The Half-Hearted Acceptance Letter

The other day I got some good news, or so I thought. My poetry manuscript, which I’ve been shaping ever since I graduated from Eastern Washington’s MFA program in 2007, was accepted by BlazeVOX Books. Nevertheless, as I delved into the long letter, it became apparent that the publication offer was contingent on a monetary donation ($250, to be exact). This took me by complete surprise; over the course of the next day and a half (and a handful of emails), my initial elation turned to discontent, and then to near despair. Here’s what happened.

Let’s start with the initial letter.

Subject:    Re: Submission, Brett Ortler, 12/12/10
From:    Geoffrey Gatza
To:    Brett Ortler (both email addresses redacted)
Date:    Thursday, September 1, 2011 1:09 PM

Hello Brett,

I have read your manuscript and I am really taken with this text. I would like to offer you a situation with our upcoming Fall/Winter 2011 schedule. However we are still recovering from our recent crisis and working towards being better than ever. Due to the recent economic upheaval, most of our funding sources collapsed. But this does not mean we plan to stop publishing.

In the spirit of cooperation, we are asking you to help fund the production of your book. We have done this for the past two years and it seems to be working out very positively. Over $2000 goes into the production of a book with BlazeVOX and we are hoping you will donate $250 to the press to help meet the costs of our budgeted year. To briefly explain, we just lost another major donor this year and I want to publish books, but it takes some money to do so. It takes $2000 to make a book and I am asking a few folks whose books are very, very good to help in the publication cost of that book. So I am asking folks to help out in the publication costs. Of the 928 manuscripts I received I choose 30 books to publish to finish out the year. There was a real system in choosing these texts and in my opinion this is better than holding a contest. I have been in that room before and I am not fond of people paying $40 to have a fist year grad student pick through a box of manuscripts to find something they like. This way, we choose good books and if they can help pay 12% of the total cost it takes to get a title into print. I am sure that there are better ways to do this but in our turbulent times it is hard to get people to fund poetry and experimental fiction. I am sorry if this upsetting and I understand completely. But this is in the spirit of a co-op and without money nothing can be done.

I will be happy to publish this as an ebook / Kindle book should you wish to skip the donation :-)

This donation would give you a book with BlazeVOX  [books], this includes ISBN, barcode, full color cover, sales at SPD and Amazon.com; a BlazeVOX [books] webpage and listing catalog. Our books are consistently reviewed by the finest publications, including The Nation TriQuarterly, The Believer and events at the Poetry and Literature Center @ Library of Congress, and we have a standing order from the Iowa Review and Jacket2. You can make your donation here,

http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/publication-offer/

Thank you again for sending your work to BlazeVOX [books]. Our goal is to publish great poetry and this fits that category. If you can help that is wonderful, if not no worries and we’ll be back up and together in the future.

Best, Geoffrey

BlazeVOX [books]
Holy Cats! A new webpage

http://www.blazevox.org

The request for a donation immediately took me by surprise, as I do quite a bit of research about each press where I send my work. I acquaint myself with their catalog, the writers they publish, the styles they prefer, and their respective editors, and I take pains to make sure my work fits in with the style.

I also obsess over the submission guidelines in order to make sure I’m sending what I think the editors want and in the format they want it. If they want me to hum the theme to the Peanuts while I click the “submit” button, I do it. (Plus, it’s great music for dancing wildly, which is a hobby of mine.)

Most importantly, I never submit to presses that charge reading fees or require financial contributions from authors, as both tend to be hallmarks of vanity presses and because I simply don’t want to pay to have my own work published. Call it vanity, ego, stubbornness, whatever you want; in my mind, paying to publish simply seems less legitimate. As far as I knew, BlazeVOX didn’t charge prospective authors. But it’d been over a year since I submitted, so I went to double-check the submission guidelines; maybe I’d made a mistake.

I hadn’t. As of this writing, the submission guidelines didn’t mention requiring authors to donate; if anything, the guidelines indicated that the press was quite generous towards authors, as they gave them a sizable discount when purchasing copies of their own work.

This all struck me as quite strange, as it was out of keeping with what I knew about BlazeVOX, and its reputation as a press. To be sure, BlazeVOX’s editor, Geoffrey Gatza, publishes some fine poetry, including work by Tom Holmes and Stacia Fleegal, both writers whom I admire. The books are absolutely beautiful. It’s quite clear he knows what he’s doing. And I really wanted my book to be issued by BlazeVOX.

So I went back to the letter and read it again. It looked like a form letter. My manuscript title wasn’t mentioned, though my first name was, and I immediately began to suspect a mail merge or something to that effect. After that, I clicked on the “donate” link, as I wanted to see what it had to say. The text was quite familiar, as it was a reworked version of the letter I’d received.

The more times I read the letter, the more questions I had. The original letter noted that he was asking “a few folks whose books are very, very good to help in the publication cost of that book,” so it seemed that not all authors were being asked to contribute. That seemed unfair, as it meant there were two classes of books he’d accepted; books he was willing to publish for free—let’s call them Freebies—and those he was willing to publish if the authors contributed—let’s call them Me-bies.

And if that were the case, I wanted to know how many Freebies and Me-bies existed, and I wanted to know if publication was absolutely contingent on a donation. I therefore sent along the following note.

On 9/1/11 3:44 PM, “brett ortler” wrote:

Dear Mr. Gatza,

Thank you for your interest in my manuscript, and for your offer. I’m going to have to give it some thought, as I don’t quite know how I feel about the compulsory donation policy. I certainly understand the impact of the lousy economy (and of selling/producing literature generally), so I’m not dismissing this idea out of hand. Nonetheless, it’s a rather new idea, and to be frank, one that seems somewhat unsettling, at least at first blush.

Before I decide, I’d like more information. I have a few questions about the policy.

(1) Am I correct in assuming that not every book you publish is subject to this policy? If so, can you tell me what percentage of authors are asked to donate?

(2) Also, if you don’t mind, how many such offers have you made?

(3) In addition, is this offer open to everyone who finds the link on your site, or is publication contingent upon your acceptance of the manuscript beforehand?

Thanks, and take care,

Brett Ortler

I received this response:

Hello Brett,

I did send this letter to a 30 folk with the hopes of getting 15 people. No scams at all.

To briefly explain, we just lost a major donor this year and I want to publish these books, but it takes some money to do so. It takes $2000 to make a book and I am asking a few folks who’s books are very very good to help in the publication cost of that book. Please know that I do like your book and I do like a lot of other books. This week, I sent out mailings to authors for the upcoming season. So far a lot have taken me up on this deal, as this is a fine way of doing things. As I said, our major funder could not help us this year due to a recent financial scandal, their money is gone. So I am asking folks to help out in the publication costs. Of the 423 manuscripts I received I choose 30 books to publish from this lot. There was a real system in choosing these texts and in my opinion this is better than me holding a contest. I have been in that room before and I am not fond of people paying $40 to have a first year grad student pick through a box of manuscripts to find something they like. This way, we choose good books and if they can help pay 12% of the total $2000 it takes to get a title into print. I am sure that there are better ways to do this but in our turbulent times it is hard to get people to fund poetry and experimental fiction. I am sorry if this upsetting and I understand completely. But this is in the spirit of a co-op and without money nothing can be done.

