Starting Your Own Press From Scratch: A Quick and Dirty Guide Allison Joseph, Editor and Publisher, No Chair Press
I have been involved for years with publishing as editor and poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, a position I still occupy. But I’m the sort of person who often asks, “why doesn’t such and such a thing exist”—and before I know it, I’m involved in doing that very thing.
For a long time, I’d had the idea for a press. I’m very much interested in formal poetry, particularly by women poets. No Chair Press was born when I finally took the plunge and decided to fill the niche a formalist press for women poets only would occupy.
Here’s how I got up and running:
1) Createspace Createspace is a self-publishing platform connected to Amazon. I used Createspace to publish a test chapbook of my own. It was a fairly easy, painless process—Createspace is full of templates for the production of the actual book, and has the ability to get your book on Amazon.com almost immediately. Createspace is not the only alternative, but it is easy and fast, and it automatically creates an ISBN for your book. Bookbaby.com is another self-publishing company, as is Lulu.com, but I can’t attest to their ease of use. I’m using Createspace again for No Chair Press’s second book, and the process is even easier. It will be easy to send my authors pre-publication proofs before any books are published, and will be easy for me to order and send them author copies. Any books created via Createspace are automatically sold on Amazon; the site keeps track of sales and royalties. You can decide via Createspace if you want the book on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
2) Logomix.com Next I needed a logo and a website. I created the No Chair Press logo pretty quickly at the website, thinking that was all it was good for, but it has integrated within it a very easy website builder. Before I knew it, I was building a website through Logomix.com. The downside of Logomix is that the company is a hard-seller—they’ve got a lot of products they want to sell you, from branded notebooks to banners to coffee mugs. They send you emails constantly.
3) Paypal.com Lots of folks have a personal PayPal account for buying and selling things on the Internet. You can also establish a different PayPal account just for your publishing operation. PayPal has easy ways for people to pay you via credit card. I am also going to get No Chair Press its own bank account, which I can then link to the Pay Pal account for No Chair Press. Don’t “cross the streams” between your own Pay Pal account and the one for your press.
4) Green Submissions (https://greensubmissions.com/) I had to figure how to accept submissions. I quickly established a gmail.com email address for No Chair Press, but thought it would be cumbersome to accept email submissions for chapbook manuscripts. I first came across Green Submissions when sending a book of my own to Barefoot Muse Press. It was easy to use, and I remembered it when thinking about how I want to receive submissions. For CrabOrchard Review, we use Submittable.com, but it’s expensive to use Submittable for a new press. Green Submissions is free, but you can’t use the free version to accept entry fees. I got around that problem by establishing a PayPal.me/NoChairPress link where entrants can send me fees, and I can send entrants refunds if needed.
5) Creating Contest Guidelines Not all small and independent presses do contests. I had to decide if I wanted to do one. I’ve decided to concentrate on chapbooks, shorter collections that will be easier to publish and won’t stand in the way of my authors if they want to subsequently publish a full-length collection using work from the chapbook. I will be publishing both non-contest and contest chapbooks. Non-contest ones will be by former students, friends, etc.—all the people who shouldn’t enter the contest. I’m going to do one contest a year, with two winners. I’m charging a low entry fee—but expect to be paying the winners myself. I don’t expect to make money with No Chair Press—I just want to publish lovely books.
6) Facebook and social media I’ve created a Facebook page for No Chair Press where I can post frequent updates. Facebook is tricky though—it’s just like Logomix in that it’s always trying to get money out of you—you can “boost” a post by paying a minimal amount—that gets your post in front of more people, particularly a targeted audience interested in poetry, literature, etc. I haven’t decided if Twitter or Instagram will be worth it.
I’m sure there’s a lot more for me to learn, but I’m now at the point where I feel ready and confident to receive submissions for our first contest.