

  154. Justin

      Some of you guys sound like a bunch of sharecroppers.  “Of COURSE we have to pay to cultivate and harvest crops on someone else’s little patch of land!”  Grow up and stop being prisoners of someone else’s holy idea of Publication.  PUBLICATION isn’t the commodity.  THE WORK is the commodity.  Unfortunately, poetry is a coterie product with a tiny audience and it is enduring a crisis of overproduction.  A jackal publisher who knows perfectly well that 92.5% or 90% or 85% of nothing is exactly nothing will charge a fee, and publication in the traditional sense of investing in work that one believes in for one reason or another becomes fee for service work that preys upon the anxious, the inexperienced, the unpublished, and of course master rationalizers who would have us believe that stubbornly resisting exploitation is a sign of being “bourgeois.”  It does not matter if the fee doesn’t seem like much.  It’s a fee.  If you think your work has no exchange value, then fine — there’s no conundrum.  Cut out the middleman and publish it yourself.  Give it away.  Post it on Facebook.  Keep a poetry blog. 

  155. Cremistress

      Are you telling mw this guy’s only job is Blazevox–girfting poets??? it’s no fucking wonder he’s fucking doing all these dopey things to make money. Get a fucking job, man. I am officially “morally outraged.'”

  156. Kill the Author: Blaze Vox and “Vanity” Small Press Publishing - Montevidayo

      […] Johannes on Sep.05, 2011, under Uncategorized As many folks already know, HTML Giant published a post about Geoffrey Gatza’s practice of asking potential authors to be published by his press, […]

  157. Roxane

      They use POD so there are no print runs, just so we’re understanding the figures here.

  158. Roxane

      I’d recommend I’m the Man Who Loves You and Slaves to Do These Things by Amy King, Big Bright Sun by Nate Pritts, Crying Shame by Jeffrey Morgan (just finished this last night and it’s really interesting), and Surface Tension by David Peak.

  159. Tanya

      Thanks Roxane, I’m going to look into these.

  160. Justpassinginfoalong
  161. Dustin

      I’m a little torn. I’m 100% behind that the tiered system seems to have a tendency to ask more uninitiated writers, and those who could use the help, to pay up. And that doesn’t seem right. On the other hand I don’t think it’s impossible for a system like this to become an intermediate stage between the “legitimate” system that’s being discussed and “vanity” presses. Geoff Gatza clearly has an eye for great books. There are quite a few books they’ve put out that I’ve loved (and, it would seem, under this current system). So, to some extent, right or wrong, this intermediate stage is working. Authors are assisting in the publishing (not paying the full cost like most vanity presses) and they are being selected as most small presses. Blaze VOX prints high quality books with high quality content. I’m not trying to defend anything, as I don’t think I have enough information to fully defend anyone, but it seems that there is an unfamiliar model here, and that there is good reason to look at this without being reactionary. They clearly needed to be more transparent, authors should know the situation ahead of time. But the question, to me, is whether, if the situation is transparent, this is a good system. And I think it could be.

      Here’s Gatza’s statement on the situation:

  162. Dustin

      I’d like to note that if a press “can’t afford to run it should shut down” is insane. There is such a small market for poetry, and it’s flooded (in economic terms that is). A good portion of the poetry world is subsidized by the NEA, private donors, authors, etc. This isn’t that far a cry from those practices (less the transparency issues). Poetry isn’t viable. Just because it isn’t making money doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. Anyone who edits or reads works from a small press or lit mag would likely agree. Saying otherwise is missing the reality of publishing poetry.

  163. deadgod

      wait a minute

      higgs and gay are limbowser and gleck?

      blazevox is the middle passage??


  164. Dustin
  165. Janaka

      If that’s true, I still don’t think it changes the ethics of the issue (though I think POD is a poor publishing model, for a few other reasons that aren’t germane to this discussion).

  166. Scott Abels

      As an “emerging poet”, I don’t feel particularly powerless (despite Matt Bell’s assertion that I should).  I’d risk saying that it’s an exciting time to be a poet writing poems to perpetuate poetry.  Please don’t underestimate an emerging poet’s ability to make a thoughtful, informed decision.

  167. Scott Abels

      As an “emerging poet”, I don’t feel particularly powerless (despite Matt Bell’s assertion that I should).  I’d risk saying that it’s an exciting time to be a poet writing poems to perpetuate poetry.  Please don’t underestimate an emerging poet’s ability to make a thoughtful, informed decision.

  168. J.

      I have zero connection to BlazeVox or even experimental poetry. But I must say these kinds of scandals bring out a lot of absurdity. On one hand, do terms like “scam” “vanity press” and so on really need to be tossed around before the facts are clear? On the other, do we really need to accuse anyone bringing up acceptable questions of “share-cropping” and being awful people, blah blah? 

      How long till we just cut to the Hitler references? 

      I think that, without a doubt, it was a bad move for BV to have this policy without being open about it. It was inevitable that it would become a blog controversy at some point. 

      That much is clear. 

      Does the policy itself warrant all this condemnation? I really don’t know. Lots of comments about this talk about how publishers should pay writers, not be paid by them. That, of course, makes some sense. But when we are talking about experimental poetry that sells in the double digits… the idea that writers should be “paid” sounds a little naive. If some kind of co-operative publishing venture works and helps both the poets and the publisher, that seems like a fine thing to me. 

      I can’t really tell what was going on with BlazeVox. Gaza’s emails and posts are definitely a little sketchy. On the other hand, it is clear that he is putting hours of work into these manuscripts and publishing them well, so all the talk of a “scam” seem quite unfair. There is no way he is making more money than time put in. But again, he should be upfront. 

