A Blazevox Epilogue

You may have seen that the NEA/Blazevox controversy was recently mentioned in the Huffington Post.  In a post that hit the web yesterday, Geoffrey Gatza was interviewed by Anis Shivani.

After reading the interview, I wanted to address one portion of the interview.

About halfway through, Mr. Gatza says:

I would like to make it known that in our offer to publish books with a co-operative donation, if the author did not want to participate in this we also made an offer to publish their work as an ebook in Kindle and EPUB and PDF format and have it available on Amazon.com and iBooks. And if that was still not acceptable, we could wait until our financial outlook was stable and we would then publish their book without a donation. I think that this is a fair arrangement, as do many writers. I think that this is a very successful program and we were able to promote good writers. (Note: Emphasis is mine)

The problem is, he’s not telling the truth.

In my correspondence with him, I specifically asked him if my book would be published if I did not contribute. After I got Gatza’s initial acceptance, I emailed a few pals and they said that they had been given the “offer” and declined, and Mr. Gatza had published their book later, sans donation. I was hoping that this would be the case. (I would have been fine waiting.)

Instead, when I asked him if my work would be published if I did not donate, his response was “No of course not.”

I point this out, not as an accusation, but as a matter of fact. On this matter, Mr. Gatza is simply not telling the truth. I feel obliged to correct him, not because it speaks to his veracity, but my own.

Many in the poetry community seem to view Mr. Gatza as something like a saint. Given his substantial contributions, that may be justified, but even saints are capable of lying.


  • Scott says:

    But, Brett, Gatza says more than just “No of course not” in the correspondence you posted. He also says, “we will keep your work on file.” This seems consistent with his recent statement, “we could wait until our financial outlook was stable and we would then publish their book.” If your work is being “kept on file,” maybe that’s not very reassuring to you, but it’s also very different than saying your work will NEVER be published without a donation.

    Gatza did not give you a four word answer. There was more to his response, even though we don’t know the exact context of the question.

    • Brett says:

      Scott: I’d argue that the overall context of the email correspondence make it pretty clear that my work wouldn’t be published if I didn’t donate. I mean, there were rushed replies full of typos, lots of inconsistent numbers (both regarding submissions received and the number of manuscripts accepted), and most importantly, the complete utter surprise of the whole issue of a semi-mandatory contribution issue.

      Actually, after I asked him whether it would be printed without a donation, I let him know that, if published, I would go all out in an effort to sell books (holding readings, buying copies to sell, etc.) I simply didn’t want to pay for my work.

      (I didn’t post that because the post was already way the hell too long.)

      He didn’t respond to that, and I then sent him a long email that was the basis for my first post. I said that I was planning on blogging about the issue. In it, I didn’t demand publication. (On the contrary, I already had decided I was against going with BV.) Rather, for the sake of transparency, I simply asked him to announce the contribution policy on his website and let folks know that not all authors have to pay. That didn’t seem like too much to ask.

      He never addressed those concerns, so I posted.

  • Scott says:

    Brett, your post is clearly an accusation. And I just want to point out that the fact that your manuscript was not published by BlazeVOX is not evidence that Gatza’s statement in the Huffington Post is a lie.

    We do know that many other authors who were unwilling or unable to make the donation did indeed have their books published. Possibly they navigated the situation differently than you, though I don’t know that. It seems that your correspondence with Gatza grew sour, and that both sides were increasingly suspicious (or at least increasingly less enthusiastic) about working with each other. That’s understandable. I’ve heard many stories of publishers and authors who parted ways when the communication got strange. It doesn’t have to mean that either side was dishonest.

  • Brett says:

    Scott: No, my post is an attempt to keep my name clear. Throughout this entire process, I told the truth and was straightforward as possible.

    Regarding your notion that Gatza’s offer to keep my manuscript “on file” could have been an offer for publication: no, when one views that entire email in context, it’s pretty clear that my book wasn’t going to be published without a donation.

    Here it is again in its entirety:

    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.

    That doesn’t seem like “Oh, we’ll publish it later.” If that was the case, why send it elsewhere where it could be published? And why not mention the possibility that this would be the case?

    It wasn’t just this instance that inspired me to post originally. In his first email, he said he selected 30 books from 928 manuscripts; in another, he said he selected 30 from 420. On his donation page (now defunct), it said 30 from 728 manuscripts.

    Other folks whom I heard from–and there were a bunch (I know of folks–got different numbers too. That goes way beyond sloppiness.

    Plus he made other claims that were highly suspect. That it cost $2000 to produce print-on-demand books. Those numbers simply didn’t add up; when I printed my literary magazine a few months back, our costs didn’t even come close to this–and we print at a brick-and-mortar printer (Bookmobile).

    And even moreover, I heard from other folks who got the offer and in all Gatza indicates he lost a major donor. It’s bizarre he’d lose one every year. (How many “major donors” can one have?)

    Add all that up, and he wasn’t just wildly sloppy. He simply wasn’t telling the truth.

  • Scott says:

    Hi Brett, I had thought that our back and forth was about a very specific charge you made about a specific statement in the Huffington Post interview–a charge that I didn’t agree with–but now I see this is about something different. It’s about your reputation. You have stated that your motivations are to “keep your name clear.”

    No need. The interview really wasn’t about you. As far as I know, no one (and certainly not me) is calling your honesty into question. We just don’t agree, but it isn’t an issue of whether you told “the truth.”

    BlazeVOX doesn’t need to be condemned for you to be acquitted, because I don’t think you are on trial.

    I mean you no ill will, and I’d really rather seek positive interactions. I wish you all the best.

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