I have been working the last couple of days to make final decisions and get out the last of the dgp responses from the summer's open reading period. It's both wonderful and frightening (and a little exhausting) how many manuscripts we get that are so in line with our aesthetic --the slush pile for WA is ever so much slushier, but perhaps the more word of mouth orientation on the press front makes for a stronger, better pool of submissions. I know am doing something right when I see submissions, completely unsolicited, in the mailbox from some of the poets whose work I've admired elsewhere. I also know it's good when so many new voices, poets I've never heard from send me the most amazing things (especially when those poets are very much unknown and have been publishing very little so far, and usually this is their first chapbook.) Every year, even if we don't take everything, I am introduced to so many authors whose work I want to become more acquainted with.
Of over 500, there were probably only 200 that were definite "no"s on first glance, another 100 that were sound, but more traditionally lyric and not for us, another 100 that were "maybe-- but with some edits or changes", and another 100 that could have been "yesses" in an ideal world, but that I had to choose my 50 odd favorites from amongst. This year it was actually closer to 70 since we will be pushing into 2015. The nice thing is that we've gotten to a point in the past few years where we are financially sound, so each book pretty much pays for the titles following it and helps with the overhead (printer maitenance, studio rent, etc..) We have slower moving books, and faster ones, but it all pretty much balances out.
The stumbling point, is of course, time. We are still a long way from making any sort of money that would allow a living from it, so it becomes a crazy juggle of the day job obligations, my own creative work, errands and commuting and general time suckers. I typically put about 4-5 hours a work in daily in the form of mornings and late nights on the press business, so we can publish as many titles as I want to, but there's a definite tipping point I try to avoid between "busy" and "overwhelmed". I am pretty good about time management, but things still happen and we fall behind, machinery malfunctions, personal dramas. I always vow to be better about allowing myself writing time daily, but it usually ends up being more like a weekly block of time. I am still way to much of a control freak and solitude-lover to bring in any sort of help, so I find ways to make it work. Way to shave time off of things. Ways to multi-task and remove unecessary obligations.
Despite the juggle and the sometimes freak outs over technical malfunctions it's still making me enormously happy to be doing this. I am excited about our upcoming 10 year anniversary, our trip to AWP, all the good things that will be happening in 2014. Just you wait and see...