|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #72|
How do you make money by giving something away for free?
This has become the question of the Internet Era but, in truth, it has been around at least as long as radio¹. Facebook has made Mark Zukerberg wealthy enough through advertising (like radio and television) and data mining, but that requires bringing in people by the millions. We're talking poetry here. What little commercial success poetry has had came in literary glossies (e.g. The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker) that relegated poetry to an afterthought.
To begin, then, the site has a byline such as: "We like stories, jokes and perspectives. Poetry is often the best way of relating these." Period. Nothing committal or controversial.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #52|
Currently, many poetry publishers are institutional, sponsored by universities or organizations. These cater exclusively to poets, but not necessarily in proportion. The editor-in-chief may feel an obligation to give equal time to anything that passes for an aesthetic. This recreates Aesop's "Donkey" fable.
By contrast, a fancentric editor has to please broader demographics. This will be reflected in both form and genre, guesstimated here to mark the chasm between what some like to write and what others like to read:
Form Institutional Fancentric
Metrical 7% 70%
Free Verse 1% 2%
Prose Poetry 1% 1%
Rhetoric 1% 28%
Genre Institutional Fancentric
Romance 0% 30%
Drama 0% 20%
Comedy 0% 35%
Elegy 1% 1%
Rant 4% 14%
Droning 80% 0%
Cryptology 15% 0%
No one will want our product unless we value it ourselves. Most publications make the mistake of diluting their 'zine with mediocre submissions. Better to have 2 good pieces than a dozen lesser ones, even if the pair are reprints from other sources.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #138|
Once the editor has some seed poems, videos and performances it is time to concentrate on finding visitors and advertisers. A typical approach, along with ads, will be to have a vendor award Purchasing Plan Points to successful poets, performers, videographers and the judges (i.e. the geeks, critics and teachers who vote). Another form of income for the publishers and poets is "copysite": people are free to use the text to make videos for that site, but not elsewhere. Management helps promote the works for other purposes (promos, commercials, movies, documentaries, etc.) and may collect an agent's fee.
Songwriters will be invited to set the published verse to music and post the sound files or videos. There will be a companion venue for original songs. The site will promote any albums or appearances stemming from such efforts. Poetry books--those things with ink and paper--and DVDs can be purchased from the venue (or elsewhere).
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #123|
Now think about the typical poetry magazine's business model. It relies on contributors--Nobody Reads Poetry--but it only accepts a tiny number of submissions. How can you succeed by excluding/pissing off 99% of your customers?
At the far extreme is the "showcase" venue, which publishes everything it receives. In between, we have those who practice the politics of inclusion, lowering standards by accepting too many poems. To put this in perspective, if 2014 is like every other year since Shakespeare lived it will produce at most three poems that stand the test of time.
The venue of the future employs both extremes along with a system of repêchage. All submissions are made online, one per member per month. They are accepted immediately, entered into the database and will have their own page. The catch is that this is an "alternate" venue, accessible from the main one. The beauty of this system is that if one of the "alternate" (a euphemism for "rejected") pieces attracts sufficient positive mention from the expert² members ("EMbers") it is fished out, included in the main publication³, and accorded the same honors and recompense as those poems the editors accepted originally. In this way no rejection is final and resentment is reduced.
¹ - ...which, parenthetically, is what killed poetry.
² - Getting one's friends and family to vote for them won't help the cause.
³ - It's like Poetry Free-For-All (a rather exclusive critical forum) and The Pink Palace of Poetitude (an associated vanity site, now defunct), but with a method in place to rescue work from the latter to the former. All submissions are evaluated upon receipt. A 9 or 10 out of 10 will be accepted but a near-miss 7 or 8 might have been undervalued.
The Future of Poetry - Part I - Venues
The Future of Poetry - Part II - Discussions
The Future of Poetry - Part III - Funding and Repêchage