Welcome to this interview with June Cotner, a well-known anthologist, speaker, and author whose 27 books include the best-selling anthologies Graces, Bedside Prayers, and Dog Blessings.
The Poetry Editor: June, you have compiled an amazing number of successful anthologies. How did you get started with this type of project?
June: When my children were young, instead of using standard graces, I wanted to find inspiring ways to express gratitude around the dinner table. My agent saw my binder for Graces and thought it would make a perfect book but suggested I include pieces from lesser known poets and writers as well as famous authors.
Poetry Ed.: Great idea! But what if you receive a poem or devotional that fits your anthology topic yet needs improving? Do you turn down the piece, make suggestions, or edit with the writer’s permission?
June: If the poem or prayer is in need of small improvements, I’ll let the author know why the poem doesn’t quite work for the book I’m compiling and see if the person is willing to make a revision. Sometimes I offer a specific recommendation. Other times, I’ll say “Here’s the problem. What can you offer?”
Poetry Ed.: At what point do you seek a publisher for a new book idea - before or after manuscripts on the topic begin to arrive?
June: It happens both ways. Several books developed because I received lovely submissions on a topic but didn’t have a book in place. I kept putting submissions on the topic in a binder and when I had enough selections (25-30) for a book proposal, I wrote the proposal. Other times the publisher asked if I would be interested in compiling another interfaith book with the same tone as Graces.
Poetry Ed.: Some big publishers have published your anthologies! Do you place your book proposals with them yourself or through a literary representative?
June: I have a literary agent who sells my proposals. Most major publishers require representation.
Poetry Ed.: Since your publishers are usually well-established companies with marketing departments and advertising budgets, do they still ask you to contribute to book promotions?
June: It’s been estimated that 90% of a book’s success is due to author promotion. For each book, I complete a comprehensive Author Questionnaire, and I work in partnership with the publisher. I recognize that my book is only one on a publisher’s front list and I must do everything I can to make the book successful.
Since publishing has changed so drastically, author tours are rare, and publishers expect active author participation on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites.
Poetry Ed.: Are you exploring other ideas because of the changes in publishing?
June: I have about 50 books “in the works.” Sadly, very few of them will see the light of day as a print book. I want to find a way to bring the lovely pieces filed in my 50 binders to the marketplace.
The best direction seems to be electronic publishing with books distributed across such book platforms as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. One problem in creating an e-book, however, is investing money upfront on top of providing a complete manuscript and a marketing plan.
Poetry Ed.: What suggestions can you give poets ready to submit their poems?
June: When submitting for an anthology, look at previous books by the anthologist so you understand the type of work the anthologist seeks. Writers should make sure the poems they submit are specific to the project needs.
Follow specific instructions. For example, odd as it may seem, I find it easier to process submissions sent via USPS with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE.) Also, don’t get fancy with your fonts or colors. I prefer receiving submissions that are double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 font. Each submission should include all of your contact info too.
Do your best to match up your work with the anthologist’s needs. I love receiving submissions that are specifically targeted for one of my projects.
When reviewing submissions, I look for fresh language in easily understood, universal pieces. Anthologists do love discovering new writers!
Poetry Ed.: I’m sure poets and writers love being discovered too! Thanks, June, for helping them to do just that - in your anthologies and also in this interview.
If you would like to contribute to one of June’s upcoming anthologies, visit her website for guidelines and more information about the topics needed.
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