My second chapbook, Tiktaalik, Adieu, is forthcoming in November 2014 from Finishing Line Press, and the quick publishing timeline for this chapbook (as well as my first chapbook) surprised me. I thought I’d share what the publishers asked of me prior to publication, and some of the options I considered for cover art.
The most important thing I can say about circulating a chapbook manuscript to contests and publishers is to have it absolutely finalized before it is submitted. (Both of my chapbooks were published with no significant changes.) All proofreading, paid manuscript critiques, poem ordering, poem title changes, length of manuscript, notes, section headings, epigraphs, etc. should be completed. I had about four weeks from the point I was given a contract to send the publisher my materials. There isn’t time after you’ve had an acceptance to write new poems, to make substantial changes to your manuscript, or to begin to investigate cover art options. During that four weeks the publishers want 1) author photos, 2) book blurbs, 3) digital version of the manuscript including all front material (acknowledgments, dedication), 4) cover art, 5) any permissions needed to publish your book, 6) potential list of contacts for marketing purposes. Most publishers are extremely busy and will rely on you to do much of the legwork. All this is in addition to your own marketing efforts promoting the book and scheduling readings. If you don’t have social media accounts at this point (Facebook, Twitter, website), the pre-publication period is the time to set all of that up.
Cover art is available from many sources. For the first book, I used an image from the Smithsonian Museum that I had to pay for. (My original choice for the cover was a painting from the a British museum, but it was $1,000 for that image of a Turner painting, so I went with the Smithsonian, which was many times less expensive.) The turnaround time to get the image in digital form from the Smithsonian was cutting it close for a chapbook publication schedule. For the second chapbook, I avoided paying fees and dealing with copyright issues and used a photograph that I took myself of a fossil that I own. There were other sources for fossil images online (science stock photo companies), but many wanted $600 to use their image for a book cover. I’ve had friends choose paintings or artwork from artists they know, and there other online sources for stock images that have little cost. Both presses took the images I provided for the cover art and designed the rest for me. I’ve been really pleased with the finished covers.
I’ve asked former faculty from my writing program for blurbs, but I’ve also asked local poet friends who know my work and have kept up with me over the years. Publishers (or the contest judge) may offer to write a blurb for you, or they may have suggestions of other poets to contact who would appreciate your work. I’ve also known poets who asked for blurbs from writers who have reviewed their poetry books in the past, or literary journal editors who have featured their work, or poets they have met at poetry conferences and workshops. I try to give at least two weeks notice, and ideally four weeks, for the blurbs to be written. As soon as you know your chapbook is accepted, blurbs and cover art should be up near the top of the to-do list.