Also, we chose this way as opposed to having authors pay have the cover prince for their own books as my own books are published. Each book is sold to the author for about $3 where at other presses, like the ones who publish me, ask for $8 per copy. So in the long run the amount of $250 in the beginning is a lot less than the author ordering books at a higher rate than they are produced. Example,

100 x 3 = $300

100 x 8 = $800

So in this model the other press makes five hundred more on the same book than we are asking. So this is how we are justifying things. I hope this also helps!

Best, Geoffrey

His response was surprisingly slapdash, full of typos and vague assurances that he was only asking “a few folks who’s [sic] books are very very good” to contribute. While I’m sure Mr. Gatza was simply busy, this didn’t inspire confidence. And I couldn’t shake the impression that the letters bore a superficial resemblance to a 419 scam (the email confidence scams that are perpetually flying around.) All that was missing was a far-flung princess ready to wire me millions of Euros.

Worse yet, he didn’t directly address all of my questions. While he let me know how many folks he’d asked for donations (30), confirmed my suspicions that I’d received a form letter, and implied that not all of the authors had to pay for their work, he’d also never answered the big question—whether my work would be rejected if I opted not to donate.

While I pondered this strange situation, I did the math. He sent his letter to 30 writers, hoping to land 15 donations. If he did so, that’d produce $3,750 in donations. Now this may be a coincidence, but I noticed that his donations page is talking up his press’s need for a new computer, one that runs about $1,300. If one does the math and assumes 75 percent of folks will turn him down, which seems more realistic, those 7 or so acceptances will take care of it.

I also considered his economic argument. I can certainly understand it. I’ve spent a good deal of my life in literary land, and money’s always been tight. That’s doubly or triply true now, and good presses need things like computers and software and the like. And yes, when donors disappear, one needs to come up with other ways to generate revenue, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a business model based upon a cooperative, or even BlazeVOX’s specific ($250 bucks for a book) policy.

Nevertheless, I didn’t intend to send my work to a press with such a business model. On the contrary, I sent my work to presses that operate under a few widely held principles:

(1) Generally speaking, literary presses do not charge for reviewing submissions unless we’re talking about a contest, in which case an entry fee is justifiable due to the necessity to drum up prize money and pay for a judge’s honorarium. (Full disclosure: I’ve run two contests at Knockout, one with an entry fee of $5 and one with $12; for both contests we awarded a good deal of prize money. The rest went to funding Knockout. We are not a 501(c) but we are an unincorporated nonprofit association under Minnesota law.)

(2) If literary presses do charge a fee for anything (contests, reading submissions, etc.), they should be upfront about it and this information should be included in submission guidelines and FAQ pages so the reader knows what to expect and whether they still want to submit.

(3) Most importantly, when a writer sends their work along, they
always operate on the assumption that presses choose the best work, and only the best work, to publish.

From all outward appearances, BlazeVOX shares these assumptions, but when I asked directly if my work would still be published if I didn’t donate, I received a brusk, and disheartening response:

Subject:     Re: Submission, Brett Ortler, 12/12/10
From:     Geoffrey Gatza
To:     Brett Ortler
Date:     Thursday, September 1, 2011 2:16 PM

Hi Brett,

No of course not. I know this situation is awful. it’s hard on me so I can only image how you feel. But your work is wonderful and I really do dig on it. We will keep your work on file, and do send it out. There are presses who are not so hit by this crisis. Hurray on you and your writing, keep up the great work.

Best, Geoffrey

At this point it became clear that my book wouldn’t be released by BlazeVOX; nevertheless, there was no way in hell I was going to “donate” money in such a manner, as it felt like a variety of coercion. Even if I did it’d be hardly fair to call it a donation at all; if a monetary contribution is required for publication, it’s not a donation, it’s a payment.

Worse than that, it’s quite clear that he doesn’t publish only the best work he gets; there’s a group of second-class work that he relies upon for his donations. And that’s the hardest part to stomach.  It seems he wanted my money more than my work. If he didn’t, he would have accepted the work despite the lack of donation.

All of this amounts to a serious violation of trust, as Mr. Gatza withheld crucial information from would-be authors. Instead of letting writers know what to expect in advance, Mr. Gatza springs this arrangement on the would-be author suddenly. From the prospective author’s point of view, it feels like a sleight of hand; now you see yourself being a BlazeVOX author, now you don’t.

All of this is disingenous and unethical, as it preys upon writers in perhaps their most vulnerable state (on the cusp of acceptance). To rectify this, I asked Mr. Gatza to at least “include a mention of this policy on your website, including the donation amounts and point out that not all acceptances are subject to ‘donations,’ outlining pertinent statistics.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t address my calls for a change to a website, but he did respond with:

Your work is very good and I choose it not because you are on some tier but because it is good. Your manuscript will do just fine at another press with better funding situations. I understand your concerns and admire how you worked this all out. I didn’t realize you would be so upset by this in such a way. I have had several spots taken by this method and it has worked out well. You are correct that this is a bad option but we are trying to survive in a world that does not support poetry, either readers buying books or communities that support presses. Something must be done to keep poetry alive and well and this is how we have managed to do this. In this offer I also offered to publish the work as an ebook which gets about 6000 readers and costs nothing to make except the work in designing a book. A printed book gets about 300 readers if lucky. I believe that you are misinformed about how well a book of poetry does in the markets today and what it costs to get a book into production. This is not a rejection on you or your work, but a critique on what the world values on our art form.

While I found that his response tempered some of my initial anger; I was a bit puzzled, because in my previous emails I’d never claimed that poetry sells well, or anything to that effect. (Belive me, I know it doesn’t. I run a literary magazine; when you get a sale, you’re so happy you feel compelled to do a little dance.)

And while I again sympathized with his economic argument, he’s still withholding important information from writers and he’s doing it for one hell of a spurious reason: to get money from some of them.

Of course, I can hypothesize about why he wouldn’t want to let writers know about this policy, and none of them reflect particularly well on the policy or its current implementation. First, it seems likes it’s a relatively easy way to raise funds. In addition, I’m sure that if this policy were made public he’d get fewer submissions, as many writers would opt not to submit their work. (I wouldn’t have submitted my work there had I know about this policy.) More than that, if writers were aware that some were required to paid while others were not, he might have something of a rebellion on his hands,  and the paying writers may take umbrage. There’s also the likelihood that BlazeVOX would lose credibility in the literary world if it were common knowledge that they charge for publication. (Duotrope removed their listing for BlazeVOX Books because of the payment policy.)

With all that said, if he were upfront and open about his policy, I’d have no real problem with any of this; it may be even be a valuable contribution to the literary community. It just wouldn’t be for me. Unfortunately, I found that out the hard way; a half-hearted acceptance is one hell of a wrenching rejection.

While I may seem ungrateful or simply stubborn, I view this as an instance of applied ethics. (I teach ethics as part of of my critical thinking courses.) In its current form, Mr. Gatza’s policy isn’t fair, and what he’s doing is wrong, as he’s using writers as a mere means to an end: to get money.

