Blazevox Doesn’t Need to Go Under

I don’t want Blazevox to go under, as this is the worst possible outcome. Hopefully, however, the pledge to end Blazevox is reversible. Let me reiterate once again, I admire the books and work Mr. Gatza has produced. And as strange as it may sound, I’d like to try to help him devise ways to stay afloat.

I recently emailed Mr. Gatza twice to let him know this.

The simplest way would for him to simply to announce the existing policy with clarifications to assuage the fears that were clearly expressed in the comments of the earlier Bark piece. This might take effort, but perhaps it could keep the press running in the short term.

In addition, according to Mr. Gatza, he has little to no support for the press; there has to be a way to mobilize financial support for Blazevox, right? A Kickstarter campaign might be in order, or even an old-school donation drive. I’d be happy to help in that regard (and they can raise a significant amount of cash). Needless to say, there are options.

Can we somehow convince him of that?


  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    Keep us posted, Brett.

  • alan bigelow says:

    Anyone who believes that new and radical strategies are not needed in the print world to offset costs of book publication are living in the past. And that includes the very reasonable proposition that authors help in a small way to cover costs. Imagine: you can publish your book AND at the same help a small but important press to survive. Who is the loser, here?

  • alan bigelow says:

    Typo in above:

    Anyone who believes that new and radical strategies are not needed in the print world to offset costs of book publication are living in the past. And that includes the very reasonable proposition that authors help in a small way to cover costs. Imagine: you can publish your book AND at the same time help a small but important press to survive. Who is the loser, here?

    • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

      Alan, this might be a great idea. The co-op model can work. Before anyone submits to the press, though, they should know a little bit about the terms. If it’s going to be a financial partnership, that seems fine. But it seems like the press should indicate in their submission guidelines that that’s how they operate.

  • Sit down and shut up, Brett. You’ve had your little temper tantrum and your incessant blog posts aren’t helping the situation.

    • David Kellogg says:

      What Jessica said.

    • Daniel Nester says:

      What Jessica said. With more curse words.

    • Andrew Kozma says:

      So… what you’re saying is that now YOU want BlazeVOX to close down?

      Anyway, Brett is actually trying to have a dialogue (that’s essentially what his first blog post was forcing) and all you seem to be doing is attempting to shut down dialogue. Why?

      • Dan Coffey says:

        Dialogue after he’s appointed himself judge, jury and executioner? What’s the point? Jessica is right on. She is not being silly.

    • Yes. Please give this a rest, Brett. The fallacies and scurrilous attacks in your open letter disqualifies you to pretend now to be a white knight suddenly coming to the aid of Geoffrey and rallying the crowd to convince him to stay in business.

      • Marcus says:

        This is completely wrong. Brett was made out by you and others to be a vile, egotistical asshole. Whether that perception is true or not, it certainly doesn’t disqualify him from trying to help. If anything, it makes it more important for him to do so. He says he didn’t intend for BlazeVOX to shut down. Whether you believe that or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’s asking for discussion on ways to help, and rather than be constructive and take him up on that, you and other insist on causing more harm. What good does that do? Wouldn’t it be better to try to help BV? Wouldn’t it be great if Brett really did want to help? Wouldn’t it be a good thing to have more people in BV’s corner? How is it helpful to dismiss him out of hand? Go ahead and question his motives if you want, go ahead and be skeptical and find a way for him to prove his intentions. Nothing wrong with that. But why ignore it out of hand?

        • No, Marcus, Brett was wrong to publish such a letter that is little more than a smear campaign. I have already stated that I agree that more transparency is needed in BlazeVOX’s submission policies and guidelines. But before suddenly posing as rescuer, Brett should publicly apologize for the harm he has done to the reputation of publisher and press by his wild accusations and speculations in his letter. Much of the letter is misleading (at best), and some of it is blatantly false.

          • Marcus says:

            What would such an apology look like?

            More interesting to me is what you think Brett’s original post should have looked like. If he had simply written “BlazeVOX books accepted my manuscript but will only publish it if I pay them $250,” that would be as simple and even-handed as is possible, right? And what would the general response have been? I think mostly the same, don’t you? It just would have been other people doing the extrapolating. So, if his letter is “wrong,” what was the “right” thing to do? Not say anything, when there are doubtless many other poets out there who would be well served knowing the facts of BV’s submission policy? That doesn’t seem right to me.

            What would the right thing have been?

            • Marcus, my focus is on Brett’s seriously flawed letter. I’m not going to get into a discussion with you about what I think he should have said or to speculate on what the reaction would have been.

          • Guest says:

            No, dear Camille, it’s you who need to put down the righteous sword of admonishment and leave Brett alone. He didn’t throw acid in anyone’s face, he didn’t put any babies on spikes. (Nor did he intend to construct a formal argument. If he had then your hysterical 20 page post analyzing all his supposed “logical” fallacies might have had some point other than allowing you to vent an obviously overblown sense of anger and self-regard. His post was exposition not persuasion, and as such your embarrassing diatribe about fallacies is beside the point.) He simply shared a troubling experience he had as a submitter. As a poet who submits my work out, I really appreciate Brett’s guts to simply describe the unsettling experience he had with that conditional acceptance, and it has done real good by a) informing other poets of BV’s process and b) probably making BV become more transparent about its acceptance policy — which, any way one looks at it, was long overdue. Your pompous motherly b*tching at him is useless and only makes you look like a referee no one hired to work in this particular game. Some people in the comment areas of this and other literary blogs have indeed said some really lousy things about BV. If it makes you feel better, go and tell each and every one of them to go to their rooms without dessert, or whatever other blather you have to spew. But give Brett, and the rest of us who are interested in the details of this argument beyond simply listening to you berate Brett, a rest.

  • Jim Churchill-Dicks says:

    Sadly, this is the post you should have FIRST sent out. I hope you are able to help undo the damage you’ve created by your first sensationalized post. The consequenses of what you have done are as I had feared. The responsibility weighs heavy on your head. I hope you have both the humanity and the energy to make this right.

    • Guest says:

      “The responsibility weighs heavy on your head.”

      No, it doesn’t.

    • Seth Marlin says:

      I’m sorry, but I fail to see what Brett did wrong here. If people want to pay to have their work published, that’s on them, but it shouldn’t be sprung on them after the fact. Moreover, the correspondences he lists in previous posts frankly reek of graft. Shoddy math and contradictory estimates abound, so I’m surprised to see you side with the outlet on this one.

      This wasn’t simply paid self-publishing; it was exploitation. I think it sucks to see BV go down, sure, and I think there are other solutions, but I also think your anger is misplaced. What business do either of you have trolling a writer who was just trying to get a fair shake?

      • Part of the problem is with Brett’s letter itself, which is full of false innuendoes and faulty and misleading readings of Geoffrey’s responses to Brett’s questions. Shame on Brett for writing such a poorly-reasoned and ill-considered letter!

  • Hey Brett,

    You did nothing wrong. You simply blew the whistle on a policy that a publisher was trying very hard to keep quiet. Gatza’s choice to close shop is probably a good one, considering all the facts. Gatza could have easily explained his policies in response to your post, but chose not to. End of story. Your post was simply a straightforward and honest explanation of the policy. If transparency of policy leads to a decision like this, the publisher must have not had a lot of faith in the policy.

  • Guest says:

    Ditto D.W. Lichtenberg’s post above. Jessica’s post above is just silly — as if writers are all in some huge bizarre dysfunctional family and you’re “telling” on a brother caused him to run and lock himself in his room…so shame on you for telling. Jessica should grow up a bit and learn a thing or two about how journalism works. (Though given her comments on her twitter account, where she screams such useful things as “PEOPLE ARE SO STUPID. I HATE THEM” and absurdly lays the blame for BV closing also at HTML Giant’s feet, I’d’ say there’s not much chance of this happening through all her anger.) Your initial blog was remarkably even-handed and did a service to other writers by bringing to light a business practice that should have been transparent and yet was clearly not. It was allowed to continue (in secret, which was the whole problem) for too long. I hope you do not blame yourself in the slightest for BV closing down. GG’s decision to do so is his own business, and, clearly, it appears that the press was headed for financial ruin one way or another. A publisher is a business. This one was involved in something shady and rightfully got called out on it. Dire as the state of poetry publishing is these days, that doesn’t excuse shady business practices, no matter how wonderful a press is or how committed the editor is.

    • >Jessica should grow up a bit and learn a thing or two about how journalism works.

      If you are calling Brett’s open letter “journalism,” then you have a thing or two to learn about journalism. His letter is rife with logical fallacies.

  • Jimmy says:


    You did NOT, under any circumstances do ANYTHING wrong. You went through proper channels and when you were met with incomprehensible, seemingly inaccurate, and probably dishonest responses, you let people know that something wrong was afoot.

    The fact that these “donations” were probably only going to add up to a few grand shows me that BlazeVOX wasn’t really looking for or didn’t know how to really raise funds. I’ve seen small, start-up journals raise over a grand through kickstarter campaigns. I’ve seen local musicians raise similar amounts to allow them to release VINYL RECORDS! As far as I can tell, BV has a larger base of loyal supporters, has influences more people’s lives, and is more relevant than other institutions I’ve seen run incredibly successful kickstarter campaigns.

    As I mentioned in the comments of a previous blog post, the numbers in this situation just aren’t making sense.

  • nliu says:

    Quite. Brett didn’t kill BV (if it does stay dead); lack of money did. All Brett did was cast a light on what he considered to be an unacceptable method of raising money. DW’s comment is sensible.

  • Seth Marlin says:

    I go away for two days and look what happens. Damn, son, you stirred up the hive.

    I have to say, I’m very surprised at the way this blew up, but then again this is the Internet. I’m going to agree with some of the others here; you went through the proper channels and what you got instead frankly smacked of graft. The bit with the contradictions between form-letters was what did it for me. Of course, in this day and age, major negative publicity can kill a publisher, but like you I don’t think we should have to see BV go down. I think simply revamping their model and being more forthcoming about their policies would be acceptable. At the same time, however, once wind of something like this gets out the publication may simply be too far gone to save.

    Again, I don’t feel you did anything wrong. I think this sucks for all parties and like you I wish it could be different. But it is what it is.

  • Chris McCreary says:

    The saddest thing about this situation is that it was approached as whistle blowing rather than an opportunity to discuss and question how small presses function today. Are there things about Gatza’s approach that are worthy of debate? Sure. But it strikes me as misinformed to single him out. How is what he’s doing different than another small-press publisher who says, “Look, I can do your book in a limited run but can only give you 20 copies for free. After that, I can sell you more at cost”? If you want to have another 20 or 50 on hand, say, you’ll hit that $250 pretty quickly. If that’s more or less legit than what BlazeVOX is doing, why? (And if that approach is troubling to you, too, then you probably want to stay away from small presses entirely!)

    But rather than look at the big picture, there’ve been snarky comments about typos in Gatza’s emails, and there’s been a conflation of his model with the contest-based nepotism that fueled Foetry’s fires back in the day. The view of “legitimate” publishing that seems to be put forth in this whole discussion seemed outdated when I started in the small press world 15+ years ago and strikes me as particularly quaint now.

    • Andrew Kozma says:

      Your analogy doesn’t make sense. A press isn’t obligated to give an author free copies (though those, and discounts for further copies, are nice). A press is obligated to sell books to readers, and that’s it.

      That other press, ideally, is making money doing just that.

      • Chris McCreary says:

        I never said a press was obligated to give an author free copies. In either of these examples, the author is out a couple of hundred bucks. You clearly have a take on why one of these options is better than the other, and that’s fantastic. My point was that it would be more useful to debate why one is better than the other than to lump scorn on a press with a long track record of bringing good writing to print. As for any small press “making money,” oy.

        • Andrew Kozma says:

          I guess what I was trying to say is that, in one of these options, the author ISN’T out a couple of hundred bucks. If you are publishing with a press (small or otherwise) that isn’t asking you to help fund production costs, then you aren’t out any money unless you choose to be.

          • Chris McCreary says:


            • Chris McCreary says:

              For the record, though, I wasn’t posting to debate this one point — I have my own opinions about it, but who really cares? My point, again, was to say that most of the commentary on this issue has been mean-spirited and misinformed, which is a particularly sad combination.

      • Daniel Nester says:

        Andrew — you kinda don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you know how books are distributed at, say, SPD? You need X copies to have in their warehouses ready to go, so friend X can assign your book for your class and sell in the college bookstore. Review copies? Mailed? ISBNs? Web hosting for free PDFs of each title? How about a Kindle edition? Or–gasp!–teacher review copies? All of these things are effective and sometimes required to, as you say, “sell books to readers.” The unwarranted self-regard and sense of entitlement I’ve read here an other places astounds me. If you think BlazeVox authors didn’t expect this kind of treatment or services rendered to them or for them when their manuscript was accepted, then you haven’t met many authors who have had their manuscript accepted.

        • Daniel Nester says:

          I don’t know how many times I have shopped around one of the two anthologies I have ready to go–permissions, artwork rights, all secured and PAID FOR by yours truly–and when talking about publishing it with a publisher that has paid for a full table at AWP, is told, “well, hopefully, you can provide something to deflect costs.” That was when I first heard the WASPy term for what we’re all talking about here — subvention. The idea that I would have to “chip in” and subvent costs at a University-affiliated press or, say, a literary journal turned press, I have to say, it sorta shocked me at first. But people do it all the time, and don’t let anyone tell you different. They may get the money from “professional development” funds from their teaching job or a grant, but these people be paying for their books to get printed. That BV was asking for fricking set-up costs, and pretty much up front, is way more honest than 99% of what’s going on out there in poetryland. The willful naivete of the posts here and elsewhere makes me wonder if this is coming from some other place.

  • Sarah Sarai says:

    I’m confused. I noticed Brett kept responding when he was praised–in that first bit of infamy. But now he’s no longer being praised, well, he’s vanished.
    Oh Creator. Explain your mysteries.

    • Brett says:

      There are two reasons to explain my absence. First, things were happening too fast and I simply wanted to wait to see what happened. Yesterday, I did try to keep up with things as they happened, but my responses quickly became out of date. (An example: When Mr. Gatza initially decided to rescind the policy, I immediately started writing a blog post. The moment after I posted it, I got word that he had decided to close down.)

      I therefore decided to wait a day or so, in order to get some distance and to think things through. I was also hoping there would other developments; specifically that Mr. Gatza would (a) change his mind and reopen and (b) let post publicly about his policy.

      As for your implication that I posted on Bark in order to revel in praise, well, I chose a pretty ineffective way to do it. I’ve read every comment posted on both BARK and HTMLGIANT, as well as many on Facebook; I haven’t been called this many names since junior high.

      Despite the accusations to the contrary, this post was not some variety of “temper tantrum” nor was it an attempt to shore up a frail ego.

      I simply wanted Mr. Gatza to let would-be authors know that monetary donations are required for most publication. That didn’t seem to be too much to ask.

      I haven’t been called this many names since


      • Brett says:

        I sort of love the last two lines, which I forgot to delete.

        • Good. Stick to poetry, Brett.

          • Seth Marlin says:

            Stop. Sarah, Camille, both of you stop. I don’t know Brett, and I’ll likely never meet him, and I’ve never but as two supposedly self-respecting authors whose sites I’ve checked, I’d think you’d have a little more understanding for an author trying to get his fair shake. Instead, you’ve acted like children. I mean, really? This is the response of someone trying to get their work out into the world? You both should be ashamed for this junior-high level of pettiness, as should everyone who’s joined in on it. Really.

            • Marcus says:

              “Junior-high level of pettiness” about sums it up. There’s no need whatsoever for name-calling, animosity, insults, etc. It’s just useless. It does no good to anyone. What does potentially help is intelligent, rational discussion, which there’s been some of but is largely lacking. I, too, have never met Brett, and I’ve never met Camille or Sarah, but even just judging by the ability to reason (to say nothing of the points being made), it’s pretty obvious who deserves to be listened to.

            • Truong says:

              Can I just add Daniel Nester to that list of names. Mr. Nester Please stop.

            • Seth, I can see that you find this exchange upsetting. But my point remains, and I stand by it, that Brett’s letter is seriously flawed and that readers need to apply some critical thought to his unfair accusations, false analogies, wild speculations, and the list goes on. Brett may be a terrific poet, but his letter is a model of poor reasoning.

              • Constance says:

                How did you get so smart? I bet you are also very attractive and have a lot of friends. Cool story.

              • Thank you, Candace. I am indeed blessed with wonderful friends. I think I have said what I wanted to say. I’ll just add that I’m very happy to see that BlazeVOX is still in business and that Geoffrey has pledged greater transparency in his policies.

              • Constance that is. Sorry, the names get garbled on the screen after so any nested replies.

  • Bill Knott says:

    meanwhile NYOpera spends 40 million to create new production of Ring Cycle and billionaire Bob Dylan (you know, that tunesmith who likes to be called a “poet”) buys another yacht—

    instead of sniping at each other, poets should organize and take to the barricades in protest and demand more funding from the cultural cashbox—

    why should the most important art be the least funded?

    that 40 mill wasted on a redundant Ring could have funded BV and ten other poetry presses for a lifetime—

    sick of obsequious poets praising popstars for their “poetry” when they should be picketing and protesting at the gates of their wealth estates demanding support for the writers they
    plaigiarize their lyrics from—

  • Bill Knott says:

    if Blazevox got a dime everytime the NYTimes called some poptunester a “poet,” it would enough money to publish a hundred books a year—

  • Bill Knott says:

    why can’t poets organize and use the same methods/tactics that worked for antiwar/civilrights movements in the past and present … the systematic societal underfunding of poetry is an injustice that must be resisted and set right . . . poetblogs whining complaining carping at each other is not going to do it—

  • By the way this seems to be the most thoughtful observation made by a writer with nothing directly at stake (not a BV author or friend or enemy of Gatza’s):

  • Frank says:

    Here’s to Brett! The Steve Bartman of poetry!

  • Steve Tills says:

    Sorry to chime in so late, and this matter has likely been hashed out by now, but I’ve got to fuggin say, I CANNOT BELIEVE anybody would be complaining to a first rate pomer and first rate publisher and editor like Geoff G. about requesting that “members in the community COOPERATE in the production and distribution costs” of their almighty objects of intellectual property and their letters vital to the continued existence of this fab human species of ours.

    Get a grip! Any remotely progressive small publisher on the planet worthy of a good name who is NOT obliged to ask collaboration in the funding functions belongs with the 99% who trade “meaning” for “money,” even to this day, and care nothing about whether our great-grandchildren will have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe and animals and plants to share landscapes and ecosystems with. C’mon, Kids, wake up and smell the coughing!

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