Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



January 2013

“Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”

Don Marquis

Publishing a Second Collection of Poems

Dear Reader,

The witty remark above is in my 3” writing binder, a repository for quotations, essays, clippings, drafts of poems, lists and ideas. The binder will burst if one more piece of paper is inserted. It is a helpful source for reflection because it contains years of careful collecting. As I proofread the final draft of A Brush with Words before I send it to the book designer, the opening quotation seemed more than appropriate.

Last month, I documented the twelve-year journey of one poem, “Elegy for a Plane Robber-Manila 2000.” Because I believed in it, I sent it out 34 times, to be exact. Twelve years after I wrote it, the poem will finally be published in The Comstock Review.

My first collection of poems, Gestures of Trees, is out-of-print. Why publish a second book of poems? The basic answer: we poets keep on writing poems. A decade is not a long time to accumulate enough poems that might become a book. In the case of A Brush with Words, a theme emerged early: art-related poems. A manuscript began to form.

I knew that I would be aiming for a limited market inside an already small audience. Did I foresee a best seller? Most poets already know the possibilities of that. Who was my target audience? People who appreciate art and art making, as well as readers who are interested in poetry about contemporary social issues.

In 2006, I attended a week-long intensive poetry manuscript workshop in the Berkshire Mountains. We examined our manuscripts inside-out and upside-down. It was exhausting and exhilarating. What have I done with the manuscript since? I have sent it out, sometimes to contests, sometimes for consideration during open reading periods. I hired a friend who is an excellent editor to sequence the 48 poems. Last year, the manuscript received semi-finalist position in a competition.

One poet who knows the travails of finding a publisher said, encouragingly, “You only need one to say yes.”

This fall, I sent the manuscript to the fortieth publisher. It came “very close” to being accepted. I had a limit for submitting it and finally reached it. I decided that I would explore cooperative publishing or self-publishing. The last publisher’s web site had an Our Services page that described its self-publishing business.

This experience is turning out to be something called “cooperative publishing.” My friend has a small press, and A Brush with Words will be published with her imprint. I am hiring a book designer and editor. I was fortunate to find one whose work is of the highest quality. He will send my manuscript to a printing company. The costs for all services will be mine to pay. Then I will market the book myself.

From an early estimate, I hope to break even by selling the paperback for $15. That is the cold truth: I will be making zero profit. That is how much I believe in my second poetry manuscript. A friend recently told me about an art researcher in Europe whose manuscript was recently accepted by a major publisher. As prestigious as that sounds, she will have to personally absorb all of the production costs for the book. The publishing world is changing, like everything else.

After many days devoted to scouring the manuscript for every detail that might need improvement, I am ready to send it out. No doubt there will be much more to learn on this adventure, but two words describe how I feel right now: excited and joyful!

The copy for the back cover includes an excerpt from one poem and this description:

In her second collection of poems, writer and visual artist Judith Ferrara employs motifs from the arts and literature to observe relationships between neighbors, spouses, parents and children, people and Nature, art and the viewer, and artists and Inspiration.


The cover will look like this: