Friday, May 18, 2018

Goodreads Turns Bad

Back in January Goodreads changed their Giveaway program. Prior to that time, authors could post a Giveaway for a book. No Fee! Members of the site could sign up to win a free copy. After the conclusion of the Giveaway, a winner would be picked, the author would be notified with a name and address, and a free book would go out in the mail. An author could offer multiple free copies and also run subsequent Giveaways.

I liked the program a lot. When I did a Giveaway for any of my poetry books, I’d get around 300 signups. When I did a Giveaway for one of my craft books, I’d get as many as 600 signups. These people who signed up would often indicate "I Want to Read" for the title. My book got in front of a lot of eyes and I felt kind of popular.

I liked the program so much that when I started Terrapin Books one of the promotion suggestions I routinely made to my authors was that they run a Giveaway at Goodreads. I can no longer make that suggestion, nor will I again run a Giveaway for one of my own titles. That’s because since January 8, 2018, authors and publishers are required to pay a fee for the formerly free service. That may be how the business world operates, but poets and poetry publishers simply cannot afford to pay the fees. 

Goodreads now offers two fee options:

1) the Standard package for $119 for up to 100 copies (either Kindle ebook or print book). 

2) the Premium package for $599 is available for either print books or Kindle ebooks. 

Full details can be seen at the Goodreads site. 

I’m not at all convinced that either of these options will generate sales for authors, certainly not for poets and publishers of poetry books. And there is no way that I will pay for the service, nor can I ask my authors to do so.

For one thing, while I liked the program in the past and enjoyed having my book page fill up with Want to Reads, I never saw any spike in sales following a Giveaway. Maybe I’d get one new review. I wondered if other authors shared my feelings and experience. So I put the question out to a Facebook group that I belong to. I asked if authors had found that a Giveaway generated any sales.

Not one person said Yes. Not one. Not one person said she’d pay for the service. These people, by the way, included prose writers as well as poets. One author described her experience as “I did it but I don't think it's made any difference. I will not do i t again.” 

Another said, “I did it and zero effect!” 

Another said, “I did get reviews on Goodreads from my Giveaway but no sales that I could see.” 

A publisher said, “it did not increase the sales at all.“ 

One author who paid for the new service said, “I did it right when they opened it up to ebooks and it was half off! I didn't pay for the 'featured' status or whatever but I ended up there anyway because it was brand new and there weren't many other ebooks. I'm glad I did it then because honestly it was worthless. Will not do it again.

Not too encouraging, is it? I rarely go to the Goodreads website since the change. I wonder if I’m alone in that. 

I also wonder if it would be worth trying out an Amazon Giveaway. So I’m trying it out. I just created an Amazon Giveaway for The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. There’s a form that had to be filled out. Within an hour I received a confirmation of the Giveaway request. That was very similar to a confirmation of a purchase. Then this morning I received notification that my Giveway had gone live. The notification included a link that I can share so that people will sign up, but Amazon also somehow advertises the Giveaway. I just offered one copy. There is a cost for the person running the Giveaway—the price of one book and postage. I expect that the postage fee of $8 will not actually be that high. Amazon, unlike Goodreads, ships out the book. Not free, but more affordable than $119.

I’ll let you know how this goes. In the meantime, feel free to sign up to win at this LINK.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Tribute to Charlotte Mandel

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Years ago I attended a reading for the poet Charlotte Mandel. That was the first time I'd met her or heard her read. I was at the beginning of my own writing of poetry. Charlotte was in the midst of her long career as poet and publisher. After that first meeting, we met over the years at other poetry events as we're both NJ poets and lived close to each other. Since then, she has moved to the same town I live in and we often attend events together. It is my great pleasure to now call her my friend.

Yesterday I attended a book party for Charlotte's latest book, To Be the Daylight, her tenth collection, a book I was happy to blurb. The reading was held at our local library and was well attended by relatives, people who live in Charlotte's residential complex, students from the local university, and old friends. We all enjoyed a wonderful reading as Charlotte read both form poems and free verse ones—she is equally adept at both.

Here's one of the poems she read, a favorite of mine from her book and which I was proud to first publish in my craft book, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. The form is called Rimas Dissolutas. See if you can figure out its rules.

Of Clocks and Love

The radio reports conceptions of time—
that two clocks traveling at different speeds
can vary by seconds, minutes and hours.
Physicists surf waves on cosmic oceans.

A poet poor in math, I feel stymied
when scientists operate by creeds
near to religion, aiming telescopic power
to digitize mysteries of creation—

as the universe expands, space/time
swirls in a blender, milky ways bleed
ancient fires, one black hole devours
another.  What simple harmonic motion

set off this wild yo-yo we call sublime?
4.3 babies are born every minute. I meet
with joy a great-grandson—and with fears
of drought-shriveled fruits, earthquake implosion.