      There does, however, seem to be a constant anti-editor/publisher bias in the indie pub world where people assume that all editors and publishers are scam artists or that if they don’t pay authors they are cheating them, etc. The fact is, most editors and publishers LOSE money on the venture. They may put in a full time job’s worth of hours, but they are actively losing money. I’m speaking generally here, not about BlazeVox. Point being: the conception that authors have to be paid isn’t really sustainable for something like experimental poetry and perhaps some “models” like the BlazeVox one (again, it should be in the open) are the only way for it to survive. 

  169. MFBomb

      I wonder if GG has a lawyer? If someone accused me of running a scam operation, I would definitely look into a potential defamation case. 

  170. Kent Johnson

      Everyone should read Geoffrey Gatza’s statement, put up a couple hours ago. Here is the link again. I think it would only be fair, given all the accusation and half-baked vitriol here and across the internet, for Chris Higgs to post a follow-up informational post, with the below link and other relevant ones, like the excellent posts today by Johannes Goransson, Mike Kelleher, and Christopher Janke: the most prolific, idiosyncratic, creatively messy, and now most famous poetry press in America. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m sure hoping Gatza will want to do MY next book… 

  171. Tanya

      I agree that there should be a follow-up post with links. I keep waiting for one to go up.

  172. guest

      We have the internet. You can publish there FREE and win more readers than Blazevox will get you. Therefore, what are you paying for?
      Book tour?
      Reviews in The Times?
      You are buying a printed copy of your book. Of the 200 hundred or more published writers I know who are good, no one has paid to be published, As of September 2011, I’ve never read a good book from a pay-to-publish press. Until I do, my old rule stands: never pay someone for work you have done.

  173. Sarah Sarai
  174. MFBomb

      One more thing, Alexis…

      Do you think that just because someone is a public figure and puts himself “out there,” anyone can make poorly-founded and potentially career-damaging accusations about him in public, and that the person should just “suck it up and take it like a man or woman”? Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you that there are indeed legal recourses to protect people from serious accusations of nefarious behavior (like fraud) that are a) poorly supported; b) unfounded; and c) harmful to the person’s career and/or livelihood.If you want to play the smoking gun role, you damn best sure better do a thorough investigation, cover your tracks, and not be so anxious to be an attention whore on the Internet. This is not the kind of thing to address in a fucking Facebook status update or a snippet blog post.  You and others should also know that the guy who ran Foetry was a lawyer who did his homework carefully.  Now commence sucking-up to your fellow contributor. Sorry for interrupting. 

  175. MFBomb

      One more thing, Alexis…

      Do you think that just because someone is a public figure and puts himself “out there,” anyone can make poorly-founded and potentially career-damaging accusations about him in public, and that the person should just “suck it up and take it like a man or woman”? Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you that there are indeed legal recourses to protect people from serious accusations of nefarious behavior (like fraud) that are a) poorly supported; b) unfounded; and c) harmful to the person’s career and/or livelihood.If you want to play the smoking gun role, you damn best sure better do a thorough investigation, cover your tracks, and not be so anxious to be an attention whore on the Internet. This is not the kind of thing to address in a fucking Facebook status update or a snippet blog post.  You and others should also know that the guy who ran Foetry was a lawyer who did his homework carefully.  Now commence sucking-up to your fellow contributor. Sorry for interrupting. 

  176. deadgod

      –nor Cavafy.

      What is the big deal about “vanity” in writing and publishing?  –that some deluded mutts’ll get fleeced putting their ‘work’ into the world?  Sure, that’s pathetic and small-time destructive . . . but compared to insurance companies selling ‘financial security’? or oil companies sellling clean, free ‘energy’? or HMOs and pharma selling fucking ‘health‘??

  177. Cic3ad

      I only name-dropped publications because that is the only thing that seems to matter to these mfa folk and wanted–pathetic as it sounds–to establish a tiny bit of credibility. I admit that Geoffrey’s method–while free of malice or a desire to scam people–could have been handled better, though I still think people are overreacting to this. I didn’t feel like it was a dick move at all. I suspect that he thought announcing this upfront would discourage people from submitting. And judging from my own experience with poets, their preciousness and sense of entitlement–this is probably closer to the truth than what many people are suggesting on here. Also, anyone who thinks they can even afford to eat by scamming poets is insane. 

  178. Reb

      That’s not true, NTB’s does POD and does short runs.  We need copies for online sales on our website, review copies, author copies, to place in stores on consignment, and to have on hand at book fairs.  Our short runs are between 200-300 copies and we often do shorter runs when those run out. It’s a lot cheaper than doing a run of 1000-2000 and we’re not paying warehousing/distribution fees, but it still is a significant cost for small presses.

  179. Roxane

      I understand the costs. I publish books though I don’t use POD. I just print in runs of 100-200.

  180. Kwsherwood

      Google “publication subvention” and you’ll see it is quite common in the scholarly / academic publishing industry, though often coming from the employer or a foundation rather than the individual.  

      Most interesting in the past and above comments is the absolute lack of consideration for actual finance models. How much do you think it costs in labor, equipment, etc. to run a small press? What is the cost to edit and design an accepted manuscript? What do you think the setup or distribution costs are for a short-run or print-on-demand publication?  

  181. Guestypoo

      Oooh! How dramatic!

      What a stupid thing to say. This is a comment stream on a blog, ace. Why not learn to play the tympani if you want an ominous drumroll behind such inanities?

