Sunday, September 21, 2008

The minimum page count for a P-O-D book from Lightning Source is 80 pages, which means you need 70 pages of poetry to fill a book. As P-O-D has also made pamphlet production seem uneconomical, the result has been that poets find themselves having to bulk out collections in order to get them in print. I can't be the only one that's noticed that some collections seem padded with less-than-excellent work. Of course I'm far too diplomatic to name names...

Before print-on-demand technology a standard poetry book from, say, Faber, was 64 pages. With title pages etc, this meant that there may only have been around 50 pages of poetry. It was common for collections to be even shorter. I have a copy of Lee Harwood's 'Landscapes' (Fulcrum) from 1969: 37 pages of poetry. Larkin's 'High Windows' (Faber), 1974: 33 pages. None of W.S. Graham's collections were anywhere near long enough to fill a P-O-D book, except possibly 'Implements in their Places', which runs to 60 pages in the Collected.

Conclusion? Well, I was only making an observation; but one thing that occurs to me is that pamphlets are more important than ever, as they allow poets to get work out during the five years or more it might take to put a full collection together. If that sounds self-congratulatory (as a pamphlet-publisher) I can only say that I've only brought out two pamphlets (by Kelvin Corcoran and Carrie Etter) in the last 3 years, which isn't really good enough. But there's good stuff coming from Oystercatcher Press, Barque Press, West House and others, all of whom need our support.

6 comments:

Aaron Shepard said...

Lightning Source's 80-page minimum is for books with text on the spine. If you can do without that, you can go down to 48 pages.

For more on working with Lightning Source, see my book "Aiming at Amazon."

Aaron Shepard

Litterbug said...

OK, fair comment. But both Shearsman and Salt expect manuscripts to be a minimum of 70 pages of poetry.

John B-R said...

I hereby volunteer to write "filler" for anyone whose MS needs filling out. However many paged needed. Free of charge. Just give me 48hrs notice.

John B-R said...

You will note the typo in the qabove. My free filler is guaranteed to comes (sic) w/typos, at no extra charge!

Rob said...

My collection is being published by Salt in 2009. It's 64 pages, 54 pages of poetry. Salt were fine with that. My original manuscript had about 60 pages of poetry and I was given the choice either to cut to 54 or add to 70. I chose to cut, mainly because I'm in agreement with the kind of ideas you've posted here.

It may not be that publishers are insisting on longer collections. It's probably just because the technology exists to make length a viable financial option, and it's emerged as a convention which many poets are happy enough with. Albums became longer because of CD technology, almost doubling in length within a few years from the days of cassettes and vinyl. Most would benefit from a hefty cut.

I agree on the importance of pamphlets. I get the feeling (but might be wrong) that there's more importance given to pamphlets where I am in Scotland than in England - probably because of historical necessity (stemming from the days when Scottish poets were ignored by mainstream UK publishers).

Alan Baker said...
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