We sat down with the founder and ED of Quail Bell to chat about their submission process, how they choose poems, and what to expect when you submit there. If you have questions about their process, please visit their website and reach out to them directly.
CSS: Christine Sloan Stoddard, Founder of Quail Bell Press & Productions
GG: Gretchen Gales, Executive Director of Quail Bell Magazine
How do you determine who to publish?
CSS: Right now we are focusing on anthologies related to Quail Bell Magazine, which is our legacy publication. Quail Bell is a woman-run arts and culture magazine that celebrates the imaginary, the nostalgic, and the otherworldly. Our first book title was Her Plumage: An Anthology of Women’s Writings From Quail Bell Magazine, which we released at the beginning of the pandemic after launching a successful Facebook fundraiser. Currently, we’re working on Lunar Phoenix: An Anthology of Black Voices. Our guest editors are Taneasha White, Lashelle Johnson, and Lana C. Marilyn. We teamed up with a fiscal sponsor, AnkhLave Arts Alliance, a 501c3 that enabled us to collect tax-deductible donations to make the book possible.
How many manuscripts do you receive yearly?
CSS: At the moment, we are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts, except for self-published titles. (Find out more here.) As we expand the business and earn grants to pursue charitable projects, we look forward to producing as many manuscripts as we can lovingly make possible! We’re always on the lookout for donors and angel investors, so please contact us if that’s you: firstname.lastname@example.org. Smaller donations can be made via Venmo @quailbellmag or PayPal: email@example.com.
Can you share details of a normal agreement?
CSS: At this time, we don’t have a standard agreement. For our anthologies, we do what’s possible with the funds raised. For self-published titles, we can tailor the agreement to suit the author’s needs. No two books are exactly alike, so no two books should have the same agreement.
What sort of royalties do authors normally get?
CSS: Currently, we do not offer royalties to our anthology authors because the projects are zero-profit ventures reliant on fundraisers. For self-published titles, there is no standard agreement, as each project is individually negotiated.
Why might an author choose to work with a press like yours versus a similar press?
CSS: Authors who’ve worked with us on the anthologies have a prior relationship with Quail Bell Magazine. Some of those relationships have lasted for years and the love runs deep. They want to support the magazine and also find a new platform for their creative work. For self-published titles, we aim to reach affluent authors who appreciate quality, attention to detail, and beautiful books. They likely are already familiar with Quail Bell Magazine and admire what we do and perhaps hope to tap into some of our audience. Last but not least, they see the value in working with us as individuals and what Gretchen and I bring collectively. Between the two of us, we’ve had our own books and chapbooks traditionally published; we’ve produced content for magazines, museums, television, art galleries, film festivals, and educational institutions; and our creative work has been featured in Time Out New York, Ms. Magazine, The Washington Post, New York Latin Culture Magazine, the Portland Review, Bushwick Daily, and elsewhere. In February 2021, I’m even going to be featured on a digital screen in Times Square with my book Heaven is a Photograph and other titles. (And I’m paying nothing for the privilege!) Gretchen and I have a lot of experience, creativity, enthusiasm, and knowledge to share with our authors.
GG: If it wasn’t obvious from Christine’s answer, we love bringing creative projects to life. It’s in our blood to create and curate.
Can you talk a bit about how you market the work for your authors?
CSS: We offer a mix of social media, indie media, and traditional media. We have a history of creating viral posts and successfully pitching to other outlets, from magazines to newspapers to radio stations, and more. I’ve had my own work praised by editors at Art in America and The Poetry Foundation and highlighted on Radio Free Brooklyn and in Authority Magazine, among other places, not because of paid placements but because of my willingness to do the legwork. Gretchen and I can leverage our connections and use prior experiences to craft new strategies. There’s always luck involved, but we’ve definitely had some of that!
GG: We enjoy being cheerleaders for our writers! Even with our online submissions for QuailBellMagazine.com, it’s so special to see people become so excited over a chance to publish with us. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, wherever we can promote their work, we have it covered.
What do they normally have to do in terms of marketing?
CSS: Again, there’s no “normal” because each book is an individual, a child, a baby! But we do consider magazine, website, newspaper, radio, television, social media, and event possibilities. We can also offer more unusual opportunities if they suit the work. With our video production skills, for example, creating a trailer or poetry film like “Butterflies” (one of our 2020 releases) is perfectly doable.
Are you open to working with new authors, or are you mostly looking for established authors?
GG: Like the lit mag, we welcome newbies and Pulitzer Prize winners. What matters is their voice and content.
CSS: For the anthologies, we want to publish authors whose work has appeared in Quail Bell Magazine at least once. But like Gretchen said, for the self-published titles, we’re willing to consider anyone. As we expand and can offer more traditional contracts, we want to continue keeping an open mind. We want to champion unusual, compelling stories, even if (or especially if!) they don’t fit a lot of traditional conventions.
How many copies do you usually expect to sell per book?
CSS: That’s something we project per self-published title as we make the agreements with our authors. It’s a case by case situation.
Is there anything else we should know about how you support your authors?
CSS: Definitely check out Quail Bell Magazine and Google all of the incredible projects and events we’ve had over the years. Find out more about the work Gretchen and I have done and our different creative affiliations. Just because we haven’t thought of a promotional idea doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to try it!
What sort of work are you most excited about?
CSS: Works that are highly imaginative, unconventional, and come from marginalized voices.
GG: Defy tired-out tropes and surprise us. I’m a sucker for retold fairy tales and as Christine mentioned, marginalized voices.
Can you talk a bit about your reading process? What happens on the press side when I press submit?
CSS: We want to be enchanted or at least read something that makes us look at the world a little differently.
GG: We look at the inbox with joy and carefully read over each submission. If sparks fly, we want it!
So go on, submit and see if sparks fly!!