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The Hardest Thing

We’re now deep in our yearly reading period, and there are a good number of manuscripts in the inbox. It feels like birthday mornings to open up Submittable and see what’s appeared overnight (thank you!). But now I remember what the hardest thing is—it’s the fact that all these manuscripts are competent. Many are very strong. Almost all of them that I’ve read so far seem like they are of publishable quality.

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But we have room for maybe three, four, maximum five manuscripts next year. Which means that ‘publishable’ and ‘competent’ and even ‘really good’ aren’t enough; which means that when I send out rejection notes, they don’t mean your work is no good; they mean we just can’t publish everything we like. (That’s a real downer. I get really grabby and wanty when I read your work, building air-castles in which I can publish it all!) It’s hard to read your brilliant work and then to have to be practical about money (what we can afford to pay to print/how well we think the thing will sell compared to that printing cost) and time (how many books we can truly publicize and send for reviews and pack orders of). But it’d be a disservice to you and to our other writers and artists if we weren’t practical like that.

All this to say thanks for sending your work and for making June such an exciting time. I’m aiming to have read all the manuscripts by the end of July, and rejections will start going out in August (it always takes a while as I winnow through everything over and over), with the aim of notifying everyone by September this year. (If there’s a sudden influx of work right at the end of the month, this timing might change a bit.)

Lisa Solomon, whose monograph Hand/Made was published by MIEL in 2013, has this to say about the process of publishing us:

I think all visual artists in their heart of hearts want a monograph published of their work. I think most of us think this is an unattainable pipe dream, but MIEL made it a reality for me. From start to finish all my discussions with the press were so lovely, and they made the process SO easy. In fact almost too easy. Éireann had clear and wonderful ideas about how she wanted the book to look, function and what she wanted it to cover. I trusted her completely as an editor and creative director – and honestly it is not easy for me to relinquish visual control. In the end I’m so glad I was able to trust MIEL’s vision because it is an object in itself that I am honored to hold and have. MIEL helped place my work in a new context and opened my eyes to connections between works, colors, and ideas that were not apparent to me before. In reality I was responsible for almost nothing – mainly supplying images and contacts for people who might write on my work. The requests made of me were so nominal, and done with care – timelines and due dates and edits were so so easy.  The entire time I felt MIEL was invested in my work and was dedicated to making something that we all could be proud of. And that is a most lucky place to be. Do I sound like I’m gushing? Because it should. I am gushing. We need more presses whose tag lines are: difficult, interesting, intelligent, deeply felt.

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Publishing with MIEL

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Given that our open reading period is on right now, I thought it might be interesting for you to know what it’s like to publish with MIEL. Of course, every press, large or small, has its own practices. Some are more hands-on, some less. Different presses give writers and artists different kinds of control over the book as it will be. It’s not always a clear path, and understanding up front what your relationship is as a writer to the press that will publish your work can be helpful.

First of all, I’m Éireann. I’m the editor and designer for MIEL. My experience with editing began in undergraduate and MFA workshops; after finishing my MFA in 2006, I’ve done freelance editing for writers from the US and UK. Some feedback is here. I’m also a writer. My writing and editing work intersect at the point of my concern for language and my love of literature.

I take editing seriously, and when I acquire a manuscript for MIEL I read it carefully, with an eye to understanding what the book is trying to do/is doing, independent of my hopes for books-in-general. I try to feel or see or understand what it was that struck me or attracted me to the book in the first place, and to follow that through the manuscript. I flag up questions and places where the book seems to fall short of whatever its intentions appear to me to be. My notes can be extensive; I use track-changes in MS Word, and often fill the whole margin. I also write a letter to you, talking through my understanding of the book and contextualizing my editorial suggestions. (When I got the first feedback and letter from my own editor, I was taken aback and a little defensive—but I can see in hindsight as a writer and as an editor how helpful and perceptive my editor’s feedback really was. I aim to follow in his footsteps: my criticisms are given in good Untitledfaith, and I’m happy to talk about them. Like his were, though, my suggestions are sometimes not up for negotiation. For instance, the manuscript that became Music for Landing Planes By was initially titled [I cringe] The Way to Really Love It. When my editor told me that title wouldn’t sell—and, after all, presses are in business and books need to sellI was upset. But I went back with my other choice of title, and, as you can see, he loved it. Anyway, all that to say: the editorial process at MIEL is involved and incisive, but I promise to read the work openly, to offer any criticism/suggestions in good faith, and to welcome discussion with our writers during that process.)

