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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, Tiferet, Cartier Street Review, Peony Moon and Diode Poetry Journal, among others. Ami edited and published Sunrise from Blue Thunder in response to the Japan 2011 nuclear reactor disaster, and co-edited First Water: Best of Pirene’s Fountain. 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 here.


Robert S. 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 Critic, Kenyon Review, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, 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.


RSK: I’m sure you’ve answered this question many times already, but how did your press get its name?

AK: 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 different?

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.

RSK: 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.

RSK: Do you plan to run book contests?

AK: 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?

AK: 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 costs.

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.

RSK: 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 is.

RSK: Although it’s impossible to answer with precision, how long before an author should expect a response to a submission?

AK: 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.

RSK: Your websites, including Pirene’s Fountain, are very attractively designed. Could we expect your book designs to be the same?

AK: 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?

AK: 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 distribution system.

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 the paper.

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 substandard production.

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 allow.

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!

RSK: One last question: what personally motivated you to become a publisher?

AK: 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 into publishing.

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