Sunday, 27 March 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Two poems for Easter'

Dear readers,

I'd like to wish a Happy Easter to all of you who celebrate this holiday – and to those who simply enjoy any holiday (or any excuse to eat chocolate). I'm hoping to have a day off myself, so instead of the usual update, I enclose two very different, somewhat-seasonal poems; one from our most recently published poet, Di Slaney, and the second from the first poet we ever published, Nigel Gerrans. I hope you enjoy them.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

& egg

from Reward for Winter

 A small white bird, waiting at the back,
 weighing up her options. She might attempt
 to wing it, puff out her orange chest, pre-empt
 the strike of sharpened beaks, avert attack
 from meaner hens of scornful, worn demeanour.
 Or she may stay put, hope no one has seen her,
 miss out again on corn and worms: stay thin,
 keep wondering what to do to be let in.

 Now it’s lying here, the palest shade
 of arctic green, out of place between the
 earthy brown and speckled cream. She laid
 this one, no doubt that it’s hers. When
 he comes back to clear the nest, he’ll
 hold it up, then smile. Subtle, little hen.

Communion Anthem

from It Is I Who Speak: Selected Poems

 This is my body, offered you,
 A body, torn and racked with pain,
 Calling you back to walk my way,
 And know your finer selves again.

 This is my life-blood harshly shed,
 Drained to the last for care of you,
 Calling you from the vain and false,
 To claim the beautiful and true.

 I had no other I could share,
 There was no more that I could give,
 Open your hands at my table here,
 Come, that you may learn to live.

 My feast shall fill you with my life,
 My love shall hold you day by day,
 You are to be my body now,
 So dare to give yourselves away.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Mild Erotica OR How to Sell Poetry Books

Mildly Erotic Verse has been selling briskly, so I ordered a reprint a few weeks ago. I timed it well, as I ran out of copies on the exact day the new books were due, but... they never arrived.

Now, I use a nice, slightly pricey printer precisely so I don't have to panic in such situations, and I'm confident that they will sort it all out for me. However, I did feel a twinge of alarm when they informed me that FedEx had delivered my books to my neighbour J. Johnson in number 21, as the flats in my building only go up to 14. Who are you, J. Johnson, and why did you sign for a box marked MILDLY EROTIC VERSE?

FedEx will return to this not-my address today, retrieve the box, and redeliver to me tomorrow. It's going to be fine. But part of me wonders what if J. Johnson decides to keep the books. At £10 a pop, that box is worth £1000! Mildly Erotic Verse is a handsome-looking volume, and sex sells, right?

I'd rather have my books back, J. Johnson, but who am I to extinguish the hopes of a bright new poetry salesperson when there are so few of us out there as it is? If you really want to make a quick grand off poetry books, I can only wish you well. Here are some tips to get you started:

* * *

How to sell (stolen) poetry books

  1. Read it. Read the book so you understand what it's about and why someone might like to buy it. Then you'll have the makings of a sales pitch, which you can refine according to the customer. For example, you could say to your mum: 'Mildly Erotic Verse is a thoughtfully-assembled collection of contemporary poetry. Don't let the title fool you – it's definitely erotic, but not in a queasy way. It makes a great gift, and also a treat for yourself. I loved it so much I stole a box of it.'
  2. Put yourself in the readers' shoes. Now you've identified why someone might like to buy this book, think about who might like it. Mildly Erotic Verse is edited by two twenty-something women, presumably according to their tastes and what they wanted to see available in the world, so you could create one customer profile around them. Something like: twenty-something women interested in feminism, activism and the arts. 
  3. Sell direct. If you try to sell the books in bookshops, you're not going to get that full £1k, and you certainly won't get it quickly. If you want these books off your hands within a couple of months, try running some events and selling at craft fairs. You can't contact any of the poets in the book in case they alert me, but you could still book the upstairs room in a pub somewhere and bill it as an open-mic night for erotic verse. If the pub charges you a booking fee, you could charge for entry to the event, though then you would have to spend quite a lot of time promoting it to make sure people come. 
  4. Stay local. If you want to make £50k on poetry books, you have to go national, if not global. If you want to make £1k, you should probably focus on your local area. You don't want to cut into the k with travel expenses and shipping costs, and also you're far more likely to catch people's attention and sell books if you can say the word 'local' frequently and with conviction. 
  5. Share your story. Maybe a grand is all you need to step on a plane and glide towards a new country and identity. If you can afford to burn bridges and get your name on an Interpol list, why not brand yourself as the Mildly Erotic Maverick and tell everyone about how you took a chance on a box of books? Gain a bit of local notoriety, boost it by getting kicked out of Ann Summers for loitering round their book section with a bin bag, then sign all your remaining copies of Mildly Erotic Verse and charge more for these special editions. 
Godspeed, J. Johnson.

