This interview was originally published in Issue #545 of the Sapling newsletter from Black Lawrence Press. It is republished here by kind permission.
Sapling: Tell us about the process of getting your book published. Did you enter contests? Open reading periods? What transpired between sending the manuscript out initially and its acceptance by your publisher?
Ellen Stone: It took over 3 years and several revisions to get my book published. I sent it out about 50 times to both contests and open reading periods. It got some good feedback and was a finalist a few times, but my book was not selected for publication. With the help of a poet friend, I eventually decided it needed to be leaner and more chronological. These changes were inspired by my eventual publisher who read a selection of poems I sent initially and asked good questions about how the poems were cohesive and connected. It still took a long time to hear back from my publisher and I had nearly given up on the book when I heard it would be published.
Sapling: What was your experience with the editing of the manuscript? Did you have an opportunity to make revisions either at your own suggestion or at the suggestion of your editor? How involved were you in the design aspects of the book’s production (cover image, design, etc.)?
ES: Editing my manuscript with Mayapple Press was actually fun. I was able to add a few new poems and edit one poem that needed more work. We did most of it over the phone with occasional email follow up. I felt I was with the right editor when I was told the book was strong and essentially ready when I sent it. My suggestion for my cover was accepted, as was the font for the title. I love the outcome!
Sapling: Did you publish any excerpts in literary journals or other periodicals before the publication of your book? If so, did this seem like a necessary part of the process for this particular project?
ES: It took me a long time to bring this book to completion, so most of the poems were already published in journals. I needed this step for my confidence, I guess. For a number of years, I just put my head down and focused on sending out poems. I didn’t worry about a book until I had a bunch of poems published, then I put a manuscript together. I’m not sure I would recommend that process though, as it took a long time, especially since I struggled to find the right publisher. Now, of course, I can say it was worth it!
Sapling: In what ways have you been involved in the publicity and promotion of your book thus far? In what ways is your publisher helping you with marketing your book?
ES: I got great advice from both my publisher and a colleague on promotion. Some of the best advice was to become an expert on the theme of my book. This led me to a collaboration with a bipolar research group who wanted to do an art/poetry event in Detroit. I was lucky to have a large book launch at Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, after a smaller event at my high school before our state shut down. Since then, events I set up through the end of spring have been canceled or postponed. I am exploring on-line venues and social media I had not been relying on previously. My publisher assists in streamlining information about my book events and marketing on their website.
Sapling: What are some things that surprised you about the process of getting your book published? Is there anything you wished you’d known beforehand about putting a book out into the world?
ES: Yes, actually I wish I had known the importance of finding a publisher that matched me instead of trying to win a contest. Once I found Mayapple, I knew I wanted them to publish my book. Their values match mine. I also feel like I now know what it feels like to put a book together, which poems fit, and how a book tells its story. I do wish poets talked more about this process with each other to de-mystify the process, although I wonder if it just a different journey for each of us, based on what kind of poets we are.