Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Vagabond's Bookshelf: A Reader's Memoir

Several weeks ago I shared the letter I received from the publisher who held my essay manuscript for three years and then sent me a praise-filled yet definitive rejection letter about the impossibility of marketing the book. Certainly one could make a valid argument both for and against the letter's tone and rationale. However, in the more subjective world of Getting an Unexpected Rejection Letter after Three Years, it was not only a shock but also crushing to hear, once again, that most publishers don't allow themselves to make decisions based solely on how much they like a manuscript.

But Fate is a quirky old lady. On the very same day I showed you that letter, I got a note from Jeffrey Haste, publisher of Boy Land, my first collection of poems. He mentioned that he'd just read and admired my essay about the Autobiography of Malcolm X, which is one of the pieces I'd included in the Unpublishable Manuscript. "Well, Jeff, . . . " I replied despondently. But he asked to see the manuscript, and then he said he'd been thinking about publishing a book of prose, and then he said, "I trust your work."

In short, the man who, in 2003, took the risk of accepting a manuscript of poems written by a completely unknown writer, has now taken the risk of accepting a collection of essays that publisher after publisher has informed me is "simply too difficult to sell."

Saying that I am grateful doesn't begin to cover how I feel about this. Jeff is a stellar book designer who loves poetry and has worked selflessly to bring under-recognized poets into the light. I am so honored and relieved that he has also chosen to champion The Vagabond's Bookshelf. 

That said, he and I both know that this book will be a marketing challenge. Its estimated release date will be fall 2014, so we have a year to think about strategy. Because many of you have read uncollected versions of these essays, I welcome any ideas about who might be interested in reviewing the book, adopting it as a classroom text, even interviewing me about the project or bringing me in as a reader or workshop leader. I want to do all I can to make sure that Jeff doesn't live to regret his decision.


Maureen said...

So delighted for you, Dawn.

One quick thought re the Malcolm X essay: Perhaps use it as a sneak peek into the book's offerings during African American History Month (I think that's in February) and tie it in with other activities (readings, reading group selections, etc.) in schools and institutions that mark the event.

I might also think of offering several selections as "singles" in e-form leading up to the publication of he book.

Another thing to consider: perhaps add a list of reading group questions at the end of the book.

Goodreads might be a good place to publicize the book.

With share other ideas as they come to me. I think your ms has a lot of potential, especially in classrooms and among reading groups.

Carlene said...

I agree with Maureen; also, perhaps it would be good to send a few advance bits to college department heads? I will sniff out how that works. I love the essays I have read/heard over the years. I want to see this book in print, as it richly deserves to be!(And of course, own it... )