Needless to say, I also don’t want anyone else to go through this unawares. I’d therefore like to make a public call for Mr. Gatza to amend his submission guidelines and website to include information about this policy, the amounts he’ll expect of other authors, and the like.

So far, he’s ignored my requests. I just checked his website again, on the offchance that he’s had a change of heart.

Unfortunately, I’m still waiting.

208 Responses to “The Half-Hearted Acceptance Letter”

  1. Thank you for posting the full story! I will be circulating this blog.

    • Sarah Sarai says:

      You will be cirulating his “thoughtful” blog although you haven’t talked to Gatza yourself? Although you haven’t served the poetry community for years by publishing book after book, scraping together funding, losing it, regaining some? Thoughtful? Wounded more like it and without compassion. Sarah Sarai, BlazeVOX [books] author

  2. Sam Ligon says:

    Brett, this is a thoughtful post, and I was sorry to read it.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Bummer on all fronts. You made the right choice. Let’s hope the submission policy is appropriately updated pronto.

  4. Seth Marlin says:

    Wow. I had a poetry TA who was published by BlazeVox a few years back (the aforementioned Girl with Pink Hair); I certainly hope, for her sake, that this was not the state of affairs when she submitted. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Erin says:

    I had a similar but worse scenario. I received one of these form letters. I checked out a friend who’d published with BV and he said that they were fine and had never asked him for money. Another friend pointed me to some articles about being asked to contribute being uncommon.

    I told Gatza that I couldn’t donate the money but that I could launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise it pretty quickly. Kickstarter approved the campaign within about an hour and I was getting ready to launch it when I got an email from Gatza saying that I couldn’t do the Kickstarter. No reason was given. I wonder if he didn’t want it to get out that they ask writers to contribute, which is the reason Duotrope lists them as not qualifying anymore:

    http://www.duotrope.com/market_3539.aspx

    To add insult to injury, Gatza must have forgotten about our entire correspondence, because a week later, he send me the exact same form acceptance letter again.

    • Sarah Sarai says:

      I’ve just got to add, again, Geoffrey Gatza is a flawed human, yes, and we had back-and-forths when he published me and after he published me. But I didn’t air the laundry. He’s done more for poetry than any of his naysayers.

  6. Erin says:

    Err, I meant to say “not being uncommon” up there.

    Also, I retract that my situation was ‘worse.” It’s bad all around.

  7. eddie yu says:

    I don’t think any of you are pissed off enough. I’ll do it for you. The emails scream copy-pasta. I wonder how many of the exact emails get sent out each day? It reminds me exactly of those door-to-door guys that step into my house with binders, spouting numbers and savings per year and why it costs so much, etc (and I’ve experienced many lately) I’m not sure if he forgot your correspondence, Erin, so much as got carried away spamming for donations. But hey, I’ve never read any BV publications, so it’s easy for me to completely ignore any literary talent that exists in the group, which I will, because this is a completely different issue, this is about taking advantage of writers, and anyone can do that.

    As for the state of books in general, I think we all know of the decline, but is it fair to throw the burden onto us? Just because books are failing, we now have to pay to get published in a book that even BV knows won’t sell? I think they need to consider a serious change in their business model that doesn’t involve–let’s just say it now–taking advantage of writers. We’re the suckers if we care that much about being published.

    I’m glad you shared your experience Brett, and I’m glad you didn’t fall for this crap. I’m glad you didn’t fall for his scammy emails, and I’m glad you didn’t get pulled in by some vain desire to be published. Good writing eventually does gets recognized–I’ve always thought that myself (am I stupid?). If not by this guy, who might be convinced to publish a piece of crap if a considerable donation backed it; then by someone with some backbone that still cares about writing itself, and not the business.

    Ugh.. it really deserves some thought. Some thought I’m not willing to think about right now I’ll tell you. But we’re doing something wrong if we rely on the Gatza’s of the world to become “published authors”.

    Take your poetry elsewhere, let’s all take our work somewhere else. It should be published because it needs to be shown. Not just because we want it to be.

    • Amaris says:

      Right. The e-mail might have well as been sent from a “Nigerian prince” who publishes books using his family fortune, and who has fallen on difficult times. All he needs is your writing and some re-start-up capital! It’s outrageous.

      I’m sorry that you had to go this, Brett.

    • Brett says:

      Eddie,

      Yeah, I was pretty angry, though I didn’t want to come off as petulant in the post, so I removed my saucier lines.

      And I’ll keep sending out the manuscript; I’ve only hit up 20 or so presses, and I’ve gotten many nice notes from several, so it will find a home eventually, or so I hope.

  8. Alan Cordle says:

    A friend alerted me to your post. Thank you for posting it. The only way to curtail these practices is to warn others. Was Gatza unaware that Jeffrey Levine at Tupelo Press got blasted years ago for a very similar predation? The website I founded, Foetry.com, has the details: http://bit.ly/obGXPN

    • Brett says:

      Mr. Cordle,

      Thanks for Foetry, by the way. On the Facebook comments about this post, we mentioned your site a number of times.

      Brett

      • Alan Cordle says:

        Shucks. Call me Al!

        I’d love to hear from people who received this letter or a variation of it. Please scan and send to foetry at foetry dot com, or if you aren’t able to scan it, just send me an email letting me know when you received the letter and if it differs from the one in this post. I’m interested to see if Gatza really did limit his solicitation to 30 people. I will keep a count and let everyone know. Thanks!

    • Sarah Sarai says:

      Alan Cordle,
      Geoffrey is flawed. The fact that you leap to the occasion to bring to light to smear to “enlighten” the public so quickly as if you were looking for foes rather than creating new work and helping poets create new work saddens someone but not me. I like BlazeVOX. I know it can get funky at times but it is not a scam. It is a one-peson show and the one person also works fulltime, and tries to write and have a life. He does not always write emails with the crisp alacrity of a university press editor-in-chief but he does his best and it is more often than not, very good.

      • Susan says:

        I thought the point of Foetry.com was pointing out unfair practices when people send in money ahead of time, as in a contest fee, when the contest winner has obviously been chosen ahead of time.

        I think BlaxeVox has an established reputation as a press. I guess people are outraged because they don’t note on their submissions page that accepted manuscripts may be asked to contribute $250 towards publication. I don’t quite get why everyone is so outraged, and it saddens me. There are truly awful things going on in the world that deserve our outrage.

        • Alan Cordle says:

          Hi Susan, It’s possible to be angry about more than one thing in this world.

          Foetry’s mission evolved over time and though the site is no longer active, I carefully follow events like this one.

          You can read the mission statement here: http://bit.ly/rquOWp

        • war.famine.disease.publication says:

          “I guess people are outraged because they don’t note on their submissions page that accepted manuscripts may be asked to contribute $250 towards publication.”

          Um, yes. Are you just now figuring this out? It was pretty clear in the original blog post. Is this unacknowledged acceptance practice a reason to be outraged? Perhaps not. It is a good reason to be troubled and a bit miffed, though, especially if one is one the receiving end of one. Is it a good reason to write a blog informing other writers of this fact? It sure as hell is. Does it make Brett a nasty guy. F*ck no. Are there other truly awful things in the world that deserve our attention? You bet your booties! And well said.

