Friday, May 10, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Your Archives

Publication Archive – a Necessary Thing

Most of us are not going to be famous enough to have our “letters” archived in a library or university…we need to keep track of this ourselves, and it’s not ego. We all write for a reason; archiving our work allows us to stay organized, keep our work, and okay, maybe it’s a little ego.

I do not think we need to save conversational emails except for our own interests. I do think that acceptance and rejection emails should be saved along with the appropriate submissions, but every person does this differently. Whatever works for you, keep doing it.

By archiving, I mean your books and in-print contributor copies. Let’s focus on those.


Every time you make a book you will get copies. If you self-publish, you’ll probably get a box of fifty or a hundred. If you have a publisher, you will probably get a few as part of your agreement, plus a number you can buy at a discount. WHATEVER YOU HAVE, before you do anything, take a copy of the book, and put it in your archive box.

If you’re smart enough to put them in order, which I’m not, it will help you if you ever write a book of new and selected poems. Generally in the beginning, there will be a list of prior books and the dates. I think my list (minus the dates) is:

Sanity Among the Wildflowers
Hostage Negotiation in Negative-Land
Carpeting the Stones
Poste Restante
Surface Effects in Winter Wind
Lit Up
Lapses and Absences
Cello for a Quiet Morning
The Color of Forgiveness
Romance and Rust
Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where
Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies

Cello for a Quiet Morning was a handmade limited edition of twelve chapbooks. Did I want to “waste” a copy by putting it in my archive box? Heck no, but I did. I want to live a long time, but God forbid something happens to me. I have a 20-year-old. I want him to have copies of my books, even if he just throws them in a bottom drawer somewhere.

Click here =:-)
My first three chapbooks were self-published. I still love them, especially Sanity Among the Wildflowers. It was my first book. I made it for a final in a class. What did I know about ISBN’s? If I had not kept a copy of all of these, they’d be gone.

Note: A lot of you know I just had the opportunity to have Sanity Among the Wildflowers reprinted by Cholla Needles Press. A lot of you voted on your preferred cover color. Because of Rich and Cholla Needles Press, I was able to edit every single fourteen-year-old poem, and have an updated version re-printed. With an ISBN so it’s available on Amazon! If I had not kept a copy of the original, goodbye chapbook.

Please, keep a copy of everything you publish! This represents what you did when you had insomnia. When you went through depression, a break-up, a promotion…Your books were not always the result of something bad. I hope we’ve come to realize that the “tortured artist” scenario is not necessarily true. We’re not all Van Gogh. Keep your books. This is your legacy.

Contributor Copies:

Work that you have published in on-line journals will be archived on-line. Until the journals die. Work that you have published in print journals, you will have forever. Get some bookshelves – you will be writing for a long time. Don’t mix your contributor copies up with books that you keep because you love them. Contributor copy shelves represent your success.

I recommend alphabetical order, not date order. Most print copies have the submission guidelines somewhere, so if you’re looking for a place to submit, you can survey your journals and see who you haven’t submitted to in a while. We use our shelves like a virtual Duotrope—because weekly Duotrope does not list journals that are open year round for submissions.

You might get two, or even four copies. I recommend keeping only one. Donate the other copies:

to writers you know for whom the journal might be a good fit,

to teachers who teach creative writing classes. A lot have budgets so small, they spend their own money for books and writing supplies,

to assisted living facilities. They may have libraries that are woefully out-of-date,

to Goodwill, or other charity.

Heck, even Powell’s carries old journals. Your extra contributor copies have a value. Don’t just toss them.

Get good at putting bookshelves together. My wish for you is that every spare wall you have has a bookshelf, some for your personal reading and some for your many many successes!

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


  1. My favorite is still Slices of Alice

  2. And that's why it's dedicated to you :-)


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