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Editor Interview: Prolific Press

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

A: Poetry and Fiction

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

A: I think some great poetry can be found in the Kenyan Review, American Poetry Review, Field, Blackbird, Five Points, and several others. In terms of fiction, I like Conjunctions, Noon, Iowa Review, and Shenandoah seems to have a particularly good eye. There are more, of course.

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

A: Gregory Pardlo, Forrest Gander, Claudia Emerson, Franz Wright, Frederick Seidel, Robert Frost; there are too many to mention.

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

A: Some ways we are different? (1) We read blindly, without regard to the pedigree of an author. (2) As a non-profit, part of our mission includes making modern and relevant literary works available to everyone regardless of income. (3) Prolific Press is really innovative, leveraging modern tools--always trying what's new to see if it makes us better. We're definitely not mired in the past, like many academic presses, and we take risks. (3) We often invest thousands of dollars in relatively new writers who have little or no following. We do it to bring their voices to the world. (4) Prolific also publishes 8 literary journals. That's quite an undertaking. We eat and breathe literature, publishing as many as a thousand writers a year (in one form or another). We're definitely different, and we print excellent works.

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

A: Read and follow the guidelines at our literary journals. Read and follow the guidelines when sending full manuscripts. We spell it all out on our various websites. Be professional. Prolific Press is very busy, and we appreciate some basic structure when handling the slush and writers. That structure helps things go smoothly, and allows us the extra time we need to personally interact with the writers. Also, be patient. Read times vary. Lastly, when you register through our submission manager, it's good to whitelist the email you receive so future emails won't go to your spam folder. We don't send spam, so it's OK to whitelist us to make sure you receive your determination notices.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission must certainly be original. Don't use cliche' language, and verisimilitude is appreciated. That's not to say the piece needs to be true, but is should feel believable. Each work should be written with an audience in mind. Avoid overusing the "I" and seek poetical elements, or symbolism that resonates with readers. Submissions should be written well, without errors. When we read the slush, it should be obvious that the writer fussed over the work, edited it well, and submitted when it was ready.

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

A: Manuscripts are often received without all the information we request from our website. We use Copyscape, and often find writers sending in works that have already been printed. In terms of avoiding mistakes, it comes back to reading the guidelines. I think some writers are in the habit of accepting the terms without reading them. If there is any mistake a writer should avoid, at any publisher, it has to be skipping the guidelines.

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

A: I only consider the work itself. If it's very good, and I think our readers will love it, it gets accepted. I enjoy reading unknown writers, and receiving work by well-known writers. Both get an equal chance of acceptance. Sadly, my approach goes against the fundamental workflow at many top presses today. I think it's hypocritical to run a literary journal, or press, and stop to consider the pedigree of the writer when the work itself is excellent. A press should reward excellence with publication, even if the writer is someone you never heard of.

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

A: We read everything. That's the official stance (and it's almost always true). That said, sometimes I just can't force myself to read a manuscript from top to bottom (when I know beyond any doubt that it's really bad). My staff have the same flexibility. Time is too valuable to invest hours in "Ode to a Butter Pecan"... With regard to the journals we publish, those are shorter pieces and they are always read.

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

A: I make the final decision on acceptances, after conferring and deliberating. Sometimes a piece is so good it doesn't have any hoops to jump through. Other pieces are harder to decide. Occasionally I'll ask for rewrites.

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

A: The average day is 10 to 14 hours of work (sometimes more). I begin with coffee. I read and answer email. I examine suggestions for titles. I like to switch gears for a while and read the journal slush. Then I'll spend hours editing something that is already in the works. I'll break for a while to read new manuscripts. I check with graphics design for book covers. I like to get involved in shipping books on shipping days. Once in a while, I check our Helpdesk to be sure things are happening there. Every day is different. I wear a lot of hats. I enjoy calling writers to talk about projects, and receiving the first copy of a new Prolific Press book or journal—it’s always exciting, even after publishing over 100 titles, it's always momentous.

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

A: Very... Publishers that are out of touch with what's new cannot be providing the best service to their writers or customers. That's a simple equation. Publishers need to have a big bag of tools. Sometimes you need a hammer, sometimes a chisel. This is a hard business. Innovation is key.