  182. Jonny Lohr

      The comments always seem to come back to finance, and how
      we’re all aware that financing poetry is a dead end. BlazeVOX has suddenly lost
      its credibility with you because, for the time being, they can’t afford to
      finance this dead end. Can I please show you this logic? Because a press has
      the means to print and distribute, they somehow attain this credibility to tell
      everyone what is good poetry; but, if a press suddenly loses that means, they
      suddenly lose their credibility. Does everyone who’s up in arms against
      BlazeVOX understand that they’re mainly upset because it’s hurting the
      capitalist ideals of the publishing industry?


      What strikes me most about everyone’s outrage towards
      BlazeVOX is the blatant hypocrisy behind it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you
      seem to be upset that this publishing model cheapens the artifact of the book,
      and through that the romanticized ideal of The Published Author. You want The
      Published Book to be a trophy on your mantle (or, more probably more
      accurately, a line on your CV). This seems to imply that the reason for writing
      is for the credit to your name, rather than the goal of making what is inside
      of you available to the outside world. You’re worried (specifically Evan
      Lavender Smith, and other people published through BlazeVOX, desperate to separate
      yourselves) that your trophy won’t be as shiny if there’s an implication that
      yours was an honest-to-god Published Book, not like those losers who didn’t get
      approval from someone with the means.


      I’ve never had a book of poems published, nor have I attempted
      to. I recently put out a small chapbook under the name Teppichfresser Press,
      which (horror of horrors!) I printed and assembled myself. Teppichfresser is
      run by Keith Gaustad, a friend of mine, and I was able to make the books for essentially
      free, whereas it would have cost him a lot of money. That’s right, I made it
      AND was already friends with the press. I didn’t have the dignity and talent to
      blindly send out submission queries and reading fees to random presses so that
      strangers would never read a word of it. I’m you would all write my chapbook
      off because it was made through a ‘vanity press’. I would hope you’d wait to
      read it and write if off because the poetry sucks, but, you saved some time. Good
      for you.


      I don’t really give a shit because I didn’t put out a
      chapbook so that I could be exalted to the level of Author of a Published
      Chapbook (man, that sounds like a sweet place to be). I wrote a short series of
      poems that I thought would be fun to put together and to give out to some
      friends, and, since I was moving to a new city, give to a new friend if they
      were interested in reading some of my poetry. If they liked it, awesome; if
      they hated it, too bad.


      We all want to be published, I’m no less full of shit
      than any of you; but, as someone told me once, you have to ask yourself why. Do
      you want to be published to get what’s inside of you to the world, or so that
      everyone knows you’re The Published Author? Do you want a part of an inclusive
      a literary community who can enjoy each others’ works, or do you want to join
      an exclusive club to look down from your high horse? I’m sure that if someone
      were to ask you why you write, you would come up with a long litany of romanticized
      reasons before admitting that it’s to attain the level of The Published Author.
      Maybe you should look at BlazeVOX through the lens of that litany and see what
      you’re really upset about.


      Or, shut the fuck up and start your own press if you
      think you can do it better.

  183. MFBomb

      Oooh! Yes! 

      Because defamation is less severe when it occurs in a comment stream! (or blog, or Facebook, or Twitter, etc.) 

      What a stupid thing to say. 

      Let me guess: you are yet another inane Facebook Generation Ace who thinks the rules (or law) somehow go out the window when on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, etc. and that defamation (like accusing someone of running a scam operation without thorough support) is okay because it wasn’t published in the New York Times. 

  184. knott

      meanwhile NYOpera spends 40 million to create new production of Ring Cycle and billionaire Bob Dylan (you know, the tunesmith who gets off on being called a “poet”) buys another yacht—

      instead of sniping at each other, poets should organize picketprotest lie down in the streets chain themselves to the doors of MOMA/NYTimes/et al and DEMAND more funding from the cultural cashbox—  

      why should the most important art be the least funded?

      that 40 mill wasted on a redundant Ring could have paid for a lifetime of output from twenty poetry presses—

      and tell me why the fuck EmIAm and other popstar “poets” aren’t donating to pay the bills for Blazevox,

      or for that matter why aren’t millionaire poets like Seidel and Gluck and Howard and Russel Edson et al—

      poor John Gallaher spends half the posts on his blog praising the “poetry” of popstar Neil Young, but has Neil Young and all the other damn popstars praised as “poets” ever donated any of their millionbillions to fund the work of, y’know, REAL poets?

  185. J.

      Man I’m really sorry, but this is honestly one of the saddest posts I’ve ever read in my life. The poetry revolution is going to… begging for money from Museums and Bob Dylan?

      If poetry books really only sell a few dozen copies, why should the cultural institutions funnel money into something no one cares about? There are plenty of starving artists who people do want to read/see/watch….

  186. knott

      like every underclass in history, poets should rise up in protest and demand (not beg, but demand) their due—  “the cultural institutions” you mentioned must no longer be allowed to underfund poetry:— they must be harassed and attacked and demonstrated against until they relent— 

  187. J.

      Is this what the concept of revolution has come to in the United States? Picketing Neil Young’s house for small press poetry donations? 

