Friday, October 27, 2006

Joel Rickett on the latest news from the publishing industry

JSince relaunching in 2002, Salt Publishing has marked itself out as a vigorous presence on the poetry scene. This Cambridge-based company draws authors from around the world - John James, Tony Lopez, Peter Robinson, John Wilkinson, Charles Bernstein, Maxine Chernoff, Forrest Gander, Peter Gizzi, Paul Hoover, Ron Silliman, Susan Wheeler. Unlike many small presses, Salt is unashamed about sales and marketing. Its books have stunning cover images and full-blooded launch campaigns; its slick website really exploits the potential of poetry online. In a recent blog posting, Salt's founder Chris Hamilton-Emery criticises the notion that publishers should simply churn out material without trying to find readers: "I find it rather hard to support any idea of artistic quality and value when no one wants something. It's hard to see what any available criticism and even academic support can make of all the dead stock, or indeed how anyone can establish a Canon of the Unread." He's even written a guide called "101 Ways to Make Poems Sell". This week Salt announced that it has won a £185,000 grant from the Arts Council to help it become one of the largest independent poetry and short-story publishers in the UK. Under a plan drawn up by former Waterstone's managing director David Gilbert, it aims to become a "self-sufficient, web-focused business". If it can become even moderately profitable, that would probably be a first for a modern poetry publisher.


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