Delighted to welcome back poet Frank Prem with a guest post, and today Frank is sharing his writing journey to the very successful published author he is today.
Background to a publishing journey. A reflection – Twenty years looks back by Frank Prem
I thought I might take a moment to reflect on my book publishing journey, this morning. Appropriate, because it seems to have swallowed all other aspects of my life in a single gulp, just recently.
My first effort at self publishing took place way back around year 2000 – twenty years ago, already! A group of close friends were the first to share my (initially) whispered revelation that I believed myself to be a poet. I was a mere child of 44 years, back at the turn of the century, and revelation of my own secret heart was no small thing.
This was also the period of my discovery of spoken word – poetry readings to a live audience. Initially, I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting up on stage and behind a microphone to read to an audience of declared poets. However, it turned out that there were two poems on printed sheets of paper that somehow found their way into a pocket on that first occasion … and I was hooked.
Very heady times.
It was also a time when I was discovering that, while I could write well and occasionally achieve literary publication, or win a prize, the process for achieving recognition as a poet was fraught, and the prospects for doing well in the pursuit were slender.
I effectively gave up actively pursuing publication, apart from occasional lapses. Instead, I focused on writing and receiving critique (and more writing and more critique).
Enter the Tales of Faust and Frank Faust, the author.
My friends – the keepers of my new revelation – were a resourceful lot, and included graphic designers and web coders and a great deal of enthusiasm for my craft and capabilities. Before I knew it, I had a web page, complete with gothic emblem, built around my nom de plume. The Tales of Faust, by the unknown author, Frank Faust was born.
The first collection to be put into book form was a thing of design beauty and love – The Book of Evenings, published by the Tales of Faust publishing imprint, and under the author title of Frank Faust.
What happened with the first book?
Self publishing, back then, was a thankless task involving individual printing workshops and arcane knowledge as well as massive quantities of books purchased at the wholesale price, in order to achieve an affordable per unit cost. A best selling poet might have sold a thousand copies, perhaps. A little basic mathematics will tell that this was not a profitable pursuit, but there is no profit motive in the pursuit of dreams. We do these things because we have to, not because they are sensible pursuits.
I ended up with many, many, copies of the book that I was not physically or emotionally or motivationally prepared to sell, and I knew one poet at that time, who had loaded five hundred copies of his collection into the back of his car, which he then drove from town to town and place to place in search of opportunities to read to an audience or otherwise persuade a sceptical public that they needed a little poetry in their lives.
A second attempt at publishing.
A few years later, in the late-noughties, my wife Leanne and I had another crack at the caper. We produced two new collections in book form – almost entirely Leanne’s work of organising and laying out and collating, as well as illustrating, the second collection. The two collections were: memoir of a dog (2008), and Small Town Kid (2009) – the first time around for The Kid. Both these were memoirs of my own life, written in my particular style. The author, this time, was Frank Prem, and the publisher imprint was Prem-Murphy Productions (if I recall correctly).
We experienced the same problems as I had the first time around. Dealing directly with printers to guarantee layout, the need to purchase large numbers of books to make the unit cost an affordable one. In addition, I was still not ready to become a self promoter and salesman of my own work. In retrospect, it is very clear that this preparedness and a commitment to the task of self-promotion is a critical ingredient in the equation if any measure of success is to be achieved.
We eventually gave away, and ultimately donated the remaining stock (after several changes of domicile and a minor flood event) to charity. It had became more burden than joy.
By 2018, I had become a reasonably accomplished writer, comfortable within my own style, and writing mainly for the purpose of sharing work on my blog. I had never seen myself as a blogger, but the opportunity to post my poetry where there was a chance of it being read, while remaining in full control was a great joy and rapidly became addictive.
That year I was fortunate to find and to have opportunity to attend the RainForest Writing Retreat in Queensland, and was exposed to the wonderful possibilities of Indie Publishing, with online retailers ready and willing to take new product, and available Print On Demand (POD) options for book production meaning I could order single unit quantities or complete box-loads of product if I wished, and at my whim. Not to mention production of e-books, which, while a new phenomena to me, had seemingly become the mainstay of a whole new industry.
I came away from that 2018 Retreat determined that now was my time. I merely had a whole new industry and several new crafts to master in order to achieve my goals.
Using contacts I had made at the Retreat, in rapid succession I commissioned assistance with layout and cover creation to put three collections into print within a period of 12 months.