Still, I cross off calendar days, set a time
the radio sings me awake.  Little one, reach
out your arms to those who will adore
the beauty of your body/soul's creation.

I took some pictures and hope they will give you a sense of the reading.

After the reading, Charlotte was presented with two bouquets, 
one from her family, one from the library

Charlotte selling and signing books

 After the event, Charlotte graciously met with a group of students 
from Caldwell University and was interviewed by them.

This was a lovely day and a wonderful reading. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be in the audience.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Crafty Poet Goes Audible

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Several years ago made an ebook version of my first print craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. I was very pleased with their work and would happily recommend them to anyone in need of the services they provide. They are efficient, communicate well with their clients, and provide great work. I was, in fact, so pleased that I also used eBookit for the ebook version of The Crafty Poet II.

Recently, eBookit branched out into offering conversion of print books into audiobooks. It never occurred to me that I might want that, but one day they contacted me and said that because my ebook had been a consistent bestseller with them, they would like to do a complimentary audiobook of The Crafty Poet.  Of course, I said, Sure!

A month or so later the audiobook was finished. The recording was done by Lily Ricciardi, one of eBookit's professional readers. She has a beautiful voice and did a great job. The book is reproduced in its entirety except, of course, for the Table of Contents, the bio notes, and the Index.

I wondered initially how someone might use an audiobook of this sort, as opposed to, say, a novel. But it seems that people are enjoying it as they go walking and as they pound away on the treadmill. Some listen and learn in bed. Someone told me she begins her morning writing session by listening for 10 minutes; what she hears then inspires her writing that day. Excellent! Others listen while traveling in the car or plane. Obviously, I had a lot to learn about audiobooks.

This audiobook of The Crafty Poet is available at Amazon. It's free along with an additional free audiobook if you sign up for a free trial of Audible. If you just want to buy it outright, it's priced at $17.46. Odd price, but that's it.  Of course, the print book is still available if you don't yet have that. Either way, print, ebook, or audiobook, you get lots of craft tips by some of our finest contemporary poets, model poems and prompts, bonus prompts, and Q&As about individual poems with the poets who wrote the poems.

Visit any of The Crafty Poet pages to hear a sample of the audiobook.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Some Revision Ideas for Poetry Month

I'm posting here the Craft Tip I contributed to my craft book, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. You might find it helpful as you work on new poems this month. You might also find it useful for working on poems you wrote months, or even years, ago. Enjoy! And prosper!

Click Cover for Amazon
Click Cover for Amazon
Craft Tip #29: Making More of Revision

During revision discussions, we poets hear a lot about compression, reducing clutter, and cutting out the non-essential. Who hasn’t sat in a poetry class or workshop and been told that less is more? So when someone tells us to add more, to expand, to keep going, we might be hesitant to pay attention.

But we should pay attention. The less-is-more principle is often good advice, but it’s not always good advice. As I once heard Mark Doty say, Sometimes more is more.

Too often we start revising and hacking away at the poem before it’s even fully written. We quit before we’ve given the poem life, before we’ve discovered its full potential, before we’ve found its real material.

Stephen Dunn addresses the topic of revision in a 2007 interview in The Pedestal Magazine:

          A fairly new experience that I’ve been having is revision as expansion. Most
          of us know about revision as an act of paring down. Several years ago, in
          looking at my work, I saw that I was kind of a page or page and a half kind of
          poet, which meant that I was thinking of closure around the same time in every
          poem. I started to confound that habit. By mid-poem, I might add a detail that the   
          poem couldn’t yet accommodate. That’s especially proven to be an interesting
          and useful way of revising poems that seem too slight or thin; to add something,
          put an obstacle in. The artificial as another way to arrive at the genuine—an old
          story, really.

Before you begin to strip down your poem or abandon it as no good or decide it’s good enough as it is, first consider how you might expand your poem. The following expansion strategies just might help you to discover your poem’s true potential and arrive at the genuine.

1. Choose a single poem by someone else, one that has strong diction. Take ten words from that poem and, in no particular order, plug them into your own draft. Make them make sense within the context of your poem, adjusting your context as needed. Or let the words introduce an element of the strange, a touch of the surreal.

2. Find the lifeless part of your poem. This is often the part where your mind begins to wander when you read the poem aloud. Open up space there and keep on writing in that space. Repeat elsewhere if needed. Remember that freewriting can occur not only while drafting but also while revising.

3. Find three places in the poem where you could insert a negative statement. Then go into the right margin of your draft and write those statements. Add them to the poem. By being contrary, you might add depth and richness to the poem.

4. Go into the right margin and write some kind of response to each line, perhaps its opposite, perhaps a question. The material that you add to the right margin just might be your best material, the real material. Bring what works into the poem. Make friends with the right margin; good things happen out there.