* * *

Legitimate copies of Mildly Erotic Verse are available to buy on the Emma Press website for £10 here. Any books posted out from tomorrow will be the very ones featured in this blog.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Reward for Winter'

Dear readers,

I'm pleased to report that, as of today, the wait is over: Valley Press is once again open to general submissions. We're looking for new works of poetry, fiction and non-fiction for publication in 2017; you can find out exactly how to go about sending us your work here.

There are a couple of changes to the process this time round, as part of our year-long Arts Council project (thanks again folks!); the first is the length of the window, which will be open from today right through to November 30th without closing (so plenty of time to consider what you'll send). The second is that, instead of the usual 'covering letter', we're asking you to fill in a short paper form; these will be sent out with all book purchases through the website from today, and also distributed at special 'author outreach' events we will be organising throughout the year. Details of those will be in future newsletters, so keep watching this space. And, best of luck!

This week's title isn't a reference to the re-opening of submissions (though it may feel like it for those waiting since December), nor is it a comment on the improving weather (though we're getting there) – it's actually the title of our next book, as pictured above, the first collection by poet and smallholder Di Slaney.

Due for release this coming Thursday, Reward for Winter was inspired by Di's 'life change', ditching her high-powered urban existence to become custodian of an ancient farmhouse in the village of Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire. There's a lot more to it than that though; a third of the book is a biography of a single chicken, and there are Vikings, witches, coal mining, King Charles the First hiding in the farmhouse's cupboard (true story), and tales of the other 150+ animal residents.

I could go on (a lot) – and I haven't described how great it is (take that as a given) – but you can get the gist on the book's homepage, the rest of the backstory in this article from the Nottingham Post, and read a sample poem on our site titled 'How to knit a sheep' (which is a must, if you have a spare moment). I'll talk more about this book next week, but Nottingham residents need to know about two launch events happening before then; one at Five Leaves from 7pm on Wednesday, and one at Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum from 6pm on Saturday.

We're a bit link-heavy this week, but I'll take advantage of that and end with a few more: a brilliant write-up of the launch event we had last week for Malene Engelund's The Wild Gods; an enlightening (yet enigmatic) interview with Malene; and the second part of my series of articles on small press publishing are all out there in the world – I don't want to hear any subscribers saying they are stuck for things to read in the next seven days!

The clocks go forward next Sunday, so the next time I speak to you spring will have definitely, unquestionably, sprung. See you on the other side.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 13 March 2016

This week at Valley Press: spotlight on 'The Boy in the Mirror'

Dear readers,

Back in September, we published The Boy in the Mirror by Tom Preston; a hugely original memoir about being treated for stage 4 cancer, written in the second person. It's become clear since then (and I had a suspicion at the time) that this is one of the most important books VP has published so far – you might remember one reviewer saying it "should become the go-to recommended reading for the friends and family of a cancer sufferer", which is quite a statement.

Unusually, the book is about to have a second round of publicity: it's been shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award, as announced yesterday at a festival in Leicester. For our international readers, I should explain: the East Midlands is a region of England between Yorkshire and the south – you could have guessed that much, I suppose – and the award was for literary work by writers who live in that region.

With a prize of £1000 at stake, I hope we'll all have our fingers crossed for Tom when they announce the overall winner in June (date to be confirmed). If you live in that region, keep an eye out for any displays relating to the award in bookshops, and let us know.

There's been another development too, coincidentally at exactly the same time – an audiobook version of The Boy in the Mirror has just been released; the very first Valley Press audiobook, ever. This is the result of months of work, not by us but by an audio production company called Storytec (whose director is called Jaime, and went to the same tiny university as me – lots of coincidences today!) It's been expertly narrated by Alex Wyndham, who you might have seen on TV in Rome, The Crimson Field etc; we did auditions and everything. It's been really exciting to see it all come together.

So: let me do you a deal. You can get 20% off the paperback of The Boy in the Mirror all this week, with the code BOY20; and anyone who buys it using that code will get a free copy of the audiobook – I'll email you a voucher which can be used on (I can't do the same internationally, sadly). If you need a little more convincing, you can read the book's first chapter here and listen to it here. It's not for the faint-hearted, obviously, but if you want to be challenged by some non-fiction this week, this is your chance.

I don't want to overstay my welcome, but I can't leave without a last plug for The Wild Gods launch event, which is happening tomorrow (Monday 14th) from 7pm, at the Genesis Cinema on Mile End Road in London. Oh – and this was also the week I started a new series of articles, over at, which (when read in full) will work as guidelines for making a living as a self-employed literary publisher. If you don't plan on doing that, it may not be of much interest; but 500 people have read the first part already, so it might be more relevant than I thought...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 6 March 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'A labour of love'

Dear readers,

Let me start by wishing a happy Mother's Day to all of you, especially my mother of course (always VP's number one fan), and any mums-to-be who might be reading – we've got a lot of time for them at the moment. You know how it is: you labour for nine months to bring something beautiful into the world, then delivery day comes, and everyone involved is anxiously pacing, waiting for news ... but then it arrives, you open the box, and find it's every bit as wonderful as you imagined.

Oh, hang on – I'm thinking of publishing. But that's good too!

Our latest 'labour of love' is due out this coming Thursday: The Wild Gods by Malene Engelund. You can see part of the extraordinary cover art for this book in our header image, and of course the full thing on the book's homepage here. Thanks to artist Polly Morgan and photographer Tessa Angus for letting us use that work, titled 'Blue Fever' – find out more about the artwork here, if you wish.

The contents of the book, which strictly speaking is a 'debut pamphlet', are equally impressive. Just reeling off the key subjects – birds, the voices of women, Denmark, art and artists – doesn't touch the surface; this one is all about the language, the very best of ambitious, modern poetry. I've added a sample poem to the website here, one of the most 'immediate' pieces, and if you like that I'd definitely encourage reading more.

Long-time Valley fans may remember Malene, and her poem 'Scold's Bridle', from our 2013 anthology Pocket Horizon, which has proven an extraordinarily fruitful source of talent – Malene is the third 'graduate' from that book to have a solo publication with Valley Press. As a tribute, I'll make that our half-price paperback of the week; use code 50POCKET at the checkout to get the deal.

We'll be launching The Wild Gods on Monday 14th March, at the Genesis Cinema on Mile End Road in London, from 7pm – hope to see some of you there. Don't forget we have a launch this week too, for Mr Jolly; that one is on Wednesday 9th, from 6pm at Cafe Society in Huddersfield. No shortage of literary events at the moment!

If you think the books are coming thick and fast this year, you're right – and they won't be stopping, we are aiming for at least twenty-one titles in 2016. And don't worry; we'll be looking for 2017 submissions soon, I'm planning to open the floodgates two weeks today. Come back next Sunday too, though, for some more exciting news.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher