26 May 2021
Posted by Megan Laing
Last week, the Poetry Ambassadors mentees and I were lucky enough to chat to Aaron Kent from Broken Sleep Books about the publishing process and all the exciting things that go into taking something from an author’s imagination and onto a physical page.
Broken Sleep Books describe itself as ‘a press where community action, inclusivity, and innovation are at the forefront’. During our conversation, Aaron explained how he wanted to advocate for more working-class voices in literature and built his poetry press around what he wanted to see from a publisher.
The work that Aaron and Broken Sleep Books are doing is incredible. Not only are they dedicated to making the publishing industry more accessible, but continue to give back through their community action. Their website says:
‘Quite simply we wouldn't exist without the solidarity and kindness of our poets, writers, and fellow publishers; and the work we put out into the world is an expression of that. We believe it's vital to amplify voices speaking out against oppression, to call out injustice ourselves as often and as loudly as we can, and to provide financial and pastoral support as often as we are able.’
‘We have started a new imprint, Secret Sleep Books, which has a main purpose of raising money through a portion of sales for a charitable purpose, for each release. So far we have used secret Sleep Books to raise money for AGE UK, Medics without Borders (Yemen), Shelter UK, and Freedom4girls.’
In 2020, they raised over £5000 for Black Lives Matter, and in over two years have raised almost £10,000 for various good causes. I highly recommend having a read of the community action page on their website, which can be found here.
Having the opportunity to talk through exactly what will happen to their completed work has been extremely valuable for mentees April Egan, Eve Wright, and Kaycee Hill. In addition, as someone who potentially wants to pursue a career in publishing, it’s been particularly helpful for me as well to more accurately picture the process.
Aaron explained the difference between the two types of poetry publication: pamphlets and collections. Pamphlets tend to be under forty pages and are often the first physical example of a poet’s work, whereas a collection is over forty pages long and pretty much does what it says on the tin.
We also learned about the importance of following submission guidelines. Each publishing press has a different preference as to how they’d like their submissions formatted. For example, Times New Roman with size twelve font.
It was also illuminating to hear more about the actual editing process, a side of publishing that I previously hadn’t heard a lot about before. Generally, it would take three months to typeset, design, organise and edit a pamphlet to make sure it’s to the best possible standard before printing. However, the editor and the author can go back and forth on certain points and, although some publishing presses limit the number of rounds of edits that can be made, Broken Sleep Books doesn’t.
At a glance, this is the roadmap Aaron laid out for the Poetry Ambassadors mentees leading up to their publication in (fingers crossed!) early October:
The final draft is sent in
Cover design is agreed upon
In addition, Broken Sleep Books is the recipient of the Michael Marks Publishing Award 2020. The Awards have aimed both to promote the pamphlet form and to enable poets and publishers to develop. They continue to celebrate the importance of the poetry pamphlet as a literary form, with the support of their partners - The British Library, The Wordsworth Trust, Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies, and the TLS.