Friday, January 23, 2009

Village Books in Pacific Palisades raises the bar for stocking self-published/small press books--including poetry.

True story: A few years ago, I would occasionally attend the poetry reading at Village Books on 1049 Swarthmore Avenue in Pacific Palisades, CA. And, back then, I was even allowed to sell the store some self-published saddle-stitched (bound by staples) chapbooks.

A few months back, I visited the store again. To their credit, the do-it-yourself poetry volumes by myself and other poets were now on a carousel, making them easy for store customers to find and consider for purchase.

But when it came time for me to ask them about carrying a recent saddle-stitched poetry chapbook of mine published by a small press based in San Pedro, I was given this new set of rules, which I will reprint below:

Due to the significant increase in requests to stock self-published books (or books not distributed by Ingram or Baker & Taylor) we found it necessary to institute a formalized system for submission of such books. If you would like your book considered for stock, please follow our consignment/purchasing guidelines:
1. All requests must be made in writing. We regret that we are unable to accomodate walk-in visits.
2. In keeping with our general inventory, only bound books with legible titles on their spines will be considered.
3. To submit a book for consideration, please drop off a copy of the book along with a one-paragraph letter including your contact information, any promotional material and a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient return postage at current rates. The submission should be marked "Consignment/Purchasing Request" and dropped off at the register or sent to the above [store] address.
4. Our review process takes up to one month. The book (not the promotional materials) will be returned in the self-addressed stamped envelope, along with a letter notifying you of our decision. Books submitted without a self-addressed stamped envelope will be held at Village Books special order cart for pickup. After 90 days, books not picked up will be recycled.
5. If your book is accepted for consignment of purchase, you will have the opportunity to discuss your work with our buyer. Unfortunately, prior to acceptance, requests to contact personnel in person, by phone or email will not be granted.
6. With this in mind, the decision made by our buyer is final.

Village Books is proud to support the writing community through our consignment/purchasing program. We do our best to provide shelf space and display opportunities for consignment books, while still keeping in mind our inventory needs and the interests of our consumers. Consignments are books that Village Books agrees to add to our inventory with the understanding that payment will only be made on completed sales. We look forward to reviewing your work and we thank you for your interest in Village Books.

True story number two: Recently, Jon Stewart guffawed on THE DAILY SHOW about the poem read at the Obama/Biden inauguration--and how the public left en masse because it was placed towards the end of the ceremony. Stewart made a dumb "shouldn't poetry rhyme" comment to boot.

What do these two true stories have in common?

In the case of Village Books, the buying public has little interest in sampling poetry they don't know by poets they've never heard of. This has led to the more severe policy above discouraging the majority of chapbooks/self-published bound volumes from being carried by the store.

And, in Jon Stewart's case, poetry isn't on his radar--and he apparently still equates it with formal rhyme-and-meter learned in school and forgotten decades ago.

Poetry--still ghettoized in the year 2009.

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