        • barbarabaldwin says:

          Well yes, there are truly awful things”going on in the world” Does that excuse someone
          putting his hand in your pocket,while assuring you he really needs the money,it’s for a good cause, and that you’ll thus be recognized in print, in due time? Nope.
          There are many fine journals and presses out there–it’s worth it to take time to find them, vet them, and support them, without pouring fithy lucre into their tip jars.BB

  9. Mike Mlek says:

    So wait, am I reading this right? In the first email, he claims having received 928 manuscripts, but then in his response to your first email, he says 423??

  10. Truong says:

    Brett,

    Thank you for posting this difficult process. a friend of mine received the same letter the other day and like you he was happy but also skeptical. He asked for my advice and was met with my outrage. I just didn’t have the words to clearly articulate my absolute anger over this situation. I am grateful that you stated your case in such a clear and resounding. Good luck with finding a home for your manuscript.

    Truong

  11. Truong says:

    err. I meant to say “clear and resounding manner”

    • I wandered over here via Gerry LaFemina’s fb page. Incredible. Depressing. Enlightening.

      Hi,Truong–Hope all is well w/you. Popped over to your website & greatly enjoyed your collage work–Dirty Pretty Things in particular.

  12. Scott Eubanks says:

    Excellent, albiet depressing post, Brett. Thank you. I wonder if James Frey is somehow involved.

  13. nance van winckel says:

    Brett, I read this with much interest since i’ve recently met a young poet who’s just published his first book with this press, and I also read a book of stories by Weston Cutter (think i got the name right) from BlazeVox. The stories were just full of typos. Thestories were good, but I thought it was embarrassing to have a book come out with so many errors, and it made me wonder what the heck was up with that press. Stay well, bro. You were right to press this guy the way you did.

    • Sarah Sarai says:

      Nance…Geoffrey doesn’t edit the books. He’s more of a publisher than editor–two different hats. He’s never claimed to be an editor in the traditional sense (worrying over the Oxford comma and such). Granted, if the work had many typos, it shouldn’t have been accepted but & again (as far as I know and definitely in my experience) he leaves the ms. as is. Sarah

      • Bill says:

        Then what good is he? If he doesn’t take the time to put out the best book possible, why should an author publish through BlazeVox, instead of going on their own? Where I sit, self-funding + no editing = vanity press. You think you’re defending him, but you’re only damning him further. With every post, you are digging a deeper and deeper hole.

      • Cynthia says:

        I’ve been interested in your responses, all of which defend Geoffrey Gatza for the following: asking for money from a group of writers without informing them ahead of time that this is a requirement for publication; inferring that he is publishing the best work when he is publishing those who can afford to and are willing to pay $250; taking the money and then not insuring that the work is edited properly (just because the work itself is without editing problems doesn’t mean that errors don’t occur in setting a book to print); changing his story which raises doubt as to his truthfulness and ability to believe what he claims is true about his business and policies; and being unwilling for far too long to clarify policies when this would be the fair thing to do. A publisher publishes according to clear policies set out to authors and sees that the job gets done well. I don’t see how you can support him in this capacity nor how you can condemn those who are bringing this to light, which is all they are doing. Authors deserve to know rather than have those aware of an unfair and secret policy stay silent because someone such as yourself think it’s a tolerable practice. This is a business.

      • KM says:

        Sarah, please clarify: Did you pay any amount for your work to be published by the press? I hope you did not.

        Regardless, I am glad you enjoyed your experience with them.

  14. Fred Bubbers says:

    Thanks for posting this and I agree with your assessment. Paying for publication is always a dicey matter, but such terms should be made clear in the submission guidelines. If doing so would discourage some from submitting, that’s as it should be.

    The correspondence indicates that the press is, at best, sloppy and unprofessional. At worst, they are scammers.

  15. Darlim' Neal says:

    Man I’m sorry to hear this. What an awful thing.

  16. Matt says:

    The numbers that Gatza quotes don’t make sense to me. He claims that the press has fallen on hard times (this part makes sense) but if it costs him $2000 to publish a book, where is the other $1750 per book coming from? If he’s hoping to get donations from 15 authors for the season, that means he’s got around $26,000 from other sources to cover the remaining $1750 per book. Why not just publish 10 books, then, with no donations from authors? This is what feels the scammiest to me – it seems clear that the $2000 number is made up. Aren’t BlazeVox books POD? Of course there are other costs than printing, but for this to make any sense at all, that $2,000 number has to be made up.

    • Brett says:

      Yeah, I didn’t think they did either. I think he prints his books via Cafepress, and yeah, he does them on a POD basis. That means things should be relatively cheap. And I’ve received enough quotes from publishers via Knockout to know that $2,000 will get you quite a few copies of one book. So you’re right, that seems pretty sketchy; I should have done that math, too.

  17. […] clicked on the link and read the article written by Brett Ortler, which outlines his exchange with BlazeVOX editor […]

  18. Roxane says:

    This is just a hot mess and I’m sorry you had to deal with this, Brett. It’s a shame to see what thought was a really solid press take this approach and I’m glad you posted about it. One of PANK’s writers just e-mailed me today saying he received such an acceptance. Now I know he’s not alone.

  19. Diane says:

    Hoping you post soon that the book has been offered a contract by a legitimate press!

      • Sarah Sarai says:

        BlazeVOX is a legitimate press. Quirky, funky, and poetically mathematical. Everyone goes through tough rejections and almost-publications. I just pulled back from getting a chapbook published by someone who complained to me so much about the money and work I decided I didn’t want the negative taint. But I didn’t air any names. What’s the point?

  20. Sheila says:

    Brett, Thank you for posting about your experience in such detail. I got the exact same letter from Gatza two years ago and went through the same emotional whiplash–from elation to despair in about thirty five seconds–you did. I’m sorry you had to go through it too. I actually blogged about it a little myself here: . Reading your post was like reliving my decision process and revisiting all those shitty feelings. Thanks for breaking it down for those of us burned and for anyone thinking of taking up with this press. Good luck finding a worthy home for your book!

  21. Cathie Smathie says:

    Astounding.

    • Sarah Sarai says:

      What’s so astounding? That BlazeVOX publishes many good authors? That BlazeVOX has given powerful pushes to poets? Or that it isn’t perfect? What was your experience with BV? Did you contact Geoffrey yourself or are you relying on this account? I had a great experience with BlazeVOX.

      • JP Reese says:

        Sarah: You’re beginning to look like the only voice screaming into a wind that cannot be silenced or abated. Gatza’s behavior is unprofessional and just plain wrong. Perhaps when the man published your book, he wasn’t as devious or apparently unethical as he is now, but the evidence suggests it is better for authors to avoid this press for the foreseeable future.

  22. Court says:

    An unfortunate story, Brett, but thank you for posting it so that others will know not to fall for it. The more of this kind of thing that comes to light, the better.