  188. knott

      a fable:The State (society, the institutional powers that be, etc) has budgeted 20 beans for the Arts—of course 20 beans are too little, the State should allocate more beans, everybody knows, everybody bleats and tiradesthat 20 beans are not enough funding for the Arts, etc., etc.,the State should give them more, the State should blah blah blah—the Artists endlessly complain they’re being shortchanged in the State’s dispersal of resources—and they’re right, of course: but so what?The Artists can bang their heads against the State’s palace doors all they like,but 20 beans is it.And eventually inevitably those 20 beans are distributed to the Arts:Music gets 8 beans,Film gets 4,Painting/Visual gets 3,Theater gets 3,Prose gets 2,Poetry gets—wait, aren’t there any left? Did you count them right?*

  189. Collin Kelley

      BlazeVOX has published some fine poets: Anne Waldman, Megan Volpert,
      Eileen Tabios, Christine Hamm, Daniel Nester, Didi Menendez, Amy King,
      Andrew Demcak and Kazim Ali to name a few. I have a number of the press’
      books in my library and I always thought they were well done. However,
      BlazeVOX made a misstep in not disclosing its co-operative publishing
      approach. It was only a matter of time before a poet made an issue of
      it, but the vile and derision heaped upon the press over the weekend is,
      sadly, typical of a certain part of the poetry “community” in America.

      The fact is that many poets believe if you’re not published by one of
      the indie darlings or one of the biggies like Knopf or Norton, you’re an
      abject failure as a poet. This myth is perpetuated in academic circles
      and by poets who make a “career” hopscotching to residencies, who also
      subscribe to the “must win a first book contest” rule.

      The publishing industry is having its ass handed to it on daily basis by
      writers circumventing agents and publishers to self-publish via ebook
      format and inexpensive printing options like Lulu. Poets who live and
      die by the academy are, for the most part, taking the hear no evil, see
      no evil, speak no evil stance against this publishing revolution. Those
      who have no interest in MFA and academic cultures just laugh and go on
      with making their art and disseminating by any means necessary.

      BlazeVOX’s lack of transparency is disappointing. The donation request
      should have been clearly stated in the submission guidelines. Gatza made
      an error in judgement, but the complete damnation of the press, which
      has produced some fine books over the years, is outrageous. Gatza has
      been called an illiterate, a scam artist, grifter and far worse.
      Meanwhile, the icons of American poetry who have given awards to their
      friends, students and husbands are still on their pedestals, along with
      the complicit presses. In many ways, the BlazeVOX controversy says more
      about the “poety community” than it does about the press. It reveals
      deep insecurities, self-importance and fragile egos on the part of poets
      trying to “make it” in a niche part of literature.

      I’m glad BlazeVOX has decided to stay in business, despite many of its
      supporters – and even a few poets published by the press – running in
      the other direction for fear it might damage their “reputations.”
      Getting a book published by a press isn’t easy. Many beloved indie
      presses now require a reading fee (Four Way Books is one) and poets
      spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in contest fees without batting
      an eye. Once a book is published, poets must purchase copies of their
      own books beyond the agreed upon number of author copies and the
      majority of marketing/touring will be coming out of the poet’s own
      pocket. There is no free ride in publication and those who tell you
      otherwise are liars.

      I hope BlazeVOX continues its tradition of publishing quirky and “weird”
      collections, but does so by being upfront about its policies. The press
      has worth and so do all the fine poets it has published in the past.

  190. knott

      and zero is what poets will continue to get until they rise up in revolt and demand their rightful share—

  191. Eleanor

      Okay.  Some things that really grabbed my eye from all this discussion:

      1) Can BlazeVOX’s contention that most of its books sell only 20-30 copies possibly be right?  I knew the poetry market was small, but until I saw that, I just hadn’t been aware of how small is small.  Please, someone–ANYONE!– reassure me that a well-written debut collection is capable of selling more.

      2) Going into this incident, would it be fair to say that most people would have thought front-ended requests for author donations (ie, reading or contest fees) were preferrable to the back-ended requests?  To me, the front-ended approach is ethically preferrable because, rather than pay to have your work published, contest fees only pay for the chance to have your work considered.  Small difference, yeah, but…

      3) what makes BlazeVOX distinctly different from PublishAmerica-like outfits and vanity presses is the level of editorial committment.   GG is not just publishing anyone who has a wallet, but real bone fide collections.  Comments here and elsewhere talk about GG guiding the writers through multiple rounds of revisions.  So here, at least, BlazeVOX is practicing something of a hybrid model, no?

      4) It seems to me that charging, say, a $10 or $15 reading fee would have netted BlazeVox about as much revenue as asking its acceptees for $250.  In one of his emails, GG said he did not like “contests” (stating “I have been in that room before and I am not fond of people paying $40 to have a fist [sic] year grad student pick through a box of manuscripts to find something they like. “).  But if he reads through all the manuscripts anyways, and chooses the ones HE likes, maybe he should consider just charging reading fees.

  192. Justin

      Well, how about starting by protesting the fact that Poetry Magazine, run by the Poetry Foundation, funded by Ruth Lilly’s bequest of $200,000,000.00, still doesn’t really pay poets? 

      Interesting, that.  Poets apparently should feel privileged to appear within the pages of that magazine.  Just as they should feel obliged to shoulder part of the cost of publication in less well-heeled publications.  The sweat-of-my-brow rationale sort of goes out the window there.

  193. Justin

      “BlazeVOX made a misstep in not disclosing its co-operative publishing

      Uh, whatever this is, two hallmarks of the cooperative are decentralized decision-making and transparency of financial accounting.  Neither of which seem to be in evidence in this case.

  194. J.

      Now THAT makes plenty of sense to complain about. 

  195. Brian Miles

      I feel bad for BlazeVOX. They’re having their name dragged through the mud for trying to make the economics of their publishing work after they lost a major donor. They should have just shut down.

      People’s holier than thou attitude about this is amazing. They’re still very selective…. isn’t that the point of not trusting the people who want you pay to help have your book published? Never mind that we’re talking about freaking $250…

      This is a strange world. 

