The Argotist Online
Ami Kaye Interview
Ami Kaye is publisher at Glass Lyre Press and editor of Pirene’s Fountain and the Aeolian Harp Series. Her poems, reviews and articles have appeared in various journals and anthologies including Naugatuck River Review, Levure Litteraire, Kentucky Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, here. among others. Ami edited and published in response to the Japan 2011 nuclear reactor disaster, and co-edited Her work was nominated for the James B. Baker award, and received an honourable mention in the 2013 Tiferet contest. She is the author of What Hands Can Hold, and currently working on a benefit anthology, “Collateral Damage” to raise funds for disadvantaged children. Her personal website can be found
King, a native Georgian, now
lives in the mountains near Hayesville, NC. His poems appear in hundreds of
magazines, including California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins
Kenyon Review, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry
and Spoon River Poetry Review. He has published three chapbooks (When Stars Fall
Down as Snow, Garland Press 1976; Dream of the Electric Eel, Wolfsong
Publications 1982; and The Traveller’s Tale, Whistle Press 1998). His
full-length collections are The Hunted River and The Gravedigger’s
Roots, both in 2nd editions from FutureCycle Press, 2012; and One Man’s Profit
from Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013.
I’m sure you’ve answered this
question many times already, but how did your press get its name?
I knew I wanted the word “Lyre”
in the title because of our interest in lyrical work. I liked the idea of
singing stones, and thought of “Stone Lyre” but there is already a superb
book with that title by Rene Char. Then one day as I was revising one of my
poetry manuscripts my eyes fell upon the words “glass lyre” from “In which
he finds a lyre.” It made me think how poems are woven from the air, how
something strong and compelling can come from the fragile and ephemeral facets
of our imagination and emotions. I liked the idea of “glass" for clarity,
vision and insight, and "lyre" for lyricism and language. It seemed to
fit so I shared the name with my team and they all loved it. In less than a day
our freelance artist Tracy McQueen whipped up a beautiful logo which was a
perfect complement to our vision.
RSK: With so many presses around these
days, what made you decide we need another; that is, what makes Glass Lyre
AK: On both levels as a reader and
publisher, I admire so much of what our fine literary presses have accomplished.
I don’t presume to compete with them, but rather take the opportunity to learn
from them and join ranks with the hard-working, dedicated professionals whose
goal it is to bring the work of current authors to a wider audience. However,
these presses can only handle a limited number of books per year. Submitting
writers need more publishing venues because most presses only publish a fraction
of submissions they receive. For this reason, we actively encourage simultaneous
and multiple submissions.
What Glass Lyre Press offers is careful
attention to detail by a talented team of editors who actively encourage an
enthusiastic involvement in all aspects of production. We hope that our books
will speak for themselves once they are in the reader’s hands.
At Glass Lyre we would like to produce
books which can be offered to the mainstream reader, not only to those who
specialize in poetry and fine literature. At the same time, I don’t feel we
need to compromise on artistic integrity and aesthetic values. Recently I have
heard the term “accessible” used in a derogatory way, and I think to my mind
it means something different. I absolutely don’t believe in “dumbing down”
art to sell it, but I do want readers to enjoy a book without needing a key to
crack a complicated cypher. I think it is all about balance. There is something
universal in really good art; anyone call fall in love with a Rachmaninoff
concerto, or a Chagall stained glass ceiling or a particularly gorgeous poem
that clutches at the heart.
What literary aesthetic guides your
selection process for books?
AK: I don’t know that we have any set
guides of literary aesthetics, but I can certainly tell you that first, second,
and always, we are looking for great writing. Genre, style, school, topic,
length, and form are subservient to language, but of course all the elements
have to work together in order to create an exceptional book. If a manuscript
grabs our attention and holds it until the last page, there is a high chance we
will publish it. If we lose interest halfway or find it difficult to respond to
the writing at any level, chances are readers will have a similar reaction.
RSK: How many readers and editors
typically have input on a submitted book manuscript?
AK: We take the selection process very
seriously. Each manuscript is read carefully by our submission staff. We have
four editors who read submissions: associate editor Elizabeth Nichols, mostly
for poetry, and Royce Hamel for fiction and poetry. They read and turn in their
evaluations to the editor-in-chief Mark McKay, who recently implemented an
evaluation system for each manuscript. It is a spreadsheet format that involves
a series of ten categories for a possible score out of 10. That is only one part
however, the other is a more subjective review which he writes for every
manuscript—how it affects him personally, what it makes him feel, if the book
held his interest until the end, which specific parts he felt were strong or
weak, etc. I tend to come in toward the tail end of the selection process. I
respect Mark’s opinions and values implicitly, but like everything we do at
Glass Lyre, being part of a team is essential to our process and facilitates not
only a balance of bias but the confirmation of a decision. We want to serve our
authors sincerely by giving them the fairest reading possible, and our readers
by offering them books we can stand behind with confidence.
RSK: Who makes the ultimate decision?
AK: Mark and I make the ultimate
decision together. Mark is an even more selective editor than I am, so I know
what he chooses represents good quality throughout. Mark selects what he wants
us to publish, then makes his recommendations to me. I read each evaluation and
review thoroughly and go back to read the manuscripts he has marked as “Yes”
or “Maybe.” Sometimes I will pick a manuscript he has taken off his list and
discuss it with him for a possible reevaluation, or if he is on the fence about
a manuscript but it is a very close call, he will confer with me and we will
make the call together.
Do you plan to run book contests?
We would like to run some open
awards down the road but currently we offer the “Kithara Book Prize.” Lark
V. Timmons, our editor-in-chief at Pirene’s Fountain suggested the name
Kithara which is an ancient instrument from the lyre family. The reading fee we
charge helps to offset the prize expense.
Mark and I select up to four manuscripts
annually which we send out to an editor, publisher or an author for a final
selection. Glass Lyre awards a certificate and a $500 check to the author with
the winning manuscript.
RSK: How many titles per year do you
plan to publish?
Probably not more than ten titles
per year, although that could change depending on the quality of the manuscripts
we receive and our ability to handle production schedules. We already have seven
titles in the works not counting First Water: Best of Pirene’s Fountain.
Publishing a book is a laborious
process. There are so many parts to the process: making submission calls,
reading and selecting submissions, corresponding with authors, editing and copy
editing content, preparing the layout, artwork and cover design, working with
the printers, requesting blurbs and reviews, marketing and promotion, and
printing and distribution. Each one requires time and attention. In addition, we
also need to announce book releases and spend some amount of time every week for
networking and manning the social media sites, etc.
It is impossible to give our books this
kind of personal attention if we have too many in production. Also we have to
consider the costs of publishing each book: besides paying our editing staff and
artists, we must take into account our printing, distribution and marketing
RSK: Do you have a preference for genre
in the books you publish?
AK: We began with our poetry journal
Pirene’s Fountain, and over the past six years our concentration has centered
mostly on poetry. At Glass Lyre Press however, we are also open to short
fiction. Perhaps down the road, we may even consider books of interviews,
reviews and essays if they are well written and presented.
What advice would you give to
authors before submitting to Glass Lyre?
AK: We have carefully articulated our
preferences and aesthetic values on the Glass Lyre Press website which all
submitting authors should find helpful. Beyond that, I would just say take your
time with the manuscript before sending it out. You know the manuscript is ready
when adding or removing material does not increase value to it or when you
can’t further edit or revise it. Ask yourself if there are any filler poems or
sections, material that is pulling down an otherwise excellent manuscript. We
have three reading periods per year so even if you miss one submission period,
your manuscript can always be read in the next one.
Check to see if your craft as a writer
and development as a person comes through in your work. You write for yourself,
but also think of your readers. Invite them in your story or poems—they
are the ones who complete the circle of a writer’s work. Just getting
published is not the goal; getting your book in the hearts and minds of readers
Although it’s impossible to
answer with precision, how long before an author should expect a response to a
We say up to 6 months on our website
but Mark is pretty good about responding to our submitting authors within 2-3
months at most unless the manuscript is a strong “Maybe” and he wants to
spend more time with it, in which case he will let the authors know a soon as we
come to a decision.
Your websites, including Pirene’s Fountain, are very attractively designed. Could we expect your book designs to
be the same?
Thanks very much! We certainly hope
so and will try our best to continue in that tradition. Our layout editor
Katherine Herschler, has a keen eye for web and book design. In addition, we
have three freelance artists who are working closely with us, and most recently,
associate editor Steve Asmussen whose expertise in handling InDesign has proved
invaluable during the production of First Water: Best of Pirene’s Fountain. We
hope the collective talents of our excellent design team will help us pull
together some decent covers and interior designs for our books.
RSK: How are your books produced? Do you
use Print on Demand (POD) services such as CreateSpace, Lulu, Lightning Source,
etc., or do print runs via traditional offset printers?
Ideally we would like to have access
to print runs as well as the convenience factor of Print on Demand.
Unfortunately not everyone offers all the variables we require and we are
currently at the stage of trying out various printing modalities by sending out
mock galleys to test the print quality vs. price ratio of each one. Printing is
only one aspect of the production process—we also have to consider a
While offset printers can be expensive
especially when one adds a distribution package to the deal, we found that
Lightning Source allows the publisher to set the discount percentages for
distribution through various retailers. Createspace positions their books with
Amazon while Lightning Source has the Ingrams advantage. After careful
consideration, we are trying out Lightning Source for our first book and once we
get the proof back we will have an idea of the overall quality. Apparently
Lightning Source is used as a printing service by other POD companies.
Lightning Source offers matte and glossy
covers, and cream or white paper but not as many choices in terms of paper
weight. The advantage is that they also do short print runs along with the POD
delivery. We do not have the capacity to store large quantity of books, and need
short runs for our authors as well as for direct, local sales, so this seems to
work out well for us. Createspace offers distribution through Amazon, but we are
not yet sure how much control we will have over the quality of our covers and
In any case if we start out with a
printing service but their quality disappoints, we may end up switching to
another. We do not want to let down our authors and readers with books of
A lot will depend on bottom line costs.
Once we publish our first book, we will have a much better idea of where we
stand on this issue and how we plan to go forward. Right now the greatest
unknown we are facing is how our cover art saved in the CMYK color models
translates in digital print and how faithful it is to the RGB originals. After
our first book, we will gain more experience in handling these technical issues.
RSK: Beside the books’ covers, do you
plan to print content with color in the books’ interior pages?
AK: At this point, we can print black
and white images and do not plan any interior color plates. We may look into the
possibility of color printing down the road if we come across superlative books
that combine literature and art. Had we been interested in publishing recipe
books or children’s books, for example, color plates would have been more of
an issue. In the future if we expand production to include books of other
genres, we can always choose the option to implement color printing if expenses
RSK: Have you already accepted some
manuscripts you can tell us about?
We were amazed by the quality of
manuscripts we received for the first two reading periods and were reluctant
turning away so many good ones, but there is only so much we can publish.
Currently we have some strong and thematically diverse manuscripts in queue:
Floodwater by Connie Post, a paean to the human spirit in face of devastation
and loss; Idyll for a Vanishing River by Jeffery C. Alfier, whose striking
language is perfectly balanced by meaning and depth; the lovely, sensitively
written Moon over Zabriskie by Helen Wickes; an intensely lyrical chapbook
Speak, Shade by Raymond Gibson; Luminous Women: Enheduana, Scheherazade and
Nefertiti, a dynamic collection of poems about these women by Lyn Lifshin which
we hope to release at the 2014 AWP in Seattle; and Aquamarine by Japanese author
Yoko Danno, which houses poems of a rare delicacy and hybrid aesthetic. The
prospect of working on these titles in the next six months and bringing them to
print is exhilarating!
One last question: what personally
motivated you to become a publisher?
Even as a child I paid close
attention to the physical characteristics of books: covers, spines, bindings,
fonts, the weight and texture of paper. I knew all the publisher trademark
symbols and logos. In elementary school my favorite handicraft was cutting
stacks of paper into smaller stacks and stapling them in the middle, then
painting a cover and filling these books with little poems and stories. I gave
my friends and family handmade “books” as gifts—a precursor to chapbooks,
I suppose. When I was older, I
wrote and illustrated my first “book” of poetry, got on my bike and went to
the local printer who bound it for me. I gave it my parents for their
anniversary and even after a few decades they still have the book!
After a considerable detour in my life
and career I returned to the literary world, well into my forties, and although
I was writing and editing, I never lost the desire to make books. Once I started
editing Pirene’s Fountain, that motivation only became stronger and it really
took shape when we published our first anthology, Sunrise from Blue Thunder.
There were so many people who inspired and encouraged me along the way,
especially my staff and family, so it seemed like a natural progression to go
Aside from the pure creative thrill of
overseeing the production of a book from submission to release, it is a personal
privilege for me to serve the writing community and our readers. All of us at
Glass Lyre Press are excited not only about the release of our first publication
First Water: Best of Pirene’s Fountain, but also about the many books that
will pass through our hands in the coming years! It is our fervent wish that
readers everywhere will enjoy our books with the same pleasure and passion we
put into their production!
copyright © Ami Kaye & Robert S. King