  23. Victoria Brockmeier says:

    I can’t say Gatza’s last response would have assuaged my anger any at all. I get that publishing is changing, and I doubt anyone has any illusion about how hard it is for presses to get by, but as far as university hiring committees, prize committees, granting agencies and so on are concerned, pay-to-publish is worse than not having a book at all. And that’s precisely because so much of it relies on tricking writers into publishing there, and then tricking readers into buying, because it suggests that getting published is all about quality, when, as you point out, it’s so not, as soon as “forcible donation” enters the picture.

    Gatza should be ashamed of himself even for sending out emails that carelessly written and copy-and-pasted, let alone for the bait-and-switch practice. I’ve always been told he’s a super nice guy, but the only way this escapes being abusive is if it’s just incredibly stupid. Good on you, Brett, for holding your ground — it sounds like you’re doing what you should be, and if you’re getting the decent notes back, I imagine you will, indeed, find a stable, honest press with its act together to publish you.

  24. Suzanne Burns says:

    I published with BV last year and it was an overall great experience. Yes there was a fee, but in the end, the author copies are so free, the book is beautifully designed and it garnered good reviews. I have published with several presses in the past, and this one is more of a pro-active press for authors. If you want the book out there, go for it. The money is worth the lovely design and the ability to get your work read.

    • Kathryn says:

      But isn’t that the point? You shouldn’t have to pay to get your work read, or accepted, or to be treated like an author that matters.

      • Sarah Sarai says:

        What was your experience with BlazeVOX, Kathryn? Mine was great. He set me up on Amazon, on Small Press Distribution. I was reviewed at least five times. It is true that manna didn’t fall from heaven and I didn’t become Mark Doty (apologies to Mark Doty) and have a sudden influx of adoring followers.

        • Kathryn says:

          Sure, I’ll bite on the pro-BlazeVOX trolling here.

          No one is saying death to the press here, merely complaining about a policy, it’s lack of transparency, and one author’s experience with the press. It’s great that you had a good experience, but that’s hardly the issue here: no one is saying you should be upset about your experience, or that it’s impossible for you to have had a good one. So tell me, if we shouldn’t take his substantial amount of information as evidence of the press’ workings, why should we take your comments instead? I think everyone here understands there is more than one side of this story.

          Brett said, as have many of the commenters, that they respect/have respected this press and what it’s done for authors. They want the press to continue doing good things for authors, and they (and I) don’t see this as a good thing. That’s a valid opinion, whether or not it meshes with yours.

          And as for your repeated comments asking what experiences the rest of us have had…I assume you know that one need not have dealings with the press to form an opinion on this policy (mostly its lack of publicity), so maybe we can have a dialogue here instead of combative challenges.

          • Jim Churchill-Dicks says:

            This whole deal started out as a combative challenge from Brett. It’s too late for him and those on his reflexive bandwagon to take the high road on this. It’s in print now, and he will have to account for it from those of us who are sick of this kind of bruised ego-rhetoric.

            The concerns and skepticism were worth a dialogue to be sure. I’ll concede that. But this was a smear campaign from the start. That’s why I’m standing with BlazeVox.

            • KM says:

              That is BS. It sounds more like the people defending the press are doing so b/c they don’t want fish stink on their books. I can understand that. But that doesn’t mean Brett isn’t right to point out a policy that should be transparent. If there is nothing wrong with BlazeVox conducting business in this matter, then they should stand behind it; they should be up front about it on their submission page. Telling the truth is not a “smear campaign”; waffling or misleading people about “surprise” policies IS however poor business practice.

  25. Thank you for this. I’m going to Foetry right after I post here. Daniel M. Shapiro and I got a very similar, impersonal letter last year about our manuscript of collaborative poems. I’m sure $250 only covers part of the costs, but I don’t think $2000 is the right figure either. The whole thing put a bad taste in my mouth concerning BlazeVox, which is too bad, because I’ve liked some of the books from that press. Upfrontness would take care of the whole problem. Just tell people it’s a co-publishing venture if your ms is accepted. From the impersonal letter, I get the feeling most, if not all, of the manuscripts are accepted.

  26. Oops, I managed to mistype my own name. It’s Randall. Signed, Yssej Ladnarr

  27. Fox says:

    Publishers should pay writers and never the other way around. It’s a real shame and a real scandal.

    • Susan says:

      A scandal? Really? This is an unfortunate situation, perhaps, but a terrible scandal? They accepted his manuscript and then asked him to pay $250, which felt weird and icky and he doesn’t want to do it, for various reasons. But is this really a real scandal?

      • turle says:

        Yes, it is now. Because the press’s writers now may have people think their books are somehow second-rate because they helped pay to get them published. That is not fair to those writers, though perhaps they should have thought of this as a possible likelihood some day. Also, the fact that the editor made it sound like this was a new policy due to hard economic times–when really it has been going on for some time–also casts doubts on his business model. There are worse scandals to be sure, and I am sure Gatz enjoys quality writing, but his way of doing business should be re-thought.

  28. M Armstrong says:

    Terrible. Absolute scandal.

  29. DodieMarie says:

    While what this publisher is doing is just horrific, it also points to another issue, which is, how you appear on paper impacts the confidence you inspire in others. How can a person call himself an editor and cannot spell or punctuate properly? Whenever an editor or his or her assistant makes typos, I am concerned. Once, I got a rejection letter of a book I’d already published. In the query I mentioned other publications. The editor blamed her assistant. Errors of this magnitude do not inspire me to want to do business with these presses. Best of publishing to everyone.

  30. Nick says:

    I just tried to access that url you gave for BlazeVox’s “donation” page and found that it’s been changed. Now, among other things, there’s a note saying:

    “We will rescind this program immediately and I am sorry for the troubles it has caused.”

    Still, I think the damage is done. I don’t know what I would have done if I ever got an “acceptance” like that one. It must have been an agonizing decision process, Brett, but I’m sure you did the right thing.

    • turle says:

      No, it says this: “UniSphere Vision

      Home
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      Donate to BlazeVOX

      Please lend your support to BlazeVOX!

      Our current goal is to gather up $1500 to buy a new computer. This old Mac has been running like a champ for years and years now and time is getting on. We do need a new computer and we are asking that you can help. So far we have $200 donated towards our goal but we still do need another $1300. If you believe that BlazeVOX has been of use to you and has enriched your life then please do consider a donation, no matter how small. Thank you!”

  31. Joseph Wood says:

    For an appreciation of proper time frame, this type of letter was circulated back in 2010 for me and two other writers I know personally. The exception was that Gatza has become MORE transparent in this batch of acceptance letters (hard as that is to believe).

    I declined the offer and the book is now under contract with Salmon. So, my reply would be to keep submitting the book.

    However, I think there are nuances to the reading fee thing. Etruscan and Four Way books are two stellar examples of presses who require reading fees. Is it right or wrong? It’s besides the point: the horse is out of the gate for this kind of practice. The reason Tupelo got taken to the cleaners a few years back is for the rejection letter that offered “editting” services. Regardless, I will submit to Etruscan or Four Way because even if my book is not chosen, they have a track record of terrific, diverse writers.

    I’d also suggest that book publication means different things for different people, but that it does not ultimately indicate “merit” or lack thereof (not suggesting this post posits that idea, but I’ve seen a lot of writers who do believe this to be the case). I think part of the problem that enables presses to prey on poets is the mindset that book publication equates to some large artistic validation. In my opinion, it’s just a coordinate on one’s own creative grid.

