On Selling Noah Eli Gordon’s New Poetry Book Using the “Pay What You Want” Model


From February 14th to March 15th, we ran a new kind of book promotion: a person could pay whatever they wanted, plus $5 s/h, for a paperback copy of a poetry book, Noah Eli Gordon’s The Word Kingdom in the Word Kingdom. Much in the style of Louis CK, Radiohead, Corey Doctorow, Seth Harwood, & Neil Gaiman, except that I wasn’t selling a digital copy of a book, I was selling the print version–a much bigger risk, financially.

As you might imagine, the campaign perked a lot of ears.

But it was an interview I did with Flavorwire (Can This Small Publisher Change the Way that Books are Sold?) that really got the ball rolling. I received a bunch of emails after it was posted & spent the first three weeks in near constant discussion of the topic. Everyone wanted to know why we were doing it & how the promotion was going. Our campaign made international news with mentions in The Independent in the UK & Books & Publishing in Australia. We garnered mentions from the Poetry Foundation, Poets & Writers, Gulf Coast, Bustle, Coldfront, & various blogs, & were mentioned or retweeted by Publisher’s Weekly, CLMP, Small Press Distribution, City Lights, & other literary venues & bookstores.

The promotion was a huge success, by many metrics, & helped us get a better understanding of what readers are willing to pay for their poetry books: about $13, including shipping. Some people paid a penny, some paid twenty-five bucks. I don’t think this model can be the only model used in running a successful book campaign, but it is a very effective presale tool–it get’s the buzz buzzing, & has the capacity for going viral.

I’ll be explaining my findings more in-depth through forthcoming interviews with Entropy Magazine & Big Lucks, which I’ll post here upon publication.

Noah’s book is now available for $18, here.

Cheers, Joe

Anselm Berrigan & Jonathan Allen at Lu Magnus

We had a great turnout for the Anselm Berrigan reading at Lu Magnus this Saturday, thanks to the carnivalesque Kaleidoscope people dropping in for a bit of poetry on their parade about the city.

I am so proud of this book. Jonathan Allen spoke before Anselm read, touching upon the impetus for his work, which included an anecdote about digital media failing to load on his computer (hence the title of the book & show, LOADING) that first sparked this series of collages & the collaboration with Anselm.

The book is available for order from the Brooklyn Arts Press site.

Interview with Sapling



Kit Frick, the Chapbook Editor/Sapling Editor of Black Lawrence Press, interviewed me a few weeks back for the Sapling newsletter, which goes out to people who sign up for it. She’s allowed me to post the contents here:

For this week’s feature, Sapling talked to Joe Pan, Managing Editor/Publisher of Brooklyn Arts Press


Sapling: Brooklyn Arts Press publishes full-length books and chapbooks (in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction), as well as art monographs. Tell us a bit of your story—how did the press come to be, and what should people know about you?


Joe Pan: People should know we’re open to publishing anything, pretty much, if the work is strong & we admire it. Our bread & butter is poetry, with some fiction & art mixed in there, but that’s slowly changing. Right now I’m interested in opening BAP up to novels, hybrid & weirdo texts, nonfiction chapbooks, lyrical short fiction, art collaborations that involve various media (like print books with web-based counterparts), & the like. We will always be a press that publishes the first or second poetry books of emerging writers because that’s what we mostly receive during our submissions season.


As for how we came to be, BAP grew out of a need for small presses with open submission policies that charge no contest or reading fees. It also grew out of my own sense of adventure & egotism, since the first book I published was my debut collection of poetry.


S: As the Publisher and Managing Editor of BAP, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?


JP: I think you’ll get different responses from various publishers, but the difficulty of dealing with printers tends to be high on everybody’s list. The first book a new printer creates for you is always nearly flawless—they thrive on new business. The second book will arrive with the cover image printed at a lower dpi than your submission, or it will have pages falling out because of problems with the glue, or the final interior paper will be of cheaper quality or lesser weight than the paper used for the proof. I’ve experienced each of these problems & am much more involved in quality control checks at each stage of the process than when I first started out. Another major difficulty the small press faces at times is an adherence to strict deadlines (blurbs by this date, cover art by this date). Life happens, & when you depend on so many people to finish their respective jobs in order to move forward, you must be prepared to either handle the stressful complexities that arise from managing inflexible timetables or create situations where work can’t pile up.


The best part about running a small press is sitting in the audience while one of your writers reads from her first book of poetry at her first book party. The emotion present in these moments will blow you away. You get to enjoy the pride they take in their accomplishment, the subdued ecstasy of it being finished, when they kind of let go of the thing, finally, when the book becomes real, in effect, as it is first shared in this way with these listeners & future readers. There arrives a personal satisfaction, at some point during the evening, in having helped make this thing happen, a satisfaction that arrives in a fluster & then dissipates quickly, for some reason. But it was there & you felt good about it & everyone claps & gets up to socialize & you sit for a little bit longer & watch it happen & drink your wine.


S: BAP will be holding an its annual open reading period this coming June. When you bring a new author on board, what does the ideal author bring to you?


JP: Well, the ideal emerging author brings a sense of urgency & humility to a project, along with a desire to make his book the best it can be; he realizes his work is good but probably needs a healthy dose of editing; that what he wrote is not a precious object but a still-developing system, alive, & therefore growing, malleable, until it is finally not; he is an avid proactive self-promoter (ie, he’s willing to set up a reading at his local bookstore, or if he teaches, his university/college/school; he uses social media; he has videos on YouTube of him reading; etc); he has a complex understanding of where his work stands in relation to the work of other authors (or if really special, different camps, cultures, languages, & eras), & is confident in his ability to express these relationships from the perspective of a student, though he is humble & self-mocking of his own work & in no way self-congratulatory; he is generous with the time he gives to other authors & quick to make friends; he is above all curious—this is the ideal emerging author, from a publishing perspective. A smart, kind, efficient workhorse who loves literature the way literature deserves to be loved, & who will continue writing books with this goal in mind. This will make you proud while also growing your catalog, with the hope that his future readers will find their way back to earlier publications, one of which you own the rights to. The ideal accomplished author, for lack of a better term, from a publisher’s perspective, would be someone already famous for his talents who has sent you his latest surefire hit of a novel because he wishes to help launch your small press into the stratosphere by building a cult around it. Half of his book’s proceeds have been earmarked for dissemination to worthwhile charities. Also, he is a chef & loves cooking for you.


S: Where do you imagine Brooklyn Arts Press to be headed over the next couple years? Are there any changes you foresee taking place in the near future?


JP: Like I said, more long-form fiction & projects of interesting performance. In 2015 we will be publishing our first academic book with the Norwegian Theatre Academy, with support from MIT, the University of Kiel, & other renown international universities. After I took that project on, I realized the press had to change to meet my broader vision, devotions, & tastes. I really just want to publish work that excites me. None of us are here for very long.


S: What one or two small presses deserve serious recognition in the eyes of BAP, and why should more people be checking them out?


JP: Last summer I brought some small presses up for a residency at Mount Tremper Arts Festival in New York. Those presses were: Argos Books, Birds LLC, Epiphany Chapbooks, & Fewer and Further Press. These are run by people who love poetry, plain & simple, & they spend an enormous effort making sure good work sees the light of day. I also continue to be impressed by Wave Books, H_ngm_n, Black Ocean…I wish there was more small-scale fiction collectives out there, doing the kind of work Foxhead Books is trying to do. I understand that this is more than two small presses & I feel bad about it but I’m a talker & these are good presses.


S: What’s at the top of your list to read this summer?


JP: Manuscript queries & then full-length manuscripts, approximately 300-600 of them. I’m always weirded out by having to list the titles of books I’m reading for an interview, knowing they’ll end up in print, & if they turn out to suck, I can’t erase them. I have about 20 chapbooks I purchased or traded for at the CUNY Chapbook Festival that I’m eager to pace through, a few big old school novels from the turn of the century (this turn, this century), & some work by friends. That’ll do, I think.


S: Just for fun (because we like fun), if Brooklyn Arts Press had a brain, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?


JP: It would obsess over its strange, newly developed cover art fonts, its burgeoning marketing initiatives, & the overwhelming anxiety it often feels early in the morning & late at night, stemming from a juvenile sense of predestination & doom. You’re gonna be fine little fella.




To check out Brooklyn Arts Press online, visit: http://www.brooklynartspress.com/




Joe Pan’s debut collection of poetry, Autobiomythography & Gallery, was named Best First Book of the Year by Coldfront Magazine. His poem “Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper,” a piece about drones, recently made the front page of The New York Times. He grew up along the Space Coast of Florida, attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, & serves as the poetry editor for the art magazine Hyperallergic. His poetry has appeared in such journals as Boston ReviewDenver QuarterlyEpiphanyH_ngm_n, & Phoebe, his fiction in Glimmer Train &Cimarron Review, & his nonfiction in The New York Times. Joe is the founder & publisher of Brooklyn Arts Press, an independent publishing house.



Mount Tremper Arts Festival

(pictured top left clockwise to bottom left: Martin Rock, Jess Mynes, Joe Fletcher, Sampson Starkweather, Ana Božičević, Paige Taggart, Bianca Stone, Liz Clark Wessel, Mathew Pokoik, Iris Cushing, Aynsley Vandenbroucke, Joe Pan) Wendy P. & Liz S. not pictured.

The trip to Mount Tremper Arts Festival was incredible, magical, a relief, a renewal, & so on. I was lucky enough to share this space with these amazing people for five days. We fished, we talked poetry, we wrote, we performed, we debated, we answered questions from the audience, we learned from one another, we ate incredible food & lounged & watched Kota Yamazaki and Asa perform two Butoh dances. & we saw bears, one big one in an apple tree & a cub in Phoenicia. & we had fireworks.

