Editor Interview: Red Hen Press

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Outsiders

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: Copper Canyon, Graywolf, Coffee House, New Directions

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: Anne Carson, Italo Calvino, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marguerite Duras, Percival Everett, C.D. Wright, Lydia Davis.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: We do not publish writers who have made it by being New York insiders or insiders of any kind. We focus on a level of mastery with creative work as our primary criteria for publication.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Know what we publish and ask yourself if you belong in the Red Hen tribe and being willing to promote your book. Ask not what your publisher can do for your book, but what you can do for it. It's your baby, now our baby, but still first your baby.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Professional, articulate, and with a list of people who will support/blurb the book. Very good work that stands out and isn't simply well crafted but actually says something.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: They send work we don't publish, they send too much at once, they send it in 14 point font or just a crazy font, but primarily, they don't do their homework. Clearly, they would walk into a bar and say, "Would anybody marry me?" forgetting that it's wise to know the person you're going to spend the next few years with even if it's a starter marriage.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: We like a one page query letter with previous publication and what the author would do to promote the book. We like to publish books that there is a market for.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: I can tell in the first few pages.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: We have a meeting with the publisher, marketing associate and me, the managing editor and the publisher has to sign off. The marketing associate prepares a report about the marketability of the book. Sometimes it isn't very marketable and we go for it anyway, but we have a sense of the initial print run at that meeting.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: I carry around an iPad and it has all the submissions on it for a first read. If I fall in love, we get a hard copy, so I have a couple hard copies also. As I write this, I am in Chicago to do a meeting with our sales reps. I have 20 manuscripts with me between the iPad and my laptop case which also has all the essentials for this trip. I just brought the laptop bag and my purse because I travel lightly and let manuscripts take precedence over stuff like clothing. I am constantly reading manuscripts and then other books so that I can think about what is being published. Reading is my life.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: The world of marketing and publicity is all about social media so yes, you have to be involved. I have a blog, a website, Facebook and I tweet. The press does all of this and social media is our most effective marketing tool, in fact, it's very hard to promote an author who is invisible on the internet, you might say impossible. Of course, our books are also available as Ebooks and that is a growing market for us. On the other hand, I believe in writing hand written notes, I write letters and I believe in actual books. The artifact of the book will never go away. Books mean culture. Electronics mean noise. I don't knock noise. I've been to a Van Halen concert, I just wouldn't want to live there. I wouldn't live in a library either though. Talent and big ideas emerge in libraries, but we need energy and electricity as well. Digital printing helps keep authors in print who would have gone out of print and makes printing greener because it's easier to not overprint. As a poet first, I like to think that we can live consiously in a world that gives us books, blogs, tweets and moments of silence.