  32. Melissa says:

    This doesn’t just sound like a regular “poetry book publisher fishing for new ways to make money” scam, it feels like a Scam scam…are you sure this Goeffrey you have been in touch with is THE Geoffrey…it seems completely unreal that a publisher would send such a slapdash bunch of emails…sounds more like the classic “Nigerian Bank Account” email scam…Also it appears that the press is closing down now anyway.

  33. Ruth says:

    http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/blog/we-will-close-the-press-at-the-end-of-the-year.-34/

    Apparently this had quite the effect: congrats to all of you for standing up!

    Also, I am very disturbed by the amount of typos, misspellings and inconsistencies in his text. For someone who claimed to be an editor from a legitimate press, he should have spelled “first” correctly, shouldn’t have said “who’s books”, should have kept track of his numbers, etc. An editor who misspells and whose writing is full of grammatical errors is a huge red flag….

    • Joseph Wood says:

      If you knew the diverse range of writers he had published in the past and what he has contributed to certain poetry communities over the decade, this is not a happy day. I’m sad that Gatza had to resort to tricking folks, but I’m here to say that he was not making money hand over fist.

      • Sarah Sarai says:

        Joseph. I don’t think he’s tricking people. He’s done so much for poetry. I think he is out of money. I know what that feels like. I wonder about all the people who posted above with their various declarations of What a Poetry Press Should Be. Have they tried? Have they give to poetry what Gatza has? I didn’t and don’t like everything about BV or a few poetry journals that have and haven’t accepted me. I didn’t run a smear campaign. I don’t like this trend. I don’t like the lack of true investigation. I don’t like the omission of understanding. We know how difficult it is to get a packet of poems together, let alone a book, let alone being the publisher.

        • Joseph Wood says:

          Tricking is the wrong word and my error–I don’t think there is intentionality, but I do think there could be more effective ways of handling fundraising, no? To be more transparent?

          I think the notion of what he has done for poetry and how he presents the issue of being bankrupt are distinct. You will get no argument from me he’s put out a lot of great work. But perhaps it’s a case where enthusiam for poetry got in the way of sustainability?

          FWIW, I have had to raise money for poetry projects in Alabama, and have had to work my butt off to get grants. It’s so freaking hard and the resources are scant. Maybe, at the end of the day, a publisher’s ambition could be tempered down some to meet the reality of the payroll?

          My partners at the small chap press would love to put more books out–but we need to be careful and draw a line.

          • Ruth says:

            I apologize if my comment was offensive; I am not happy the press closed, nor am I particularly educated on the press. What did impress me was how quickly things happened, though; the fact that within a day of this article being posted, the press not only changed their policy but planned to shut down entirely, was what amazed me.

            I do stick by my comment about the grammar, though. It’s not that hard to use good grammar!

    • turle says:

      Okay, thanks for the link. It is sad they are closing when they could have merely changed their policy and been more forthright about it. The fact that he is throwing in the towel instead of improving his practice kind of says it all, doesn’t it? It is very sad for the authors who have already published with him. What will happen to their books now? He should change his practice to be more clear and stand by his catalog of published writers. That would show a great deal of commitment to publishing innovative writing.

  34. Sam Ligon says:

    As Melissa notes above, it looks like BlazeVOX is going to shut down at the end of this year. From their website:

    “We will close the press at the end of the year.

    I am very disappointed in how things have turned out. I am very sorry for the troubles this has caused and we will close down the press. It has been a good run but with the turning tide against us, and with no money coming in, what else is there to do, but stop.

    Many have found our arrangement to co-operative in spirit and a bold and decisive measure in these tough financial times, thus why I chose to do this. There have only $200 donated through out the year to help the press in printing and the total was less than $1000. It is very hard to run this press and this method gathered up only a very small amount to help our production costs. Our prices have gone up and book sales numbers are very small.

    Best, Geoffrey Gatza”

    Of course, this can’t make anyone feel any better about any of this. And if Brett posting about the problem is all it took to shut them down, my guess is that they were in some pretty deep trouble (and Brett’s post and the stir it caused was maybe just a kind of final catalyst). Still, it feels like a loss.

  35. Dan Coffey says:

    I’m sorry, but these comments are extremely lame and petulant. Oh, the poor ego of the ever-wronged writer! Look: Gatza made a huge difference in the world of contemporary poetry. Not only did he bring dozens of new poets onto the scene, he published a new edition of Anne Waldman’s “First Baby Poems,” which was criminally out of print for years. He was asking for financial help from writers to get their work out. Where is the problem, aside from a time-honored ritual of writers being entirely hands-off during all the dirty work of publishing. Gatza’s right that this system is a hell of a lot better than a contest. Maybe he made a misstep in not being transparent enough, but that’s as far as it goes. This blog and its comments is tantamount to libel as far as I’m concerned. Congratulations, Brett, your puerile preening has taken a good man down.

    • Joseph Wood says:

      Dan: I agree that BlazeVOX had done a tremendous amount for poetry, especially in ushering in the DIY, democratic spirit.

      My only wish is that he was more transparent in his communications (and I don’t know him, so perhaps this does not come easy for him). I wished that the website managed to keep the spirit of his press but also really announce how hard up things had gotten.

      That was really my only concern with his practice.

    • Amanda Surkont says:

      Libel is written defamation that is false and can damage the party because it is untrue. The original posting does not seem to be untrue. It seems that most of the remainder of the postings have been inquiring in a proper way. Best, manda

      • Jim Churchill-Dicks says:

        Libel; no this is not libel. It is merely the same rhetorical strategy as Fox News. What a lovely turn of events for the poetry world.

    • Are.you.fer.real? says:

      “Congratulations, Brett, your puerile preening has taken a good man down.”

      Priceless! If you think some post on a lit journal blog discussing a press’ acceptance practices, even a few posts, can “take a good man down” you really need to step away from the computer and sit somewhere mellow for a while. Somebody needs some quiet time.

      All this self-righteous claptrap because a poet decided to reveal his unpleasant experience being blindsided by a conditional acceptance letter pursuing a policy the press didn’t have the professionalism to declare openly in its guidelines. Simple as that. I, as a submitting poet, am glad to be informed of this practice. I would have been crushed to get such a letter. BV’s acceptance policy absolutely must be stated in its guidelines. No one here, if they are hgonest, can deny that. ‘Cept perhaps that Sarah person (we’re all happy you got your book published through BV and you feel the need to go to war for the press, but a ton of huffy posts on lit blogs are not really necessary — neither is a war, regardless of whether or not it gets you off — surely there are more important things to do).

      Everyone ready to tar and feather Brett for simply posting about this needs to go find some real injustice to blow off about. Or better yet, go write some poems.

      • Dan Coffey says:

        No, unnamed person, obviously “some post on a lit journal blog” caused Gatza, at least momentarily, to close down the press. Talk about self-righteous claptrap. You win there, pal! (I’ll admit that “libel” was a little over the top though.)

