The official weblog of the little-poetry-press-that-could, Plan B Press. Specializing in chapbooks, we have published of over 40 books from authors both local and international.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

course correction

When the Press was started conceptually in 1998, co-founder Dianne Miller and myself envisioned a vehicle to publish those who would be participating in the month-long poetry festival, Bardfest, in Berks County, PA. As I have mentioned previously, that didn't work out exactly as planned.

Then when Katy and I took over the operation of the Press, I had already gotten an inkling of another direction I wanted to pursue with some of our time and resources. That started to become visualized with the prototype projects Fast White and InCityTogether. Neither of these projects have come to bear yet. But both have combined visual as well as textual prowess that we have been seeking since beginning.

It's the reason that we have posted the quotes that we have. From El Lissitsky, from Stella Waitzkin, and the truest of all quotes from Brian Andrew May, who created the cover for Plastic Sunrise. "Books with only words.....suck".

Stay-at-Home Press, a division of Plan B, was begun to explore the possibilities of making books that have more visuality. Richard Erdmann's "Without" and Mark Terrill's "Something Red" have been created with these ideals beginning to play out for us. We are beginning to seek artists to work with poets, to create 'artist books' instead of poetry books. It has been pointed out that "anyone with a copy machine can make a book" and that is certainly the case since the mimeograph revolution of the 1950's, but that isn't always a good thing. That leads to glut, to a watering down of quality, to an overwhelming of the audience out there for such books to begin with.

Beginning in the Spring 2009 season we will be moving into this uncharted (for us) territory. We may be like a small Granary Press, or an up-to-date Toothpaste Press or the Perishable Press limited. Our projects will change. We will be gearing more toward the visual, the artist book, the limited run/limited edition project instead of the work we have done to date.

We remain committed to the possible. And the possible is .....wide open !


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Food for the soul, people

As many of us are feeling the pinch of food costs, gas prices and basic consumer goods rising, those of us selling non-life-sustaining products (like books) are at the end of the chain. It's more likely that Joe and Jane Consumer are going to opt for food than a lovely little poetry chapbook. It is heartening in a way that the latest Batman movie has done so well, reflecting that we still have room for more than just necessities. Man can not live on bread alone, or as my mother says, "Food for the soul, Katy." So although times are tough and it can be wrenching to spend three dollars on a tomato or sixty dollars at the pump, we want to encourage you to indulge your soul in a little art, whether it's poetry, a movie, theater, music, an art gallery, or even a botanical garden. Food for the soul, people. Food for the soul.

Katy Jean May
Creative Director

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

presenting our 2008 poetry chapbook contest winner

we wanted to mention the release of our 2008 poetry chapbook contest winner : Wil Hastings' Stones Rounded by Years of Conversation which is available now. Hastings lives in western Massachusetts where he manages a local conservation land trust. This is his second chapbook. We are pleased to have him aboard.

s - a - m

Monday, July 21, 2008

summertime and the living is....

well, not all that easy. We have two small children and recently moved , so it has been a little stressful here. We are reading mss. during the summer so some quick reminders from Katy Jean May:

Manuscript Considerations
We're currently reading manuscripts as the summer is in full swing. Things to keep in mind if you ever submit a manuscript to a publisher.
1) Be sure you are addressing the correct publisher in your letter and not... the publisher of another company. It seems obvious but it has happened more than once to us.
2) Spell check! And look over your manuscript to see if it's formatted coherently, in the correct order. It doesn't have to be completely tight, but show that you've put effort into the order of your poems and the collection as a whole.
3) Don't say something completely foolish like, "I've created a new form of poetry" when what you've really "created" is concrete poetry. Do a little research. We like innovation, but we have some idea of poetic forms of yore.
4) Look at the website. Buy a book from us maybe. Have some idea of what it is we've already done. Don't send us a 300 page tome; poetic pieces attacking an ethnic or religious group; or a collection written entirely in slang. Take a little time.
5) Don't send your manuscript during the contest season. We provide time lines online. Please check it out before you send. We keep it up-to date... really we do.

and to that I would only add that those of you just finding this blog, it's fairly new and it's nice to hear from you all the same.

till soon

s - a - m

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Little Press That Could

We are a small press; not itty bitty, one-book-per-year small, but we're not what one would call "big". We don't have an array of positions like Marketing Director and Events Coordinator, although that would be dandy. We are not a giant. There are about five major publishing houses in the United States, with an array of equally large imprints. At the same time there are thousands of small presses trying to get your attention in any way they can. But spotlights are hard to find. Each one of us is vying for your eyes, your interest, your purchase, your loyalty. We're trying to both work in harmony to gain attention as a group and support one another, while also trying to single ourselves out from the crowd like an over-eager student with his hand raised "Pick me! Pick me!!"

We go to great lengths with limited budgets to win you over. Many of us have other jobs to support our presses. We go to conferences and trade shows, visit bookstores and distributors in our spare time, or what's left of it. And at the end of the week if we can make a few sales we analyze what we did right and take thorough notes, trying to duplicate whatever it was. Starting a new press is a drain on time and money, so the passion has to be there to make it succeed. Our initial goal when we took over Plan B in 2003 was to make our press self-sustaining, to get it to stand on its wobbly new legs. Readers make that happen. Audiences at poetry readings make that happen. The passion to publish makes that happen.

So, a toast to all small presses who have stood the test of time. May we all be open as long as Ugly Duckling Presse, New Directions, or dare-we-dream?, City Lights.

Katy May
Creative Director

Thursday, July 10, 2008

joy of publishing (2)

One reason that Plan B Press works primarily with the chapbook format is that I find it both the most exciting and most experimental form of book creation that is available to a publisher trying to expand the visuality of a book. We happen to love what "book artists" do. What Tom Phillips accomplished with A HUMUMENT is just breathtaking. In fact, there is a coterie of artists who use the dimension of a book as their own canvas, and this greatly appeals to us.

Also, as chapbooks tend to record the beginnings of one's publishing careers, they also document a writer's development over time. It's one of the reasons I write chap*books, a blog in which I review, discuss, and sometimes merely mention chapbooks which might otherwise disappear as they are "little strands of nothing" when stacked alongside books with spines on shelves. If the chapbook lacks color, they are quite easy to overlook altogether on shelves in a bookstore, should a bookstore carry them at all.

It was only after moving to Virginia in 2004, as I was beginning my Master's program at George Mason University, that I began to think about writing about chapbooks. I found a lot of chapbooks by Robert Creeley on ebay and got them. Two of those chapbooks had been made by Toothpaste Press. Shortly thereafter, I got a gift of several chapbooks being purged from the Philadelphia Free library published by the Perishable Press Limited. What I found in these chapbooks was an attention to detail. The publisher of the Perishable Press made his own paper! That's pretty detail oriented.

By the time I began to write about chapbooks, Katy & I had been running the Press for about three years. We had published the stunning "Crazy Mary & Others" by Michele Belluomini, "In Deep" by Jim Mancinelli with a textural cover (one could actually feel something unlike glossy covered books), and Connie Boyle's visually stimulating "double exposure".

We believe that having an interesting cover is half the battle of getting ATTENTION from an overwhelmed public who is hyper-stimulated all the time. We are, in a sense, competing with electronic media bombardment and expensive publicity campaigns by much larger book publisher. As well as indifference and a shyness from poetry by the general public who have "little-to-no" experience and exposure to poetry. We face a daunting climb toward recognition and awareness. Acceptance would be nice as well, but we can't count our eggs before they are laid.

What's important is to be part of the literary flow which began with the cave drawings by early man and continues today. We publish to be part of the conversation of our times, to contribute to our collective consciousness, to our overall culture. We can't publish everyone, nor would we. We exercise this unique thing called "editorial control", there is an aesthetic that we are working toward - a look, a feel, a concept - that we hope can be felt through all the books we DO publish. Along with our ever moving running man logo.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

joys of publishing

It can hardly be said that I am naive about publishing as Plan B Press enters its TENTH year. At the same time, while it can be said that there is a degree of terror for writers to stare at an empty page, there is a degree of excitement which can greet a publisher when agreeing to bring out a book. It's a realization of a dream. The experience can be particularly rewarding or particularly frustrating for the author and the publisher alike.

That has happened to us as well, but not often. I look at the book creation process as an extension of the book writing process. That's one reason that the website contains the quote from El Lissitzky that it does, "The book must be the unified work of the author and the designer. As long as this is not the case, splendid exteriors will constantly be produced for unimportant contents, and visa-versa."

One reason that Katy and I have been able to do such a fantastic job with the Press since 2002 is that I married this incredibly talented book designer. Katy Jean is extremely talented and makes covers that both reflect and anticipate the contents of the books she designs. Since the process begins with words on a page, for a designer - the text provides the colors for the blank canvas that each cover begins as. The whole book is mere concept until - and the "until" is the same for a designer as it is for a sculptor or a painter.

It's an idea - a word - a phrase. It sparks something inside the designer just as vital to the completion of the project as the work itself. More so, in fact, is the designer's effort to take the words and make "something" out of it, something that will attract readers not familiar with the author's work, attract them as moths to a flame. That's what a designer does. And the truism that El Lissitzky said is what the Press itself does. It's what we do.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Plan B Press has moved

We're back online after a brief transition. We are now operating out of Fairfax, Virginia and can be reached at P O Box 3242, Fairfax, VA 22038 and, both listed on our website. We are also currently reading manuscripts for 2009 if you wish to submit anything. We are also pleased to announce our 2008 Chapbook Contest Winner: WR Hastings "Stones Rounded by Years of Conversation" which will be available momentarily from our website. Thanks for your patience and we will do our best to resume our regular updates.

Katy Jean May