  196. J.

      1) I also assume BlazeVOX means they sell that many copies and they aren’t counting copies the author sells from their author copies, and obviously aren’t counting all the copies given away for free (reviews, etc.)

  197. MFBomb

      Maybe he should charge reading fees. It would certainly keep the wolves away, even though reading fees accomplish the same end and are just a way for a press or journal to say, “you, writer, support us, since we might publish your work” (by the way, I’m fine with reading fees–I’m just annoyed by the hypocritical moral outrage by people up in arms over this situation). The distinction between “might” and “we will” here is meaningless because the press charging reading fees requires a cover charge from the people it publishes, so I guess they’re “pay-to-publish” too, right Christopher Higgs?

      Nothing about his arrangement screams, “pay-to-publish.” What kind of idiot runs a poetry pay-to-publish scheme by only accepting a tiny percentage of MS’s he receives per year?

  198. Jake Levine

      they have nice covers, but their books look and feel like shit.

  199. Char

      who are you??

  200. Char

      who are you??

  201. Char

      man you’re a pussy

  202. Larry Goodell

      BlazeVox is simply being out front and honest about its practices. MANY small press publishers for years have been using money from poets to publish their books. But this is not open knowledge except to the poet & publisher involved. Otherwise they can not continue to publish.

  203. jesusangelgarcia

      Yeah, Kate. I feel like I heard something similar from Spuyten Duyvil and maybe one or two others I can’t now recall back when I was shopping 3xbad. It didn’t seem right at the time and it still doesn’t. You’re on about self-financing, though. I think it’s the rare case that any writers make “legit” money, let’s say. I can’t tell you how many dollars I spent on gas alone on this summer’s tour, but it was well worth it — for the experience — and I look at it as a kind of performance vacation of sorts, kinda. In some ways, we’re lucky to be in the position we are, to make and get our work heard or read. In other ways, we’re just crazy (or driven… or obsessed… or crazy…).

  204. jesusangelgarcia

      Yeah, Kate. I feel like I heard something similar from Spuyten Duyvil and maybe one or two others I can’t now recall back when I was shopping 3xbad. It didn’t seem right at the time and it still doesn’t. You’re on about self-financing, though. I think it’s the rare case that any writers make “legit” money, let’s say. I can’t tell you how many dollars I spent on gas alone on this summer’s tour, but it was well worth it — for the experience — and I look at it as a kind of performance vacation of sorts, kinda. In some ways, we’re lucky to be in the position we are, to make and get our work heard or read. In other ways, we’re just crazy (or driven… or obsessed… or crazy…).

  205. knott

      why can’t poets organize and use the same methods/tactics that worked for antiwar/civilrights movements in the past and present … the systematic societal underfunding of poetry is an injustice that must be resisted and set right . . . poetblogs whining complaining carping at each other is not going to do it—

  206. rawbbie

      I’m with Janaka here.  I feel like shit when I pay someone just to read my manuscript and get a form response back.  I mean, I paid you money to read it, and you, as far as I can tell, don’t even know my fucking name?  I don’t pay to play the book game anymore.  Up front or on the backside, there is little difference.  Support your presses by buying books.  If you can’t sell your books, don’t fucking make them.

  207. Anonymous

      Adding to the conversation — I know that the magazine La Petite Zine charges a reading fee for submissions — $2 each for poems, fiction, or essays..

  208. Al Cordle

      Hi MF — yes — I started Foetry. The Iowa fiction-related posts in the forum are at

      And DeadGod’s link will take you to the main page of the archived site. In the upper right corner is a custom google search which should allow you to track information about particular presses, contests, and/or poets. Thanks DL!

  209. mdbell79

      I certainly didn’t saw anyone was powerless: I said there was a power imbalance in the conditional acceptance. And I of course assume every writer is capable of making an informed decision–In this case, many have, both for and against the practice.

  210. Noah Eli Gordon

      Hello HTML folks,


      I had a book published my BV in 2006 & wasn’t asked for
      any funds to help offset the cost. In fact, unlike every other press I’ve
      worked with, as both an author & publisher, I was able to purchase copies
      of the book at cost, which ran to just under two dollars a book. Of course,
      this was wonderful, in that I normally buy 100 or so copies when I have a new
      book out, and this can run to upwards of $800, but with BV I only had to pay
      $200. When BV made the switch to Amazon’s POD wing–which Amy K. mentions in
      this thread–& encountered unforeseen, unexpected expenses, expenses that
      were made public in a campaign for donations, I happily sent in $100, but also
      took the time to suggest that perhaps charging authors the standard 40-60%
      discount, rather than simply, essentially giving the books away, would generate
      the requisite funds to keep things afloat.  


      That said, as Janaka S. says below, there are numerous contractual
      issues involved with the production of a book that are not discussed
      beforehand, so the claim that BV was acting unethically is to my mind a pretty vacuous
      one. Keeping a small press afloat is difficult, time-consuming, and ultimately
      a labor of love. With the press I co-run (Letter Machine Editions), I’ve found
      myself thus far putting in about $5,000 or more a year (we do only about two
      books a year, but commit to an actual, high quality design & print run—no POD),
      a burden that I can only handle by opening a new credit card yearly &
      shuffling around those limited no-APR deals. But that’s okay with me, since I
      feel strongly about poetry as a participatory, pluralistic field in which one
      should do what one can for others.  If
      you’re not into some specific model of how that might look, build something
      different–there’s room.