5. Put something into your poem that seemingly doesn’t belong, perhaps some kind of food, a tree, a piece of furniture, a policeman, or a dog. Elaborate.

6. Add a color and exploit it throughout the poem. This is often a surprisingly effective enlivening strategy, one that can alter the tone of the poem.

7. Go metaphor crazy. Add ten metaphors or similes to the poem. Keep the keepers.

8. Look up the vocabulary of an esoteric subject that has nothing to do with your poem. The subject might be mushroom foraging, astronomy, cryogenics, perfume-making, bee keeping, the Argentinian tango, or zombies. Make a list of at least ten words. Include a variety of parts of speech. Import the words into your poem. Develop as needed.

9. Pick any one concrete object in your poem and personify it throughout the poem. For example, if there’s a rock, give it feelings, let it observe and think, give it a voice. As the object comes alive, so may the poem.

10. Midway or two-thirds into your poem, insert a story, perhaps something from the newspaper, a book you’ve read, a fable, or a fairy tale. Don’t use the entire story, just enough of it to add some texture and weight to your poem. Your challenge is to find the connection between this new material and what was already in the poem.

Now go into your folder of old, abandoned poems, the ones you gave up on when you decided they just weren’t going anywhere. Then get out some of your recent poems that feel merely good enough, the ones that never gave you that jolt of excitement we get when a poem is percolating. Finally, return to some of the poems that you’ve submitted and submitted with no success, those poor rejects.

Mark all of these poems as once again in progress. Now apply some of the expansion strategies and see if you can breathe new life into the poems. Remember that this kind of revision is not a matter of merely making the poem longer; it’s a matter of making the poem better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Girl Talk: A Poetry Reading in Celebration of Women's History Month

Please join us if you're in the area. Lots of poetry, cookies, books!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

From Manuscript to Book: Editing and Revising

All manuscripts accepted for publication by Terrapin Books are carefully edited. Several months before I plan to publish the book, I send instructions to the poet on how to prepare the manuscript for editing. I then go through the manuscript and mark it up with red comments. I send it back to the poet who then makes the fixes and returns the manuscript to me.

Typically, we go back and forth a few times, negotiating, discussing, agreeing, disagreeing, and eventually arriving at the final version of the manuscript. (Well, not quite final as there are invariably some additional errors that reveal themselves once the book is formatted and returned to the poet for proofreading.)

Following is a Q&A I conducted with Michael T. Young about the editing and revising process we engaged in with his forthcoming book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water. It should give you a good behind-the-scenes peek at what goes into book production at Terrapin Books.

Diane:  I recall that when I accepted your manuscript I right away suggested a structural change, that is, I suggested that your three sections become five. Do you recall why I made that suggestion? How did you implement it and to what effect? How difficult was it to make that change?

Michael:  Yes, I recall you felt the poems were dense and thought-provoking and, consequently, that some extra space could help them. This change made sense to me since I intend my poems to be thought-provoking. Grouping them into shorter sections would provide greater thematic focus and, at the same time, more intervals in which the reader could digest all they elicit.

I tackled the restructuring by rereading the whole collection and looking for additional thematic arcs within each section. Given that the original first two sections were rather long and the final section rather short, I focused on those first two sections. It was somewhat easy to break these into four sections with coherent thematic arcs. The first section was the easiest, requiring no shuffling of the poems. The other three new sections required a little tinkering with the order of poems both within and across sections to give them coherence. This was also influenced by the need to reorder poems from the final section which had an abundance of poems with water imagery. Moving those poems across the other three prior sections helped create connections across sections and filled in gaps within sections that were wanting. The process was somewhat slow since every reshuffling required I reread entire sections and try to hear both the individual pieces and how the whole related.

Diane:  Early on I was also concerned about your overuse of light images and the repetition of the word light. Were you aware of the excess when you assembled the collection? How did you go about fixing this? How did those edits change the manuscript?

Michael:  I’ve always had a penchant for light and related images. Even my previous two collections have an abundance of such images. When one is publishing individual poems in journals this is, of course, not an issue. It’s only an issue when assembling a collection.

I employed a number of approaches to handle the abundance of light references and light images in The Infinite Doctrine of Water. In some instances, I moved a poem to a different location to soften its resonance with other poems that had similar imagery. In some instances, I changed a word or simply deleted it. In still other instances I changed the word light or an image of light to darkness or some related image that was opposite. These changes resulted in a more dynamic relationship among all the poems in the book, even those that use light images. As Donald Justice wrote, “To shine is to be surrounded by the dark.”

Diane:  Point of view was another issue. I noticed an excessive reliance on first person I. Tell us how you addressed this point of view issue. How did the changes you made affect the collection?

Michael:  This abundance wasn’t as difficult to correct as the use of light. A few of the poems were in first person in only a minor way. That is, a few of them had a first person pronoun in only one sentence but the rest of the poem made no direct reference to the speaker. Removing the single first person pronoun from these poems was rather easy. This, combined with reshuffling some of the other second and third person poems from the final section throughout the rest of the collection, provided for a balance the collection didn’t have in its original form. I was very grateful to rework this aspect of the book through the editing process.

Diane:  I also made editorial suggestions for a number of individual poems. What kinds of changes did I suggest? Were you always agreeable? Give us a few examples of poems that were revised during this process of preparing your manuscript for book form.

Michael:  Suggested changes ranged from comma insertions and stanza breaks to changes of diction and a few line deletions. I wasn’t always amenable to changes. For instance, with the poem “Sage.” This poem contained the word light and you suggested it be removed and another word used. But I felt any alternatives I came up with didn’t say exactly what needed to be said or failed rhythmically to keep with the tone of the poem. It was one of the few that I didn’t change.

But there were a number of good changes made. For instance, in “Close Reading,” we changed the word skirred to skirted. Although skirred was the more precise word, it is unfamiliar and likely to have been read as a typo by readers. This was something you pointed out and I thought it was a reasonable assumption. So the change seemed a good one.

A few concluding lines were removed altogether, as in the poems “Setting Fires” and “Paperclip.” Both these poems were afflicted by my old habit of providing the reader with a kind of summation which dampened what was otherwise a strong poem. Removing such summations allowed the poems to resolve in a strong image.

Diane:  Your original title was Turpentine. I recall saying that while I very much liked the poem from which that title was taken, I didn’t think it fit or did enough work for the collection. I suggested several other possibilities. What made you choose The Infinite Doctrine of Water?

Michael:  The Infinite Doctrine of Water was another title I had been considering. In fact, when I prepare manuscripts for submission, I often prepare both a full-length collection and a chapbook to send to publishers. In preparing the chapbook which corresponded to this full-length collection, I was using the title The Infinite Doctrine of Water for that chapbook.

Like light, water also is a very important image to me and moves throughout all my poetry. So the change was really an easy one. In fact, as soon as we changed it and were, at the same time, in the midst of revising and reordering, it became immediately obvious that “The Voice of Water” was the ideal final poem for the collection, when originally it was earlier in the final section. Additionally, would it be too much to say that as soon as we changed the title, ideas for the book cover flooded my mind? For all these reasons, the title change seemed immediately right.

Michael T. Young is the author of two previous poetry collections, The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost (Poets Wear Prada, 2014) and Transcriptions of Daylight (Rattapallax Press, 2000). He is also the author of the chapbooks, Living in the Counterpoint (Finishing Line Press, 2013), winner of the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award, and Because the Wind Has Questions (Somers Rocks Press, 1997). His work has been published in such journals as Cimarron Review, The Cortland Review, Little Patuxent Review, Potomac Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He is a past recipient of a poetry fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and has been featured on Verse Daily.

Michael’s book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, will be released on April 1. It is now available for

Monday, February 26, 2018

Terrapin Books at AWP

I look forward to meeting some of you in person at AWP. Please stop by the Terrapin Books' table #536 and say hello. I'll be at the table Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Here's what else I'll be doing:

Thursday morning, 9:00 AM - 10:15 AM
. Panel.Topic: "Beyond Queues and Fees: Poetry Books Outside the Contest Model." Rachel Mennies is the moderator, panelists are Dan Brady, Katie Hoerth, Diane Lockward, and Marcos Marti­nez. Location: Marriott Waterside, Grand Salon B, Second Floor, Room 109

Thursday evening, 7 PM - 9 PM
. Hosting a Terrapin reading on at The Tampa Club, 101 East Kennedy Blvd, in the Rotunda Room. Snacks and a cash bar. Four poets with new books from my press will each read briefly from their books:

Karen Paul Holmes, from No Such Thing as Distance
Susanna Lang, from Travel Notes from the River Styx
Hayden Saunier, from How to Wear This Body
Geraldine Connolly, from Aileron

Then nine poets from The Book of Donuts will read:

Lynn Domina
Emily Rose Cole
Patricia Clark
Anne Harding Woodworth
Cal Freeman
Elizabeth O'Brien
Tina Kelley
Mira Rosenthal
Faisal Mohuyuddin
Friday. Book Signings
: Five of my poets will be signing books. Schedule is as follows:

       Table 536

       Karen Paul Holmes: 10:30 - 11:00
       Hayden Saunier      11:30 - 12:00
       Susanna Lang        1:00 - 1:30
       Geraldine Connolly    2:00 - 2:30
       Patricia Clark       3:00 - 3:30

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