Behind the Metaphorical Scenes with Fran Daulerio: What It’s Like When Your First Poetry Book Is Accepted Part 1

Shameless plug: You can preorder Fran Daulerio’s new book of poetry, If and When We Wake, here!

MS: So.  Congratulations on your manuscript’s acceptance—or maybe I should say “selection.”  How is it exactly that your manuscript began its journey towards book-hood? 

FD: Thanks!  I don’t think it has totally set in that this is going to be a physical thing that people will (hopefully) want to buy.  I should be getting galley proofs from my press soon.  Maybe it will hit me then.

If & When We Wake, started out as my MFA manuscript, but I decided pretty early on in the program that I’d like to try and push it forward and turn it into an actual book.  In making that decision, I had to spend a lot of time thinking about how the poems I was writing interacted with one another, which in some ways made the writing process more difficult than it would have been if I was just writing for the sake of writing.  It had to be a cohesive thing instead of a sort of “Best Of” collection that I was trading in for a diploma.  I put a lot of pressure on myself throughout the entire process, but I’m happy with the results.  It feels like an authentic collection to me.

I started submitting to lit mags halfway through my first semester, just for the hell of it to see if anyone would bite, and I’d get a poem picked up here and there.  I got shut down a lot, but the good reception was enough to keep my spirits up, so I kept submitting.  I sent a packet of six or seven poems to a magazine called The Fictioneer, put out by the Unsolicited Press, and when they offered to publish all of them in their summer addition, I told them I also had a manuscript that I was trying to find a home for.  I just had a feeling about this press.  Their motto is “No Bullshit.  Just books.” It just felt right.  A few months later I got an email from their editor offering me a contract, so I took it.

MS: Could you describe some of the work that went into this process after the manuscript’s acceptance? 

I’m not sure what it’s like working for some of the heavy hitters like Random House or Simon & Schuster, but working with a small press has been great.  The post-acceptance work was surprisingly painless, and everybody is really receptive and willing to bounce ideas around.  I haven’t felt out of control, which I’ve heard happens a lot in the publishing world.  This still feels like my own creation.

We had a few rounds of editing, a formatting proof, and now the layout people are getting everything ready for production.  I was scared of how the editing process was going to work, but Nicole from my press was really helpful.  There wasn’t a lot of petty arguing over a word here or a comma there.  She was a lot more focused on how each poem was accomplishing its goal and what role it was playing in terms of the entire collection.  There was certainly talk of word choices and everything you’d expect an editor to talk about, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  I think enough time had passed between when I wrote these pieces that I didn’t have as much of an emotional connection to them, which helped.  I can be a bit stubborn about changing things, but for whatever reason I was able to drop my guard and think about what decisions would result in the best possible book.

Preorders just started, so we’re really in crunch mode right now.  Or I guess they are.  I just have to be a presence on social media, which I honestly don’t love doing.  The whole facebooktwitterinstagram thing just feels so big and ugly to me, but I guess it’s a necessary evil in this business.  Can I call this a business?  I’m actually facing the fact that I will have to hashtag something next week.  I’ve never done that before, and I’ve always talked a lot of shit on the art of hashtagging.  I’m kind of my own publicist now though, so I’m going to have to give in and start living like it’s 2015.  What do you think?  #ifandwhenwewake?  #whenwewake?  They apparently don’t allow ampersands in hashtagging, which throws off the whole damn aesthetic.

MS: I can imagine the excitement that you probably felt when you first found out.  However, I imagine there might have been other feelings involved with this process of publication: Could you tell us some of them?  In extreme, excruciating, vulnerable-izing detail? 

FD: Honestly I was pretty scared at first.  I had spent such a long time creating this thing that I really believed in, and the idea of signing it away to someone else made me a little sick.  When I started sending out manuscript submissions, it was with the understanding that nobody was going to want it.  I don’t think I prepared myself to face the fact that it could get picked up, so when it did I wasn’t sure how to react.  I think I’m making this sound bad.  It’s not.  It’s incredible, but there certainly was a hesitation at first, and I didn’t sign the contract for a few weeks.

Once that passed and I signed on, things got going and I started feeling like I made the right move.  Everybody was excited about the book, and it felt like they genuinely wanted to make something artistically beautiful.  It wasn’t just about turning a profit.  Do poetry books ever turn a profit?

Now that everything on my end is basically done, I’m starting to get nervous about the release.  Poetry books are a hard sell these days.  Have you been to a Barns & Noble recently?  The poetry section is in a sad state.  The Supernatural Romance section is huge, but unless you’re looking for Shakespearean sonnets or the fifteen different translations of The Odyssey, the tiny poetry bookshelf is a sad indication of how our craft is doing in the world today.  The independent shops have a better selection, and I’d rather buy my books there anyway.     [author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Francis Daulerio is a poet and teacher from the Philadelphia suburbs. His work has recently been published in The Fictioneer, Whiskey Island, The Stone Highway Review, and Written River. His first full collection of poetry will be released in April 2015 through the Unsolicited Press. More information can be found at and @FDwrites. [/author_info] [/author]