      The truth is that JMW & I started this press after the
      two of us were sitting around and more or less talking shit about some other
      publishers out there, but instead of posting our opinions anonymously online,
      we decided to start our own press, to allow the press itself to stand as a
      polemic, an argument, as a tactile representation of what we value in
      literature. For me, this is the ethical thing to do. Rather than bemoan the financial
      practice (or lack of editorial prowess) of another press, one that you (the
      royal one) yourself have submitted your own work to, do something that actually
      and actively creates the world you’d envision: make the community you’d like to
      be a part of, make space for others.




  211. When Cooler Heads | Joseph P. Wood
  212. La Petite Zine

      We do indeed Zachary! Here’s how the pyramid scheme breaks down:

      $1 goes to submishmash and $1 goes toward spaying and neutering the countless deer that appear in poetry (actually, that $1 goes toward cute promotional postcards at AWP to spread the word about the magazine). We figure it’s the same as the cost of postage.

  213. Justin

      No, they weren’t being “out front and honest.”  That’s what the whole post on Bark was about.

  214. Roxane

      Any number of magazines charge a nominal reading fee. I can think of 5 off the top of my head.

  215. Anonymous

      I admit thinking this is strange. 

  216. J.

      Yes, I’m not sure why La Petite Zine is being singled out here. It isn’t the norm to charge, but it certainly isn’t unheard of. 

  217. Roxane

      It’s also… something that has been debated here quite a few times so it’s neither a revelation nor very relevant. LPZ is a great magazine that is up front about the nominal fee.

  218. Justin

      Sorry, but all of you talking about “hypocrisy” and “holier than thou”
      are missing the point.  This isn’t just some abstract principle that
      certain writers cling to.  For twenty years I’ve worked with editors
      working small — at magazines, journals, and presses.  They are as
      dedicated to their authors, to their ventures, and to the project of
      literature as anybody, they work long hours, on a shoestring.  They are
      owed money from distributors and bookstores.  It’s not an easy life. 
      They often don’t offer payment.  But they DON’T CHARGE fees to read
      manuscripts, and they DON’T CHARGE fees to publish manuscripts.  They
      are in what is commonly referred to as a “thankless business,” as are
      the authors and poets they publish.  It’s a choice.  If you want to make
      money, even to break even, there are a thousand better ways to do it
      than by publishing poetry.

      Which reminds me.  Gatza talks about how an Anne Waldman’s books earn
      sufficient money for pay for their publication.  Now, that hoary
      shibboleth of publishing — “It’s OK if Scribner publishes pure shit by
      Stephen King, because it subsidizes the excellent work of unknown
      midlist writer A” — actually works out to be pretty true, in practice,
      even if trade publishers don’t exactly think of it that way, unless
      they’re trying to justify the vast quantities of crap they put out.  But
      Gatza turns it on its head.  “I don’t charge Waldman — I just charge
      the unknowns.”  Great, that’s fucked up.  Sorry, that’s all it is.  Anne
      Waldman is probably a lot more capable of coming up with $250 than
      someone polishing the manuscript they’ve worked on since they graduated
      with their MFA in 2007.  But do you think that for a moment, in the name
      of good old Geoffrey Gatza and his Good Fight, Anne Waldman would dream
      of paying to have one of her books published?  Not on your life.  I’ve
      met Anne Waldman and she is one smart woman.  

      So what a lot of these apologies for Gatza amount to are sublimated
      paeans to fucked-up mystique, a mystique that allows us to let Anne
      Waldman off the hook because, well, after all, she’s Anne Waldman; and a
      mystique that allows us to privilege Geoffrey Gatza’s misleading
      practices because he’s a “good publisher,” a tautological construct in
      the present circumstance.  A “good publisher” is not a “good publisher”
      because he’s a “good publisher.”  He’s not even a “good publisher”
      because he publishes good books, as many good authors who have been
      victimized will tell you.

      But there’s more here, too.  Imagine Gatza’s schema entering publishing
      generally, virally and
      efficiently.  It wouldn’t just be the poor poets who never expect
      anything more than a few crumbs off the table who’d be paying.  It would
      be every damned writer in America who doesn’t earn out.  Which is about
      99.8% of American writers.  Now, I have not put in my twenty years in
      the salt mines — earning some real dough, but for the most part
      publishing for my contributor’s copies or a hundred bucks or a free
      subscription — so that some young and anxious writers could eagerly
      ratify and affirm a noxious new scheme whereby I not only give up the
      advances and honoraria that I already often forgo, but I also PAY for
      the privilege of having my work considered and/or for having it
      published and, what’s more, possibly have the scheme foisted upon me
      completely unexpectedly in the form of a half-assed “acceptance” that
      hopes to exploit my eagerness to be published.  Sorry, I already “paid”
      for the work.  I sat there and wrote it.  If you don’t think that’s
      worth something, if you happen to think that it’s paper and ink and
      cardboard wrappers and not the work itself that’s the very bones of a
      book — well, I can’t hope to explain myself to you.  But to redraw the
      relationship between author and publisher so that strands of vanity
      press DNA enter into it, well, there’s nothing hypocritical or
      holier-than-thou about my resistance to it.  I’ve earned my resistance. 

  219. Guestypoo

      Ha! Did you ever guess wrong!

      And in any law court in the land, if some self-righteous twit came in all huffing and puffing with pointless indignation that the phrase “BlazeVOX Goes Vanity Press?” counts as “potential defamation” he’d be laughed out of the frigging room. Adding, “But the dashed monster also wrote ‘…this sort of pay-to-publish policy seriously threatens to diminish the press’s legitimacy in my eyes….’ and that is of course the same as saying it’s a scam, so let’s sue the bounder” he’d feel the door smack him in the ass on the way out.

