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, October 29, 2008


I have one of those Borders Rewards cards. Last Christmas we bought our family some books, so I figured I could use the discount and the coupons. I haven't bought anything since then, but I get the e-mail offers every 2-3 days.
We have been working on compiling a list of e-mails of those who have entered our contests, bought our books, signed up for our e-mail alerts, etc. but we have yet to use it. I'm conflicted about how much I want us to send. I don't want ours to be the e-mail that no one looks at, deleting the messages sight-unseen, but not all of our announcements or offers will be wanted by everyone. If you don't have the money you sometimes aren't even going to open it, whether it says 40% off or not.
So eventually we will get these announcement e-mails together and start sending. Please don't think of us as Borders Rewards e-mails. I promise not to send every other day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Bit of a blur

It all bleeds together, honestly, and at times it is both hard to fathom and explain. In addition to running our little Press, and chasing around two kids still in diapers, I also write when I can in a number of blogs that are in some fundamental ways quite related.

This blog is about our Press and our “focus” on publishing but it would behoove us to write about all the overlapping interests and directions of the Press as well. For example, case in point: last night I went to the local library which puts out free books for their patrons to take home with them and I have in the past found some incredible gems that I couldn’t believe were being discarded for FREE, but what the hey….if they put them out to be taken, I will take some! So last night I took a 1934 book called Author Hunting by Grant Richards. The full title is “Author Hunting by an Old Literary Sports Man” with the subtitle “Memories of Years Spent Mainly in Publishing, 1897-1925”.

I am not familiar with Grant Richards nor his publishing career but it’s refreshing to be reminded in these days of faceless bureaucratic publishing monoliths, which have become the literary norm, that once publishers were individuals who loved literature and brought out books that they loved passionately. Yes, our little Press came into being during the post-mimeograph revolution era at the time when some presses began to embrace the “Print-On-Demand” concept as their best way of surviving. But I think of ourselves more as the inheritors of the tradition going back to William Morris and the Kelmscott Press of the late Nineteenth Century. Publishing as a noble endeavor, there was a time when that was true. And frankly, that’s part of what Plan B Press is trying to do as well.

We want our readers to appreciate the effort put into that “thing” in their hands. Not only the quality of the work, but the quality of the object that one commonly calls ‘a book’. That’s what we strive for and have, on occasion, achieved in full. We are part of that stream which has its headwaters in the clay tablets of Sumer and cave writings even further back. We are part of a tradition and it’s important for us to maintain a certain awareness of what we are doing in order to keep it “flowing” onward.

We don’t believe in POD. We don’t believe in publishing books just to bulk up our yearly numbers. We publish projects that we believe in. We try to make the best book that we can every time out. We want to be remembered in the future in the same way that people think of Toothpaste Press or the Perishable Press limited. Perhaps lofty aspirations, but if you don’t reach for the stars – you will never reach them. As Katy has said in previous blog entries a time or two, “the little Press that could”. Yeah, we think we can….we think we can….we think we can, and then we DO!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our Hometown

The press has been located in Northern Virginia for the past four years, yet in spite of that, we still consider ourselves Philadelphia-based. No town, area or city in Northern Virginia holds the same hometown feeling for me. When we find ourselves back in Philadelphia, speed walking down those wind-tunnel streets, it feels comfortable. It feels like home. I lived there seven years, but for the press it was only two. We have published a number of Southeastern PA poets, yet they are probably equal in number to the out-of-state, or even out-of-country, poets. But, as I said, when we're walking down the tree root-cracked sidewalks of Philadelphia, things are never the same. Stores have changed purposes or locations, new corporate retail stores have gone up, houses have been razed to be replaced by high-rise aparments. It's not always for the worse, but it's always changing. It used to disappoint me that I didn't know what was where, but it doesn't so much anymore. I'm used to the change.

I miss the town. I miss it very much. There isn't a week, or perhaps a day, that goes by when I don't wish I were back there. If we had the means to live there we would. Unfortunately, Washington is actually paying me a living wage. I have not yet been offered that in Philadelphia. Maybe some day. I'll keep trying.

In the meantime, we will be keeping tabs on our cranky city, wishing we were there in spite of the drunk people loudly singing "fly, Eagles, fly...", in spite of the endless fluorescent orange street construction, in spite of the suburban Jersey kids who treat it like hell because they think they can. I hope that the Phillies win the World Series, that William Penn will allow this one. It's overdue for our much-maligned town. We're rooting for them down here- in our Philadelphia home in Fairfax, Virginia.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shameless Promotion

Lately it's difficult to pick up a magazine or newspaper without seeing some sort of economic report suggesting tips on how to save money and find financial success. These tips often look something like this:

1) Stop buying coffee every day.
2) Only go out to restaurants 2-3 times per week.
3) Save expensive splurges to once per month.
4) By some items on sale or buy generic.

