Like anyone else, I’d rather vainly sent out my manuscript for The Imagined Field (in one of any number of formats) to the myriad of contests, university publishers, and even a few big ones (even Graywolf, of all places) that dominate American publishing. I walked to the post office with fat envelopes under my arm like a pilgrim hiking to Santiago. I did this fairly often. Of course it got tedious, the $25 checks to contests I didn’t win, the extra postage for those big envelopes, the depletion of ink in my printer (unless, by some luck, the particular publishing house—or shed, in some cases—accepted email submissions).
I’d ask myself, naturally, why I was bothering with the whole thing at all. Did publication really matter? Who was I trying to reach and why? I’d be happy if my friends and family alone could read my book, or at least people who appreciated what I’ve done. Obviously, Copper Canyon was a long shot, as was the Yale Younger Poets, etc., etc. I understood there was a degree of ego to the whole enterprise. But who was I trying to impress?
Myself, for one. My wife, too. Not to mention my mother. And then there is the simple joy of holding a book in the hand, rather than a clumsy sheaf of papers. Sure, I could print my own chapbook—I’d done it before—but there is a sense of accomplishment that follows publication. I suppose I felt like Robert Frost when he was in England, sitting by the hearth and wondering why someone wouldn’t want to publish his little collection of poems…
It was by chance, or at least in the course of long research, that I came across Paper Kite Press, a small publisher in eastern Pennsylvania. They accepted manuscripts by open reading, and they accepted them by email. I sent it in, and they responded with a resounding yes fairly quickly. I was shocked, then relieved. But also a bit wary.
I don’t want to leave any impression that I was glad to have anybody publish my first book. I’d been warned to publish with a press that would keep my book in print, that would give it exposure, and so on. Paper Kite, as of now, has printed 100 copies of my book. I have 16 of those. Should I sell out that first hundred, they will print more. I’m not getting paid anything beyond my copies, but I don’t care. I can buy my own books at half-price and sell them for full, and will at any rate as I attend readings.
The real reason beneath all the economic aspects of the book (and I loathe to say that there even are economic aspects, but here we are in the 21st century) that I published with Paper Kite, I think, is that they overwhelmingly appreciated my book and felt it deserved to be in print. That is, the editors believed in it. The process to get it into print was simple, and I had all the freedom I could ask for, especially the cover, whose art I asked my friend Ryan Malmberg to create. He did, and it is attractive and fitting. I’m certain I drove the editors a bit ragged with my little changes and nitpicky edits over the proofs, but for this I was granted free reign to my perfectionism to assure the best book I could produce.
I feel that between Jennifer and Dan of Paper Kite, my friend Ryan and his Finch Design, and myself as writer, we have created a real collaborative effort of a “book.” Everyone is happy with it, and the goal is neither to make money or make anyone famous, but simply to create something beautiful. In that, I think we’ve succeeded.
Sean Patrick Hill is the author of The Imagined Field (Paper Kite Press, 2010) and Interstitial (BlazeVOX, forthcoming). He has been awarded the Zoland Fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, and has received residencies from Montana Artists Refuge and Fishtrap. He currently reviews poetry for Rain Taxi and Bookslut. His blog (theimaginedfield.blogspot.com