A Note from the Editor: July 2, 2019
Every day, we receive inquiries from interested writers wondering when we’ll be opening up our fifth annual open chapbook reading period. This is a testament to our beautiful chapbooks, and the excellent, astonishing power of our authors. Our authors have been featured in the New York Times, POETRY, The Paris Review, LitHub, Electric Literature, and so many other marvelous outlets. They have won prestigious awards, from book awards such as The Colorado Prize for Poetry, Button Poetry, and Sibling Rivalry Press, to The Whiting Award and Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize. They are activists; they reject the status quo; they bravely put themselves on the front lines for the rights of the marginalized and disenfranchised, for which they themselves are often marginalized and disenfranchised. In publishing these radical books, we have been inspired to do more with our resources. In lieu of tabling for AWP, for example, we have donated the equivalent to local organizations that support and aid recently arrived immigrants and victims of this horrendous border crisis, as well as organizations and groups that support our Muslim brothers, sisters, and GNC folx victimized by the United State’s despicable travel bans. We are inspired by and act according to our moral obligations and responsibilities, because we understand that it is impossible to be a literary citizen without confronting the violence that shadows the word citizen.
The truth of the matter is, we cannot open up for our fifth annual chapbook reading period, because we can barely stay above water in our current year of chapbooks. This is the unfortunate reality of most small presses. The financial burden falls on the publisher when the budget runs out. I, Natalie Eilbert, the founder and publisher since 2012, cannot withstand the recent blows of that financial burden any longer. Since 2012, I have quietly paid invoices, domains, inventory, and shipping when our meager budget could not cover the costs. It has always been a worthwhile endeavor, if it meant prioritizing authors who deserve to have a platform for their voices. I acknowledge that budgetary planning is not my strong suit. I know what I’m good at: I am a fantastic editor and ambitious organizer, but I just don’t have the bandwidth for this vital dimension of my business. I’ve tried my very best to do all of this without too much of a grievance and with, admittedly, the confidence of youth, because it meant I could continue maintaining the beautiful community of writers on our site, on our pages, in our outreach, and beyond. It is with a heavy heart that I admit I can no longer do this.
Small press upkeep is expensive. Writers who do not wish to conform to hegemonic institutions have the option, happily, to elect alternative presses that adhere to their values. That is what we are here to do. For my part, it became clear that writers are the lowest denomination of artists when it comes to job opportunities, agency, and publication compensation. As a writer myself, it is unconscionable that we have accepted the giving away of our creative work for free, and that we reluctantly subscribe to the corporate ethos that exposure is a kind of compensation for artistic labor. No, that just won’t do. We pay our authors. We help authors navigate the production process of their books and give advice about where to go next. We write letters of praise to our accepted contributors, spending hours sometimes on these letters, letting them know exactly why we felt their work stood out. We try to do all we can to make the publication experience singular. We want to show our authors what real advocacy looks like, so that they have a support system against potential exploitation and fluency when it comes to endeavoring new publication contracts. While that is at the expense of my time and my staff’s time, it has, and I can’t stress this enough, always been worth it.
All things must end, and I imagined, or I hoped, we had more time. The other shoe dropped this morning when I made the choice to charge a number that makes me sick to my personal credit card. This number was from our most recent printing invoice, which combined our three most recent chapbooks. I have to take on additional freelance jobs to pay for this bill alone, as sales from our chapbook store did not nearly come close to the payment amount. Since we cannot afford to print through the organic sales of our chapbooks, this is information for me that we have to halt any imminent reading periods and consider what, of this seven year old press, can be saved.
We will continue to publish our 2019 chapbook catalog and you should buy a subscription. We are hopeful that, through your generous support, we may be able to hit play again on our reading periods, upcoming plans, and advocacy work. Joey De Jesus’s Noct—The Threshold of Madness, Rae Gouirand’s The History of Art, and the second edition of Candace Williams’s Spells for Black Wizards are all hot off the presses. It means everything to receive your support, without which, well, we are not much at all.
Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting, thank you for being here with us.
Founding Editor and Publisher
The Atlas Review | TAR Chapbook Press