The small presses represented were Argos Books, Birds, LLC, Brooklyn Arts Press, Epiphany Editions, & Fewer & Further Press.

Someone will write more about this trip, but for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy remembering it on my own terms.



Mount Tremper Arts Festival

Brooklyn Arts Press will be attending the Mount Tremper Arts Festival on August 3rd. The images and text below comes from their catalogue. Recognize the pic? It’s going to be a blast. I’ve already signed up Jess Mynes from Fewer & Further Press, Martin Rock from Epiphany, Iris Cushing and
Elizabeth Clark Wessel from Argos Books, and am hoping to snag possibly one more indy publishing house for the pig roast / reading /  Q&A with Publishers & Editors of Small Presses. Mount Tremper is an amazing artist’s retreat located in a small town outside Woodstock, NY. Having known Aynsley Vandenbroucke (owner & operator of the farm & festival, along with her husband, photographer Matt Pokoik) from her dance school days at NCSA, I saw the property in various stages of development. Today their festival is recognized as one of the great New York summer art events, as well as an established residency and retreat for artists. The poet Christian Bök will be reading there on July 27, the week before we arrive, and the choreographer Kimberly Bartosik will be showing a new piece on June 23rd. I saw one of Kimberly’s pieces performed with two of my friends, Jonathan Allen and Joanna Kotze, at Dance Space last year, and was wowed. I had the chance to meet her at a picnic last Saturday and she’s excited about the piece, which she began working on at Jacob’s Pillow recently. I’m also thrilled to be able to catch the Kota Yamazaki dance being performed the day after us; the whole thing should be fun, so if you’re in the neighborhood, or fancy a drive, visit www.mounttremperarts.org for more details.

Join Brooklyn Arts Presspublisher Joe Pan for a dynamic reading by poets-in-residence followed by a barbecue and Q&A with small press publishers and editors discussing their experiences in the field.Small presses have served an historic function within the literary community, at times helping to define the eras in which they participate. From launching careers to fostering deserving but overlooked writers to preserving the aesthetics of book arts, the initiatives taken by DIY publishers today are as important as ever in ensuring important writing finds its readers.Brooklyn Arts Press is a small press that publishes full-length poetry books and chapbooks, art monographs, and lyrical short fiction from new and emerging artists and writers.

Chapbook Festival at CUNY

I spent the last two days selling books at the Chapbook Festival held at CUNY, and had a blast. So many poets and writers interested in the crafting of these small, intimate objects of varying sizes and shapes and textures. I have a book from the Flying Guillotine Press with gauze webbing hanging from the edges. Lots of saddle-stitched and stapled books, some perfect bound (like mine), and others bound in the most imaginative ways (I’m thinking of Small Fires Press’ matchbooks). I sat next to Robert Snyderman of The Corresponding Society and Kate Angus of Augury Books and had a great time talking with them. Because the event was so small, roughly 50 independent houses, I was able to walk around and speak to most of the other vendors, and was pleased to make some new friends from my fellow bookmakers. I also enjoyed talking to people about the future of ebook technology, and what that may mean for chapbooks.

I also did a bit of swapping and shopping. Here’s what I picked up:

The Blacksmith by Robert Snyderman (The Corresponding Society)
Leaving the Atocha Station (IHP Pamphlet #3) by Ben Lerner (The Physiocrats)
Abu Ghraib Arias by Philip Metres (Flying Guillotine Press)
To Mend Small Children by B.C. Edwards (Augury Books)
Mass of the Phoenix by David Brazil (Trafficker Press)
Fossil by BJ Love, Friedrich Kerksieck, & Cherie Weaver (Dusie Kollektiv)
Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me by Mark Leidner (Factory Hollow Press)
Parents by Farrah Field (Immaculate Disciples Press)
Szent Laszlo Hotel by G.C. Waldrep (Projective Industries)
Wichman Cometh by Ben Pease (Monk Books)
Deformation Zone by Johannes Goransson & Joyelle McSweeney (UDP)
Matchbook Volume #3 (Small Fires Press)
Evelyn Evelyn Evelyn Ballard by Brian McDonald (Charlton Publication)
The Sea in Me by Popahna Brandes (The Corresponding Society)
Into by Christopher Sweeny, Robert Snyderman, Lonely Christopher (TCS)
Why I Like Chapbooks by James Haug (Factory Hollow Press)
Badger, Apocrypha by Adam Day (The Poetry Society of America)
In Search of Mariachis by David Shumate (Epiphany Editions)
Talking Doll by J. Hope Stein (Dancing Girl Press)
Goat in the Snow by Emily Pettit (Birds, LLC)
List by Deb Olin Unferth (New Herring Press)
31 Poems by Dean Young (Forklift, Ink.)

Can’t wait to do it again next year. A special thanks to Sampson Starkweather, who put together the book fair and who is awesome.