Rant – Publicist


Tich Ennis,

19th July, 2016

Paul, (literary agent),

What I need is a good publicist.  But are there such?  He or she would need the following qualifications:

    1.    They would have to like my stuff.  Believe it is worth publicising and worth publishing.

    2.    They would have to have an in with publishers who would have to know they only promote what is good and worth publishing.

    3.    They, he or she, would have to believe that what is worth publishing means what will sell.

    4.    The public are not fools, most of the time.  Nor are publishers, most of the time.  Not the successful ones.  A publicist knows this.

    5.    There is no point five.

    6.    I have no money.  The publicist would have to work for the future and believe in the future.  Then get his or her share.

    7.    My stuff is all blogged, and more coming.  Easily accessible.  And removable from the blog if published, or whatever.

    8.    The publicist needs to be a human being.  I only deal with human beings.

    9.    Does such a creature exist?  I don’t want people liking my stuff in quotes, the real thing or nothing.  And they do.  Real people.

    10.    That’s all.

How the whatever do I find such a person?

A friend, in the music business, said when you are starting you have to do it all for yourself.  Accountancy, legalities, every blooming thing.  Even though you know nothing about those.  It’s Hell.  He didn’t say that, but I do.

Welcome to Hell.  All mod cons.  Central heating as standard.  Air conditioning extra.

Okay, as Samuel Pepys says, and so to bed,


——– Forwarded Message ——–

Subject: Rant
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2016 20:54:12 +0100
From: David Tich Ennis
To: Paul Thompson, literary agent

    Where are publishers who want to publish stuff people like to read?  Ordinary people.  They like my stuff.  Certainly not only relatives, I am not sure if my relatives are ordinary.  Objective, dispassionate outsiders.  Disinterested, a misunderstood word.  People who would not normally read poetry, certainly not the modern stuff, it would drive them mad.  They are sane, and intend to keep it that way.  I don’t only write poetry.  Some guy whose work was popular said at a conference you are authors, I’m a writer.  I echo that.

    I keep having false dawns.  They are a recurring nightmare.  There’s a guy in the U.S., Dave Eggers, article about him in the Sunday Times culture section last Sunday, very highly thought of, won awards, I think.  Has or had a publishing house called McSweeney, I think.  I looked at that, it appeared only to publish his own stuff.

    Then, to get right down to Earth, wherever that is, S*** My Dad Says was very popular and very funny.  Even I thought so.  I went so far as to buy it.   Number one on the N.Y.Times bestseller list can’t be bad.  I suppose I could try contacting the publisher of that.

    But, Hell, do these people ever (effing, pardon me) listen to or read submissions from nonentities such as my good, or fairly good, self?

    I have my blog.  People are liking my stuff.  I got some followers, entirely without bribery.  Whatever I am good at, if anything, I am Hellishly bad at self promotion and the research involved, it makes my head swim.  I am also awful at the technical aspects of computing and the internet, this is all Hell to me.  I do exist.

    I suppose I could go on for about five or ten years as now putting up stuff sometimes several times a day, getting a few likes and less followers, but some, and then, say, Hey, look at me, all those followers, put your money where your mouth is, if you’re not in you can’t win, get your finger out, call yourself a publisher, prove it, nothing ventured, nothing gained, etcetera etcetera until the cows come home, why wait, its on a plate, and so on ad infinitum.

    In the long run we’re all dead – John Maynard Keynes, he should know.  How do you speed up time?  I haven’t long to live.  Relatively speaking.  Lets see, my grandfather was ninety five, I’m seventy five.  And counting.  I could die of boredom.

    Horses for courses.  People are not equal, they are complementary.  No, I didn’t say that first.  I’m a copycat.  Not all of us have all the talents.  Possibly modesty is at the same time my greatest failing and my greatest virtue.  Or something like that.  I am not a fairground barker.  That is not my calling.

    Anyway, I’m growing a beard, so I have other things to do.  Also a pint awaits.  Drown my sorrows,


Tich Ennis

19th July, 2016


2 thoughts on “Rant – Publicist

  1. bookseekeragency

    As you have addressed this to me personally, I will reply. Firstly I have to say: you and more than 99% of all currently-active poets!

    None of what follows is meant to be dismissive. It is meant to be informative and realistic. Over the period since you first contacted me I have given you a lot of my time and a lot of advice, and all that without your being a client of my agency. I can tell you that no other literary agent would have bothered. However I’m not ‘any other literary agent’ – I’m also a bloke who likes to give encouragement where I can. That’s why I don’t mind dropping a comment here where everyone can see it. Basically, there are three ways to get poetry published, and I’m going to list them below and will mention agents and publicists as I go.

    1) Be famous already for something else.

    2) If you are convinced that your work is what ordinary people want to read, then hire yourself to Hallmark Cards and write Christmas and anniversary greetings. I’m not being facetious here. Many people do this and make good money. You’ll always remain anonymous, but it pays. Be warned, though, that this isn’t a walk-in job either.

    3) What you and any of the 99% of poets who do not get their material published commercially really want to know is how to join the 1%. Well firstly I do not know any poet that is or was not his or her own publicist. Maybe the odd one here or there has fame thrust upon them by serendipity, but I have yet to meet any such. All the successful poets I know have spent time performing at open mics, folk clubs, jazz clubs, pubs, parties, street corners, anywhere they can get people to stand or sit around and listen. Professional publicists cost big money, and are not prepared to take a punt on someone becoming famous eventually, they want a winner from the word go, and in particular they want someone who will pay up front. This is true even if they are crazy about you. Do you have big money to throw at a publicist? If yes, and if it’s a price you want to pay, then hire one. If not, keep on doing what you are doing, because if one person reads your blog, that’s one more person than has read your unpublished book! As for getting an agent, well yes we work on commission so we don’t ask for payment up front. But when it comes to poetry, the great majority of poetry publishers want to deal direct with the writer himself/herself, and many in fact refuse to deal with agents. Most poetry presses are small enterprises. As an agent I have dealt with a small amount of poetry, but it has usually been someone whom an existing publisher has already dealt with as a novelist; indeed one of my novelist clients doesn’t use me for her poetry publishing, but deals direct. Most poetry publishers want to hear from people with a strong record of publication in poetry magazines, so the best course to take is to subscribe to poetry magazines, get an idea of the kind of work they publish, and submit your work if you think it fits with what they are looking for. Some poets don’t compromise – if they write rhymed verse and a magazine only wants experimental poetry, the poet thinks “Sod that!” and doesn’t bother with them, and that’s an honourable approach, no problem. Some poets do compromise – the content and ‘house style’ of a poetry magazine opens up ideas in their minds, and they try a style of writing that would never have occurred to them before, and that’s an honourable approach too.

    David, in your post above you invoke times wingéd chariot in effect, and say that as you are already seventy-five you are well aware of the finite nature of life. Well, it’s finite for all of us. The end of it is about the only sure thing about life. You may go on for another twenty years, or thirty, and some poet of twenty or thirty may get hit by a bus today. All I can say is forget death. ‘Dum spiro spero’ and all that! You may never publish a book, but you ARE a poet.

    Which brings me back to blogging. Do you realise what a resource you have at your fingertips, as you tap that computer keyboard? When you blog, you are doing precisely what this medium was made for. You may only have a handful of ‘followers’ but as I said, that’s already more than have read your unpublished, unprinted book. The poetry blogosphere exists because of the 99%. It gives them a voice, a public voice, and that is a damn sight more than they had a couple of decades and more ago. This is one hell of a time to be a poet! Your followers may never ‘put their money where their mouths are’ – why should they, as the essence of blogging is offering things for free? – but they READ your work, and that is really something!

    A further aspect of blogging appeals to my anarch-communist sentiment. It’s the unwritten ‘pay it forward’ rule. Forget the idea of “I’ll read yours if you read mine” and instead think of “I’ll read yours if you read someone else’s”! The life of poetry out there tends to circulate rather than coalesce. Oh, some people congregate and form a globular community, but the envelope of that community is porous, it lets readers in and lets readers out, it’s never a closed community. Reading poetry begets writing poetry begets reading poetry begets writing poetry. I’m not telling you to stop reading in pubs and clubs, nor to forget the idea of submitting to magazines, nor to forget the idea of getting a collection published in print, but rather I’m saying exploit the blogosphere, enjoy it, and glorify in it.

    I think you have already been advised that one way to get your poems read, is to read, ‘like’, and comment upon other people’s blogged poetry. I have to say, though, that you have a very dry wit, and as the majority of bloggers seem to be American, please remember that they don’t do irony all that well. Look at their politicians, for heaven’s sake! Come to think of it, look at ours! Okay, just be gentle in your comments anyway. You’ll get a trickle of results, and – you never know – it might turn into a flood. I’ll give you somewhere to start: this woman is a client of mine, the one who does her own poetry https://kvennarad.wordpress.com/ and that’s her poetry-only blog. Her poetry might not be greatly to your taste, and I have to say she has been rather quiet lately, but down at the bottom of her page is a whole list of links, many of which are to other poets whom you may like. Incidentally, as well as writing all kinds of poetry, that particular writer has written sonnets, and does a good line in adapting ‘Child Ballads’ – see here https://mairibheag.com/2013/11/17/poor-susie-dean/ and here https://mairibheag.com/2016/02/05/the-elvish-knight-child-ballad-4/ .

    Keep at it.


    P.S. When posting here to WordPress, don’t forget to add ‘tags’ to each post. Ask Kevin if you can’t figure it out. Tags such as ‘poetry’ and ‘poem’ are handy, because WordPress readers use them to search the WordPress-sphere.
    P.P.S. Please feel free to share all the above.


  2. bookseekeragency

    Here’s another thing you might like to look at. An acquaintance of mine – we have corresponded and I have bumped into her at a few literary festivals – has written a book called ‘How (not) to Get Your Poetry Published’. She’s a poet and poetry publisher herself, and she’s very, very picky. But the main thing is that she knows the business.



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