Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Six Questions for J. Michael Wahlgren, Founding Editor, Gold Wake Press

Gold Wake Press publishes electronic chapbooks containing five to ten poems and manuscripts of 48+ pages. Learn more here.

SQF: According to a report by Foner Books (, “[g]rowth stagnated for booksellers in 2008, and overall book sales barely moved according to the government.” In addition, I’ve read a number of articles concerning the difficulty authors are having securing book deals. In your opinion, what is the current state of the print book market?

JMW: It is difficult to maintain a readership, but the means of the game is quality and finding work that will relate to our audience. I think authors still want print options for their books even though Kindle and Nook are advertising quite a bit. It is difficult to visit a site that offers books for purchase that doesn't offer an electronic option of some sort. This is how we started as a magazine, so we offer both options. The quality of the print (in our experience) has more structure and arc than just 5-10 poems, but that is for the reader to decide as well. In order for a publisher to continue to print books he/she must break even. Once again this returns to quality and securing a readership that will result in people pleased with our quality. Book deals can fall through; a lot has to do with pricing and distribution. If a book isn't distributed well enough, sales can fall short. Luckily, we are new to the game and haven't outdone ourselves. We will limit ourselves by only publishing a few (1-3) books per year.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?

JMW: We look for structure, cohesion and originality.

SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?

JMW: I read once somewhere that you’re not supposed to summarize the entire manuscript but recently discovered some presses favor this type of summary. I think when someone tries formatting their document to look finished when it still needs work is a faulty idea.

SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?

[SQF: Unfortunately, due to an unusual weather pattern on the-orb-that-used-to-be-known-as-Pluto, this answer evaporated into the ether.]

SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

JMW: I would highly recommend familiarizing oneself with a magazine's style before submitting there. I have been rejected (in personal experience) by magazines certainly just for stylistic difference. At Gold Wake Press, we balance quality with style. Most chaps share a common trend inside the text, experimentalism in content, which we favor every time we receive a submission. But also, if the poems have a narrative arc, or are well-written, come from a unique viewpoint that we haven't published in previous e-chaps, then we will accept it.

SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

JMW: I wished you had asked how long I’ve been doing this. I had a few magazines previous to Gold Wake Press and something about GWP stuck, and bringing Eric on board to read submissions really strengthened the magazine and my confidence in the magazine.

Thank you, Michael. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 7/16--Six Questions for Jason Cook, Fiction Editor/Mastermind, Ampersand Books

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