      The discussion over BV’s unethical (because unstated in its guidelines) policy has been interesting. Your silly, self-righteous backward threat of lawyers is absurd.

      And if you didn’t mean the that Mr. Higgs should be sued but that some of the people commenting here should be…then you are even sadder…and also living in a make-believe land. On top of the above, adding, “we should sue some commenter on some blog for an impolite comment” wouldn’t even get you through the door. Both lawyers, the judge, the clerk, and the kid in the front row waiting for his DUI case to come up would be too busy rolling around on the floor laughing.

  220. MFBomb

      Hilarious stuff, kiddo.  Thanks for the laugh. No drugs needed after this hyperbolic mess of a post (btw, have you ever considered following your own sage advice?)

      Apparently, you think my suggestion that defamation be considered is like suggesting a Perry Mason trial–who is the one blowing things out of proportion here, “ace dawg”?

      Online defamation cases are actual becoming more and more common today, especially when they could harm another person’s career, livelihood and reputation through the unfounded suggestion or implication of unethical or illegal behavior, but they’re typically settled out-of-court.  

      So there’s really nothing “self-righteous” about my post, nor is my post a suggestion that a person consider consulting his lawyer a) some bad boy, chest-puffy “threat” or b) as big of a deal as you think it is. People consult their lawyers all the time. 

      The rest of your post is just utter nonsense and further proof that you’re probably twelve years old and have watched too many Judge Joe Brown episodes, or spent too much time in district court haggling the DA to reduce your speeding tickets from 69 in a 55 to 60 in a 55.

  221. Cremistress

      You buy $800 dollars worth of each of your books? So, let’s see, since you publish an average of 12 books a year, that means you must spend ….about 12 gazillion dollars a year to support independent poetry publishing! Wow, thanks dude. If you weren’t there supporting your own book, and publishing two books a year by your bro friends, the entire poetry economy might collapse.

  222. jared schickling

      read the post and cruising the comments so forgive if the ground’s
      already covered…over coffee…it’s true that not all bv authors pay an
      up-front fee — that the press funds itself by recouping its heavy
      operating costs in VARIOUS ways.  most
      likely each manuscript and ultimately each book gets different treatment
      at bv based on the needs of the press viz. the perceived potential in a
      book and author, which should come as no surprise, because that’s how
      every realistically minded press must work. part of the issue here is
      disappointment about not knowing about the possibility of a fee up
      front. but good grief, if we could only drag all the goods out into the
      open on every damned press out there…the social fabric would unravel,
      shiny careers would be tarnished…and thus we see why no press at all
      operates with total transparency: because things like status reputation
      street cred pretense matter so dang much. in my experience as a
      publisher, the most sensitive dolls are new authors, meaning those with
      few publications; with age and experience (publication) there very
      evidently comes a greater degree of ease and laughter and willingness in
      terms of the editor’s desire to use the work to make something
      innovative that will best serve its community of writers and readers,
      while maintaining its own artistic integrity. gatza is doing us all an
      irreplaceable service. the bottom line sic is that the o so sensitive
      lands of poetry and fiction dandies would suck that much more without
      Blazevox — as if the civilized cultured oracular author should never
      have to schlep his or her own work, not like blake or whitman — but with
      blazevox they’re a bit less irritating. the fact is no one or thing is
      even close to doing what geoffrey gatza and blazevox are doing–that is,
      they’ve changed and they continue to change the literary turf. they’re
      doing their best and the cooperative model is at least as defensible
      ethically as any other model. for example, i don’t see anyone accusing
      geoffrey or blazevox of nepotism, which would seem far worse and
      certainly more common that this little trifle being discussed here. i’m
      calling bullshit blinded by the light on naysayers.

  223. deadgod

      what is a “shibboleth”

  224. Anonymous

      BlazeVOX’s ethics aside, it seems to me that anyone who pays $250 to sell 25-30 books (what Gatza says is the average for new poets) has made a very bad investment. Wouldn’t you be a lot better off putting your work up for free online, which would cost much less and get you a lot more readers? It just seems like a very confused publishing model, if all these numbers are right.

  225. Chiming in on the BlazeVox Situation « BIG OTHER

      […] already a gazillion posts up around the lit blogosphere about the situation at BlazeVox Books — probably the last thing anyone needs is me chiming in, but there are some things I’m […]

  226. Quit Blaming the Writers (The BlazeVOX Fiasco) + A Tiny Personal Resolution « Catalogue of the Unsaid

      […] to start? Nobody’s reading this anyhow, so I suppose I could start anywhere I like. How about here, where you’ll get a synopsis and a link to the exchange that started it all (this one). There […]

  227. Scott Abels

      Fair enough.  I shouldn’t have put words in your mouth.

      I think your heart is in the right place, but to ask “Who would ever want to be the writer or publisher in this situation?” or to describe someone else’s book situation as “miserly and miserable”, well it’s hard not to think you’re looking down on other people’s choices.  And it’s insulting.

      But no matter.  That was days ago, and I think the conversation is moving on.
      I wish you all the best with your future projects and publications.

  228. mdbell79

      You’re right too though: I was projecting a bit. It’s a situation I wouldn’t want, and I assumed other people would be similarly off-put by it. That’s clearly not the case, and obviously everyone should publish in a way that feels appropriate and exciting to them. Thanks a lot for writing me back—I appreciate the conversation.