    • turle says:

      Libel? Good grief. Is somebody perhaps over-reacting? The comments are more like constructive criticism if anything. Gatza should have changed his policy if his true interest is to stay in business and be as clear as possible to writers who need nurturing. These writers are NOT helped by unclear policies or surprises once accepted. Why didn’t he just put his ideas about the model being a “writer’s co-op” on his freaking submission page? Would have solved everything, wouldn’t it?

  36. Judy Huddleston says:

    Excellent job sorting out a very nuanced problem…I can see their approach might work if up-front from the start, but after reading your emails, am taking this press off my “submit” list. Thanks, Brett.

  37. […] for those of you following the Blazevox scandal (see the earlier post for a primer) it looks like I/we didn’t have to wait too long for a response. I’ve checking […]

  38. Steven says:

    Get over yourself, man. Books of poetry do not make any money. This is not an indictment of poetry, but rather a fact of the market. And with the economy taking big dump on pretty much everything that is exchanged for money, something that was hard to break even doing before has not become even harder. But no, Geoffrey should recognize your genius and invest money that he’s unlikely to see again in publishing your book, and that’s the only way to maintain any sort of integrity? If a writer helps a small struggling publisher with 10% of the cost of publishing a book it doesn’t make it a goddamned vanity press you self important little turd. A vanity press wouldn’t offer to cover 90% of the cost of publishing a book. This snooty attitude that you people have about not sullying your art has done nothing more than kill a small press that has brought a lot of great books into the world. But you stood up for what’s right, didn’t you? History will vindicate you, you little shit.

    • Steven says:

      *now become even harder. Apologies.

      • Brett says:

        Steven,

        I don’t need a lecture on the economics of poetry. I know they don’t sell. And like I said in the post, I have no problem with Geoffrey requiring donations IF he let people know beforehand. He didn’t. That’s what I was complaining about; that, and the fact that it felt like a scam. Should an editor’s emails really have that many damn typos? As for whether or not it’s justifiable to have a writer pay 10 percent: it might be, but he went about it the wrong way and for far too long, and people clearly took umbrage. That’s not my fault. That’s his.

    • Marcus says:

      Incredible. Did you read the post? Your characterization of Brett’s notes is based on something other than what he wrote. If you read it again, his frustration was not with the practice itself (though he would have abstained from submitting had he known it to be in practice) but with the utter inability of the press to respond to his questions with anything approaching completeness and interest. Which is an issue regardless of who the publisher is, or even what field we’re talking about.

  39. Aaron Lowinger says:

    Geoffrey’s managed to publish more books of poetry of all kinds than maybe anyone in recent years. I know him quite well, and he’s not a shyster, a huckster, a scammer of any kind. He’s never had money and money doesn’t seem motivate him at all. You let me know when you find a press, one that doesn’t lose money, to publish your book and in Gatza fashion I will say hurray!

    • Jill says:

      I don’t think there’s a lot of celebration going on–no one in the writing community will be pleased with a small press going under, especially one like BlazeVOX that has a good publishing record. The whole thing is upsetting. It was handled unprofessionally for years, given the comments here. I understand that the editor is stretched incredibly thin, but his careless responses to Brett are not those of a concerned editor who’s invested in his authors’ success.

      • You’re not qualified to say that Gatza is an editor unconcerned with his authors’ success, Jill, as you have not been one of his authors. As someone who knows many of his authors personally, I know that they think he is concerned with the quality of their work, its sales and marketing, and its “success” (readership, finances, however you measure that.) As an editor, he works for free, and does not take money for all of the work he puts into each book. To ask– in a very apologetic fashion– an author to help out with publishing costs is more than reasonable.

        • Sam Ligon says:

          I think you could be right, Jessica. And if he asked them up front, before they submitted, explaining that he was looking for a kind of financial partnership with his authors, there would be no discussion here.

        • Brett says:

          Jessica: I agree with your last sentence. That didn’t happen in my case. If it had, there would have been no problem.

    • Kyle says:

      It is clear from reading this post that the author hasn’t done his research–research about this press in particular or the publishing industry at large. While I can appreciate the fragility of the ego that the mfa is paid, by the poet to produce, I can’t accept this as a valid intellectual or historical charge against BlazeVox. Dreams of prizes, publication, validation and celebration of your poems and ideas are what you, or your parents, paid your poetry professors to fill you with. The prizes and publications are, quite often, rigged, and prey on the poets’ deepest insecurities, insecurities that are part of the mfa pedagogy at the core, and at it’s most deceptive and profitable state. BlazeVox is transparent, and rises in stark contrast to the predatory mainstream, by making their selection process, finances, politics, etc., clear as can be. If you’ve read their books, followed their presence online, listened to interviews with the publisher, etc., readers of this blog would realize the BlazeVox is the Mimeo revolution of the new media era. Gatza’s politics run parallel to Ed Sanders, Paul Blackburn, Amiri Baraka, and the other bold publishers of new American poetry that got the word out when commercial presses flinched (or simply didn’t care enough to notice). BlazeVox is what the independent press is all about, and if it needs money to float (as most presses do) there’s nothing wrong with asking author’s to pitch in. I pay for my six year old son to play on the soccer team, and the coach donates his time. My money helps cover the cost of oranges, balls, water, and other essentials. As Robert Creeley said, “poetry is a team sport.” Gatza has done a lot to change the game, more than most, and I’m extremely grateful for all he has given, especially to emerging writers.

      • david hadbawnik says:

        hello

        as someone who’s published a book with blazevox within the past year, i just want to chime in to state that i’m perfectly satisfied with my experience in every way. i also happen to live in buffalo at the moment and know geoffrey pretty well. he is a great guy. a guy who is about as supportive of the local poetry scene as you can possibly be. he wants to publish a lot of books because he loves poetry. i don’t know anything about these e-mails, but if you received one and you were uncertain about the process or didn’t feel comfortable with it, the thing to do is to turn down the publication offer. the whole thing seems to be blowing up in a rather insane way, with people venting about unethical practices who have no connection with blazevox and seem to be channeling some sort of rage at the poetry publishing industry in general. newsflash: it takes money to publish books. i would venture to guess that 90% of poetry books published each year don’t make the money it took to produce them (and even if you are doing POD, there is design, ISBN/bar code, upload costs to amazon, shipping, etc.). so as others have said, get back to me when you successfully run your own press, publishing even a fraction of the titles geoffrey has for half as long as he has.

        • KLM says:

          It’s silly that this is causing the press to close. If BlazeVox has been working as a writer’s co-op for some time, it should be made clearer. Clearly it has worked to some extent if so many people have been published and if at least many of them are happy with the arrangement. (BTW, How many of you folks who published with BV were asked to pay? Fess up.)

          I say, keep the press going, stand by the existing business practice and run with it as a strength. Let writers know what they will or won’t get from the arrangement up front. To close shop now that the de facto policy is out in the open does indeed make it seem like there was something to hide. Don’t let that taint the track record of books published. Keep publishing, but be as clear as possible on policies.

