Friday, October 7, 2011

A short follow-up pending something longer

I invited Kristen Iversen, editor (or maybe co-editor) of Orphan Press, to post a fuller response if/when she's moved to (or has the time among her other projects--so many of us have so many projects), but in the meantime I thought I would excerpt (with her permission) a quick email she sent me and some of the other editors at Orphan:

For one thing, to the best of my knowledge many of the presses you mention in your email are funded, at least partially, by universities, foundations, grants, etc.  Orphan Press is basically me and Greg, a writer and an artist with a lot of passion, some good ideas (we hope), and very small pockets.  We're working to develop other sources of funding, but it's tough and it takes time...
the short answer is that we put a great deal of research into contest fees and the literary market in general, as well as the type of book we want to produce.  We feel that this fee is fair and in line with the market, particularly given our emphasis on high quality overall.  We are a very small press, completely self-funded.  Everyone is on a strictly volunteer basis.  Every penny raised from the contest will go to pay our winner and to cover print and production costs--and we still will likely fall short.  There's no profit here, except for the satisfaction that we hope to experience when we discover a unique and compelling piece of work, and we can bring it forth into the world in a beautiful way.  As the press grows and we perhaps become the fortunate recipients of grants, donations, or other forms of support, we may be able to change our fee structure or offer other ways for our writers to get their work out into the world.
I've also invited Amy Wright, from Zone 3 Press, to post about the experience of running a cnf book contest for the first time at that press. I also invited her to talk a bit about the economics of the press and contest. They'd run contests in other genres previously, I think, but this was the first year of their cnf book contest (the great Lia Purpura picked a manuscript by Essay Daily's own Nicole Walker, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, as the winner; it'll be out in Spring 2013).

My hope is that we can have some frank and open conversation about the contest system and how it does or might work in the world of the essay, creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, and so on.

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