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Why I am Subscribing to Poets & Writers Magazine, Right Now

PUBLISHED: February 26, 2010

As my exceedingly generous co-blogger, Jacob Silverman, posted last week, I recently had the very good fortune to land a book deal with the Harper imprint of HarperCollins. I could write a number of blog posts about how thrilled I am to have gotten a book contract with an amazing editor at such a great house. And I could go on for weeks about how lucky I am to have such a wonderful agent. But I can’t imagine any of that would interest anyone, except maybe my grandmother. Instead, I would like to dedicate my post today to the good folks at Poets & Writers magazine.

As I discovered last week, anxiously scouring the web for information on the submission process, the internet is filled—overflowing, really—with information about the publishing industry. Unfortunately, nearly all of this information can be slotted into one or more of the following categories: unfounded and unhelpful gossip, cheap hucksterism, self-helpy schlock, bitter back-biting, false evangelism, blatant copyright infringement, and valueless aggregation. For the most part, these peddlers of inside information are hoping to capitalize on misguided sacks like myself who think that a better understanding of the publishing industry will translate into success.

As a public service, I would like to state for the record that, aside from a few valiant and selfless bloggers, the internet contains only three useful sources of information about the American publishing industry: 1) Publishers Marketplace; 2) Publishers Weekly; and 3) the good folks at Poets & Writers. Although Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly pitch themselves as indispensible tools for anyone who comes in contact with the publishing industry, writers included, they are both trade journals at heart, useful for keeping tabs on the competition and keeping informed about the latest advances. As someone smarter than myself might have been able to surmise from their names, Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly are best left to the editors, agents, and publishers whose jobs depend on whether Ron Burkle is allowed to buy more shares of Barnes & Noble. Which brings me to Poets & Writers.

Founded forty years ago in the offices of the New York State Council for the Arts, Poets & Writers has gone through a number of different names and iterations, but through the years it has stayed true to its mission of supporting and informing writers at all stages of their careers: from aspiring to emerging to established. Of particular use to myself these past few weeks has been their series of conversations with agents and editors (e.g., 1, 2, 3). In these wonderful and extensive interviews, Grove/Atlantic editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler asks the top names in publishing those questions a writer would want to ask, as well as many questions a writer might not even think of. In the most anxious days of waiting to hear back from editors, pacing back and forth from my kitchen to my bedroom, refreshing my e-mail constantly, and so on, these interviews were my cooling salve. I limited myself to just one a day, but for those twenty or so minutes with Jofie, I was comforted by my expanding understanding of the publishing industry. Not that any of this helped me get a book deal, but it sure did make me feel better. And to me that is worth the world. For that piece of mind, for the Grants and Awards calendar, the Speakeasy, and all the articles I don’t have access to from their website, I’m going to subscribe to Poets & Writers right now.


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