These tips tend to be insulting to the average bear, as many of us are already doing all this and more.

I also hear some people complain that our books are too expensive because they're priced around... seven bucks. Seven bucks and they complain. So here is my own list, explaining why seven (or even nine) bucks is not too much to pay for a Plan B Press Book:

1) Authors retain between 30-40% of the commission on online sales.
2) These are limited-run books, we're talking 50-200 copies max.
3) Plan B Press is an independent business, primarily using a Philadelphia-based printer.
4) Our books are lovely, and our authors rave about them.
5) In cases such as Sandy's book (String Theory) and the Now(then) anthology, the books are hand-bound.
6) The poetry is wonderful, truly great writing. And the variety between books makes having more than one PBP book a sensible choice.
7) Most books are either seven or nine dollars. You will have this book forever. It will not be drunk in one evening at a bar. It will not be worn once and then thrown in the back of your closet, destined for the Goodwill pile. It is a good investment.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reinventing the Wheel

Some PBP brainstorming sessions have gotten a little out-of-hand over the years. We get these "wouldn't it be great if we..." ideas that turn into us spending long hours and shedding tears and blood to put together a book that most people will never see. It's nice to have creative ideas for books, but it's important to know your limitations too. If it involves rubber molds, a chisel, or toxic chemicals, chances are it's gone too far.

Also, there's something to be said for what people are used to. For example, english readers tend to like books that read left to right, they like their books to have a structural-something holding the pages together, and they want to be able to see the book before they read it. So creating a book out of flash cards, or encased in an inflatable bubble, or written in secret ink are all NOT good ideas.

The book should support the work, accentuate it. It shouldn't outshine it and certainly not obscure it. The book is a mode of convenience. When it's made out of sharp metal or covered in shag it's not convenient. I think all books should be special, just not “special”.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Home Base

Plan B Press started up in Leola, Pennsylvania via Dianne Miller in 1998. It then moved (west) to Philadelphia in 2003 when Steve and I took it over. A year later, when graduate school came knocking, we moved (south) to Alexandria, Virginia for the next four years; and finally (well, not forever we hope) ended up in Fairfax earlier this year.

That's a lot of moving for a little company. We've changed our mailing address on catalogues, websites, books, etc. so many times that we don't print it anymore. It's online and it will stay that way. We have letterhead and business cards with previous addresses that we opt to white-out or just recycle the whole lot. Fortunately, we invested in a post office box for many of these years. Unfortunately we kept our 2080 P.O. Box in Philadelphia long after we moved; and checking the contents posed a problem when we were living three hours away. So we resigned ourselves and bought a box in Fairfax, but I'm not about to go out and get any new letterhead. Our phone number and website will do. After all, nothing is permanent.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Last of the Season

I've been working the past few days on the anthology and on Maguire's and Tolf's books. I got a really late start on the season so I'm trying to race to the finish now without sacrificing quality and attention. I was never the crammer in college, waiting until the last week to study for finals, but it certainly looks that way now.

We're doing the anthology in-house entirely. The books will be completely hand-done. We will be printing, binding, stamping, stapling and pasting them together ourselves. I've been toying with the idea of inscribing each one since there will be such a minimum number printed, but the jury's still out. We will be sending a few out for reviews etc. Those will be the first out the door. Our authors will come second. Lastly will be the ones available for sale. As Steven mentioned, please e-mail us if you are interested in a pre-order. This doesn't mean that you would be obligated to get one (since we don't even know what to charge for them yet) but it would gauge how many we would be printing. I hope to have a sneak preview online in the next week or two. I'm excited about it though. It's looking pretty so far.

Katy Jean May
Creative Director

Monday, October 20, 2008


Katy has been hard at work perfecting the cover and interiors of the anthology. It's going to be something special. It's also going to be an extremely limited edition. Each of our authors will be receiving a copy as a thank you for working with us over the years as well as a few copies to book sellers who have taken a chance with our books.

There will be additional copies available - if interested in having one of these for yourself, please email us to pre-order.


co-founder & President

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

updates on the 10 year anthology

"This anthology has become more difficult to assemble of late. It's time constraints for one. Add to that the finding of the paper, board, tape, etc. that I will need to assemble it, and also the challenge of adjusting to our new environs (and store opportunities) in Fairfax, VA and it becomes even trickier. I believe I've finally found an art store (maybe) close by that will have some of what I'm looking for. And hopefully within the next two weeks or so I will have a prototype to send out, as I begin mass producing them by hand. Yes, you heard that right. When you run an off-the-cuff publishing company, everything is mass produced by hand, for better or worse. Stay tuned."

Katy Jean May
Creative Director - and Mom