Algebra of Owls poetry magazine is one week old. I knew it was a crazy idea, but persevered on the principle of “if I build it they will come”. I recently read a piece by a small press publisher laughing at the idea of a “poetry establishment”, commenting that most people involved in any kind of publishing, whether electronic or print, were at best “nutty idealists” and probably all have sheds with telescopes. I would add “ludicrous optimists” to that description.
A poetry magazine needs poems. Ones that I would like to read, rather than any old poems. Therefore job number one is to ensure a steady supply of such poems to post.
- There are Facebook groups for submission calls. The two largest (five-figure memberships) are US-centric, and have generated a small but appreciable stream of unsolicited work. The only UK equivalent group I have found has about 300 members and has generated diddly squat.
- There are two major online listings of magazines open for submissions in the UK. I have contacted them both. They have ignored me.
- I have made sporadic posts in various Facebook groups connected with poetry groups in Yorkshire which has yet to bear any fruit.
The unsolicited work has been patchy. There have been a couple I wanted to post. Bruce Sager’s poem and another by an Irish poet that will appear on Sunday. This has been supplemented by solicited input from poets I know through local events and my online mutterings through this blog. Even there, less than half the people I contacted have been forthcoming (who? what? eh?). Finally there has been the process of scouring whatever sources I can find to locate poems I might want to re-produce. So far that has generated one post scheduled for next week.
I note that a number of the unsolicited submissions failed to adhere to what is quite a simple list of instructions. It turns out that people that can read and follow a few basic instructions generally write much better poetry than people that can’t do that. No surprise there, I guess.
The second job is to enlarge readership. Appropriate tagging pretty much ensures a basic level of readership via the normal channels of WordPressery, and from a diverse international audience. This has been helped along by online chums, notably Robert Okaji (thanks, Robert!) whose mention of my my publication of his poem in his own popular blog generated a decent amount of traffic. Then there is the associated Facebook page, and self-sharing by the contributors contributes to a few extra page likes etc etc. That’s the organic side. I have supplemented that by a very modest amount of paid promotion (Facebook advertising is very cheap) which has chuffed up about 30 extra page likes from the major urban centres of the North of England in a short space of time.
The reality is that print magazines will always have more kudos than e-zines, although I strongly suspect this bias is more pronounced in the UK than the US. Print publication has a weight to it. In contrast, what e-publications have, frankly, is potential readership that print magazines can only dream of. They are free to read. Already, after just one week, AoO will allow a poem to be read by countless people who would never see it in a print journal. They also have an immediacy, in that someone can directly click on links from an e-zine page if they like what they see, such as links to Amazon. It’s more of a pain to do that if you read something you like on paper.
One change I will make, I think, is to maybe do some online reviews of pamphlets. We shall see about that. Beyond that, it’s just a lot of bloody work for no reason other than it interests me and is fun.
It does occur to me that AoO reflects some of my own values. I never expect to make a penny from writing, nor is it a goal. I just like it if people get the opportunity to read my poems, and that’s it. AoO will never try and make money because it isn’t the point, and I would love it if I could afford to eradicate the irritating free ads that appear. Nor will I ever publish my own work or self-promote in any way on AoO; I am doing it largely anonymously in any case.
Wow. A whole post without me being remotely flippant.