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So the editing process with MIEL generally plays out over the course of a year, or sometimes a bit longer. I’ll reply to all submissions by December or January, and then it’s likely you won’t hear from me for a while. I won’t have forgotten: I’m just working on other things (we already have books for spring/summer 2015, and those will need my attention from December 2014 onwards). About eight months before your publication date I’ll be in touch with edits (and you’ll have a month to reply). Sometime about five months before publication you’ll see a cover draft. A month or so later, depending on the schedule here, I’ll send another cover draft and galleys. You’ll get another look at the galleys about a month before the publication date.

MIEL’s chapbooks are hand-bound. Production ranges from letterpress to commercial digital printing, but in all cases I choose materials that look and feel good. I produce small commemorative/ promotional objects to coincide with the publication of each chapbook/book: prints, broadsides, small cards. These are sent out with orders (and to our writers) to introduce readers to things we publish that they might not have seen.

UntitledThe MIEL chapbooks and books do have ISBNs, for the most part. Chapbooks in the microseries do not have ISBNs (it’s not fiscally possible: an ISBN adds almost 1/3 of the cost of production again, and it already costs about €3 per book to have these printed. Binding is done by me, so that’s “free”, insofar as I’m not paid for any of my MIEL work).

Our books are held in many collections in the US and EU. Our customers come from all over—North America, Europe, Asia, South America. I promote the books on Twitter, Facebook, here, and in our email newsletters, and I invite writers to contribute posts for this blog—talking about their work, the book MIEL is publishing, or anything else they are interested in. I take the books to book fairs (in London in the fall and winter; I’ll also be at AWP 2015 in Minneapolis). I send copies out for review. I’m happy to work with writers who might have their own networks to get the news about their book out.

MIEL cannot pay money for your work. That’s an important point. I want to pay writers, and at some point in the next few years that will happen. For now, we pay 10-25% of print run to our writers and artists. At the moment, the combination of Belgian tax codes and the fact that it’s rare for one of the books to make much more than the cost of printing and supplies in sales makes it impossible to pay cash. But writers, I want to emphasize: no one in this arrangement gets paid. Any money made selling your books covers printing them, supplies for binding them, packaging for them, postal costs for sending review copies out, and then the leftover rolls over to pay for the next book. I don’t get paid. Jonathan, who occasionally helps me arrange the financial side of things, certainly doesn’t get paid. Our accountant gets paid, but that is c.f. Belgian tax codes.

So that’s how it works here. If it sounds good to you, send me something to read.

Kristen Case, author of Temple, has this to say about the process of publishing with MIEL:

I had the good fortune to have my chapbook manuscript selected for publication by MIEL after their open reading period last June, and everything about this process, from the acceptance email to the shipping of books, has been wonderful. Maybe most remarkable was the attention to every possible detail of production, from typography to packaging, and the absolute commitment to ensuring that every aspect of the book reflect and contribute to the poems. MIEL’s process reflects the passionate belief that there can be no separation between poems and their material life.  Every letter, every stitch, every choice counts in the ethical-aesthetic bringing-into-being that MIEL undertakes.

Throughout my experience with MIEL I kept thinking of Emily Dickinson’s lines “Publication—is the Auction / of the Mind of Man,” and of her intimate modes of poem circulation. If Dickinson had a press, it would be MIEL. This is publication as collaboration, as intimate art form, as wild act of praise and radical act of attention. How wonderful, how absolutely necessary, that it exists.

 

 

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We’re reading (and we hope you’ll send us something)

June is the month we’re open to read your work. You can send us something via Submittable.

 Reading unsolicited work is one of the best parts of running a small press. It’s basically months of literature before that literature becomes public. Last year we chose Kristen Case’s Temple and Bethany Carlson’s Diadem Me (forthcoming in December 2014) from the slushpile—and had to forego several other very good manuscripts.

Every June, we get to see the vulnerable, living things you’ve made (and then, alas, it’s true: we have to make awful decisions about them, like every other press). But make our month: send us something incredible to read.

TEMPLE | Kristen Case | MIEL 2014

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introducing MIEL’s microseries

This month we’re launching microseries, a showcase (albeit a tiny one) for work and poets we love. microseries chapbooks will come out sporadically, will all be very small (the first one is ten centimeters square), will all contain about ten pages of work, and will represent the kinds of things we’d like to publish. They’ll also be affordable—a good way to get familiar with MIEL, our aesthetic, and our production values, if you’re looking to find out more about the press from a writerly standpoint.

little voice box laressa dickey miel chapbook

microseries kicks off with Laressa Dickey‘s Little Voice Box, which contains excerpts from a longer work by the same name. If you liked Laressa’s other books, this one is sure to please; if you don’t know her work, it’s a great place to begin.

In autumn 2014 microseries will publish its second chapbook—poems by Jonterri Gadson, author of Pepper Girl (YesYes Books, 2012). This June, during our open reading period, we welcome very short manuscripts. Although many of our microseries chapbooks will be solicited, we’re always open to work we don’t know yet.