      • Sam Ligon says:

        Kyle, the problem is that BlazeVOX wasn’t transparent. If they’d indicated the sort of financial partnership they were looking for from writers (some? all?)there would be no discussion here. You pay for your son to play on the soccer team knowing the cost before the first practice. The problem here is that BlazeVOX is asking for money at the same moment they accept a manuscript, which feels manipulative. Again, if they were transparent, and indicated in their submission guidelines a required financial partnership or fee for publication, there would be no discussion here.

        • Kyle says:

          Transparency is more complicated than a contract or policy. This is art, not business, and while I admit that the business of books doesn’t follow any other business model, the codes of conduct could be clearer, from top to bottom, near and far.

          • Joseph Wood says:

            Kyle,

            You are correct it’s more than a contract or policy. It’s seeing what’s in the books, and if fundraising is needed to keep things going, then that should be fronted in the web presence.

            Salt was very clear, for instance, when they where going under and asked for money up front and shut down all submissions.

            But I suspect that Gatza wanted as much poetry as he could get into the world–no doubt, out of love for the art. But things do cost money (even for a small chap press) and trying to do everything as one man show probably was overwhelming.

            The art of BlazeVOX is terrific. But maybe less projects, a little more time on sustainability might be helpful?

  40. Daniel Romo says:

    Got an acceptance from them three days ago!

  41. I find the lack of transparency regarding the pay-to-publish nature of the press quite unethical and have therefore asked Geoffrey to remove my book, FROM OLD NOTEBOOKS, from BlazeVOX’s catalog. Many authors have published books with BlazeVOX under a misleading impression as to the type of press they were signing with, and now those books may be stigmatized as having been published with a “vanity press.” This is very troubling news, especially for a young author.

    I might add that Geoffrey’s claim that a book costs $2000 to publish is hard for me to believe, as he’s designing the books himself, using CreateSpace to print the books (no cost to the publisher), buying ISBNs in bulk ($1-$3 per book), using past proceeds from SPD to order new books for distribution, and marketing only on his blog/Facebook/twitter.

  42. […] Look here for the original post that broke the […]

  43. Jimmy says:

    When all of this is boiled down, it becomes clear that one or two issues are at play here. Either blazevox was incompetent when it came to the economics of publishing, and/or there is some shadiness at play. When we begin to crunch the numbers from those emails quoted above, a lot of the blazevox argument falls apart. I don’t know the specifics of their business model, and I’m sure this Geoffry fellow is a fine human being, but if they weren’t making money, why was the second tier of books even an option? Using the numbers blazevox claims, If they sent 30 of these “donation”-based acceptances and all 30 accepted, then they get $7500, and spend $52,500. If 12 accept the deal, the publisher makes $3,000 and spends $2,100. That is why this looks like a scam–you’re saying you aren’t making money, so instead of focusing on a smaller set of books you’re most excited about (those accepted without the requested “donation”), you create a scenario where you could potentially make $7500 only to spend $52,500 more. From there, it becomes clear that the numbers Geoff is using are not accurate/made up, which only furthers the ill-will and suspicion about the scheme in the first place. This all fall apart when we begin crunching numbers–why even bother with those extra books if the net result is still going to be a much, much, much bigger loss than is being taken in? Either there is some serious misrepresentation/lying happening here, or this is the worst run business ever. I’m not a business kind of person, but even I can see that the math here is absurd and non-sustainable, and I hope we someday find out exactly how all of this is working.

  44. Helen Vipond says:

    It may be simpler to buy a binding machine, spines and papers, type of the poetry yourself and bind it yourself then go to various shops to see if they will buy trial packs – you could do your own photography for front and back cover and may be inside pages – this way you are cutting out all the people who would get a cut from the price of your book. Form a group and perhaps get a few of the group to publish within your bound copy – it may then have an interest to retailers who are always looking for something new!
    kind regards Helen

  45. Amanda Surkont says:

    http://www.plainviewpress.net/pages/submissions.html

    Here is a another press that in my humble opinion is a vanity press. I cut a couple of sections out of their submission guidelines for the points I wanted to make, but I have posted the link above so you can read the entire page if you so desire.

    ****Our process is collaborative meaning you will be ****involved in every aspect of book making. It is an ****exciting and creative endeavor and we welcome letters ****of inquiry. You will find us open to activist and /or ****literary content many publishers won’t touch.

    >>>you notice in this section there is no mention of money.

    >>>more enticement
    ****We have recently begun to publish spoken word CD’s to ****accompany the books we present. If you are selected to ****do a book with us — ask about this option.

    ****If and when you send a full manuscript please include ****email contact information as well as your name and ****address on the title page, and some kind of ****identification on every page.

    >>> Here is the money request.
    We are an independent press with no outside funding. We will collaborate with you in fund-raising efforts that you spearhead. Our publishing model favors author’s retainment of rights.

    >>>to me this “fund-raising efforts that you spearhead” is a very very cleaver way to disguise plain old vanity publishing.

    I know that Plain View is under reconstruction and that Susan has passed away. This is not meant to get all the Plain View authors — that dished out money here–into a big brouhaha.

    It is just to point out that there have been plenty of other presses that have not been transparent in their business models. Susan would become very irritated when it was pointed out that Plain View was a vanity press; but people called it like they saw it. If the author is responsible for raising the money and the acceptance is dependent upon it; it is a vanity press.

    I hope in the reconstruction they publish only the number of titles the press can afford pay for.

  46. esther jones says:

    thank you so much for putting this information out to our circle for all to see and obsorb. it is difficult for those who are starting out and searching for truth when it is hidden. our work stems from the soul and should only have the utmost respect from those who are representing. as you put your experience on paper, unfortunately not always true. once again thank you for sharing

  47. […] donations/subsidies connected with accepted mss. If you’d like to get caught up, start here, then go here and then probably here. I imagine there will be other posts as […]

  48. We might all ask, amidst this controversy, why we are happy to pay reading fees for contests. Is this simply because that’s the way it’s done? And to put things in perspective: most of my colleagues in the humanities, when they publish a monograph with a university press, are asked to give a “subvention” to the press, on the order of thousands of dollars. This money tends to come from the college, not from the author’s own pockets. Again, this is the way it’s done, so there are no questions of transparency. I also find Kyle’s comments about the MFA (above) to be insightful, though they’re shaded to the negative (MFA programs also teach people to write better, which may be worth the cost, for instance). Finally, we might also consider that many of us, when we publish with a press that does not require our financial contribution, wind up spending quite a bit of money just buying extra copies of our own books, maybe as much as $250.

    I’m not exonerating BlazeVOX, but I’m seeing a lot of reactionary bombast here in this post and (especially) comments, with a few people rising to defend Gatza, or to temper the ire of the others. Maybe there’s some middle road that can help us chill out a little bit (or, on the contrary, get incensed against contest fees!).

    • Jimmy says:

      Okay, so people may spend more money to buy their books at different presses–so why didn’t GG just charge 2 dollars more a book? This is starting to look more and more like a nonsensical business decision compounded by dishonesty.

    • Marcus says:

      It seems you’ve resolved your own concerns in your mention of transparency. The core frustration was not that there was money being asked for, but the way in which that request was made. There’s a lot of silly naysaying on both sides here, but there have also been numerous intelligent posts (including the original) in which people are trying to explore the ethics and motivations of the editor’s request. That is the middle ground, is it not?

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