  229. Guest

      way to get trolled by kent johnson on htmlgiant

  230. Guest


  231. Guest

      “I would like all of the Brett Ortlers and Lavender Smiths of the world [to] go fuck themselves” quoting for truth

  232. Guest




  233. Guest

      i wrote “bourgeois as fuck” re this from the OP: “it is considered unethical for a publisher to ask you to pay to have your work published. Back in the day, before the internet, there used to be this thing called The Writer’s Market (maybe it still exists?), which was this huge brick of a book that helped writers find places to send their work. It also included helpful essays about publishing. One of the first rules you would learn by readingThe Writer’s Market is that anyone who asks you for money to publish your work should not be trusted.”

      “it is considered unethical for a publisher to ask you to pay to have your work published”

      ^^^ bourgeois moralism

      “Back in the day, before the internet, there used to be this thing called The Writer’s Market (maybe it still exists?), which was this huge brick of a book that helped writers find places to send their work”

      ^^^ large book with a large list of bourgeois places to send work

      “It also included helpful essays about publishing.”

      ^^^ bourgeois essays

      “One of the first rules you would learn by readingThe Writer’s Market is that anyone who asks you for money to publish your work should not be trusted.”

      ^^^ more hilarious bourgeois moralism

      also, PUBLICATION and THE WORK are both commodities, dumbo

      you are so executed when the rev comes

  234. Art

       I think you bring up an important point, that there still appears to be an editorial process behind the selection of who they publish and who they don’t. They’ve decided that they can’t make it by trying to stay afloat with just their sales and require some frontage by the author to help. Okay, so what? If BlazeVox believes in the book, if they still publish good books, if they still push their books because they believe in them, I don’t see why this has to be such a negative thing for them to do.

      Is it conventional? No. Does it raise a specter that they might be turning into a vanity press? Honestly, yes, but that doesn’t make it definitely so. So, yeah, I agree with you, Mittens. If they publish good works, and there’s an editorial ethos behind their selections, then maybe we should be happy that a good press is trying to find a business model that will keep them in business. In the end, if you don’t want to put your own money in the pot, submit your work elsewhere.

  235. Alex

      I think that the greatest thing that has and will continue to happen here involves people talking about every side of this occurrence. More importantly,  people are going to go and look at BlazeVOX books now and in turn probably further support the press.

  236. Barbara henning

      People should get off of Geoffrey Gatza’s back.  So what if he asks for a contribution or he charges more for his books.  He donates his time, gives you books at cost, is selective about who/what he publishes, gives the authors full rights to their books, etc.  He is poetry community publisher.   People should stand behind him instead lamenting that he doesn’t fit into the traditional mainstream publishing framework. 

  237. » Blog Archive Weekly Poetry Roundup: Expressive ‘I’s -

      […] heated comment section discussions, but I love reading them. A recent post over at HTMLGIANT about vanity presses (specifically, one small press’s decision to ask its authors for monetary help) engendered an […]

  238. When a Press Asks its Writers for Cash, When Readers Ask for Publications for Free « Kelly Davio

      […] latest fundraising efforts (if you, too, were living under a rock and had not heard the fuss, here’s a glimpse at the issue, and the high emotions it called up. A short version: BlazeVox is accepting manuscripts, and, upon acceptance, asking authors to make […]

  239. Taking the Art to the Streets « OnLit

      […] Recently, the writing community exploded over what some artists consider a scam—a publisher, BlazeVox Books, has begun asking authors they select for publishing to contribute $250 to offset printing costs. It was first reported by author Brett Ortler and has been commented on by several bloggers, including Kelly Davio and Christopher Higgs […]

  240. Congratulations! Gets A Second Life « Safety Third Enterprises

      […] in this day and age when publishers are in question of their dealings and where money flows it’s best for the intent behind re-releasing Congratulations! There’s No Last Place If […]

  241. aw

      Wow, this is really intense!  Now that I’ve peeled all the flying spitballs off my face…  I’d like to ask whether you’d rather read some badass poetry or more of the same hyper-conservative ____ published by “well-to-do presses.”
      (I realize that my “badass” is totally subjective and qualitative and yet I say it anyway.)

      Seems to me that there’s way way way too much clout associated with paper printing in these discussions.  What’s wrong with publishing an e-book?  Most of my favorite lit mags have no print copies–the cost of paper is a giant bog.  And for what?  I’d much rather people knew my work than be sure they paid for it.

      If you’re mind is blown by a book–it’s fantastic–if not why worry about who says it’s good and not good?  What I read becomes a part of my work–I love Joyelle McSweeney’s idea of laying down in the plague ground of contemporary poetry (Montevideo blog – Necropastoral) and I’m with Johannes Goransson’s post on BlazeVOX (Montevideo as well). 

      What I’d add to the “discussion” here is that if my reading of a book is so fragile, maybe I should work on reading instead of lamenting the loss of The Writer’s Market
      (Christopher Higgs:  “One of the first rules you would learn by reading The Writer’s Market is that anyone who asks you for money to publish your work should not be trusted.”). 

      I hope we can see that this is a rather arbitrary guide designed for convenience rather than accuracy…

      Things are really simple:  if you don’t really love the work that a press publishes, don’t try and publish there.   If people don’t already know your previous work (because you’re new), they’re getting a sense of your work by their familiarity with the press(es) lit mags you work with.  If you don’t want to be associated with their writer’s and their publishing philosophy then you don’t belong there.

      Love to those with the balls/vag to write what hasn’t been pre-approved.  And at the same, time a single finger is over here raised to the fear inspired by monsters of “original genius” and conservative repetition which remains a sugar sword of self preservation. There never has been anything economically viable about being an artist–you put way more in than you ever cash at the bank.

      I realize that many of you will hate me and look for holes here that will mean that I’m stupid — so I send you my congratulations.