These were all published under my new Wild Arancini Press imprint. Wild Arancini Press is a single author publishing house. Guess who the single author is?
Working with Cage made me aware that taking even greater control of the book production process might be possible. Also, that it was a desirable goal.
By late 2019, after a successful physical launch of The New Asylum collection (ie in a public hall, with live guests and readings, rather than as an online event), I was feeling quite wonderful about the state of my own writing world, but producing books is a little like having a fever, and I felt delirious at the prospect of doing more.
More. The fruits of labor.
During 2019, I had undertaken a writing exercise aimed primarily at my Blog audience, in which I revived a long ago project that engaged a number of poets from around the world collaborating in a multi-national creation.
The project involved using three poets/poems from the past and each poet choosing a line to use as inspiration for a new piece of work. The whole was then collated into an interactive form where a reader could take in the original, but also hyperlink on a line to read the new response.
The original poets and their poems were:
• Amy Lowell – Madonna of the Evening Flowers (1919)
• Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass (1855)
• T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915)
For my exercise in 2019, I undertook to write to all the lines from each of the poems. Thus, every line of Amy Lowell’s poem Madonna of the Evening Flowers, resulted in a reactive/responsive poem written by me.
I felt that each of these projects had potential as books in their own and that they would make an interesting experiential/developmental exercise for the complete home publisher that I aspired to become to undertake.
With significant input from Cage Dunn on the ways and means of formatting an e-book, and the sagacity of another Aussie author acflory (Andrea) to guide and troubleshoot the paperback side, as well as some YouTube demonstration of cover formatting (How to create a book cover using Powerpoint . . .), and my wife Leanne’s content editing the following materialised:
• Three covers for three books taken from three photographs that I took myself on a recent visit to Melbourne.
• Three e-books.
• Three paperbacks
• The creation of a trilogy series, identifiable by common/complementary design, linked and sequential content, and theme.
There are many further steps required to complete each collection as a book, including (eternal) content editing and layout, issues associated with listing the book, pricing, distribution, obtaining validation (via reviews and discussion), library listing and more. The achievements I’ve mentioned, however, are enough to show me what can be done, and how it can be done, and that I am able to maintain control over the production of my own work.
The resultant books and their scheduled release dates, together with links to take you to your preferred Amazon store are as follows:
• Walk Away Silver Heart – e-book 14th February 2020, paperback March 14th, 2020 (Amy Lowell) mybook.to/Walk_Away_Silver_Heart – Read the reviews and buy
• A Kiss for the Worthy – e-book April 30th, 2020, paperback May 31st, 2020 (Walt Whitman) mybook.to/A_kiss_for_the_worthy – To Pre-Order
• Rescue and Redemption – e-book June 30th, 2020, paperback July 31st, 2020 (T.S. Eliot) mybook.to/Rescue_and_Redemption – To Pre-Order
Well, there are a few things I want to do.
I have done a lot of writing using a photographic image as the point of contemplation that leads to a poem. I want to create some books – e-books, most likely – that showcase that work. I have to learn how to make pictures behave themselves properly, first, but am confident that there is a unique space for this kind of endeavour, and I intend to claim it.
I would also like to revisit memoir of a dog and The Book of Evenings, to bring all the past efforts into contemporary circulation. And . . .
The list goes on. Stay tuned. There will be more – books and workshops and audio and everything that I can think of.
©Frank Prem 2020
Frank Prem recently celebrated his latest release, Walk away silver heart: Poetry inspired by the Amy Lowell poem ‘Madonna of the Evening Flowers’ (A Love Poetry Trilogy Book 1)
About the collection
All day long I have been working
Now I am tired.
I call: “Where are you?”
But there is only the oak tree rustling in the wind . . .
from Madonna of the Evening Flowers
Drawing on the phrasing of the early 20th Century Amy Lowell poem Madonna of the Evening Flowers (above) Frank Prem has produced a collection of personal and interpersonal love poems written, as always, in the unique style that allows every reader to relate.
Prem’s interpretations breathe new life into contemporary love poetry and utilise Lowell’s original phrases to inspire a tender immediacy and warmth of response as in the eponymous poem:
I look at you
see myself the way
I should have been
but something pure
along the way
from walk away (silver heart)
Walk Away Silver Heart is the first of three collections that together comprise A Love Poetry Trilogy, with each revisiting outstanding work by stellar poets of the past to produce vibrant new collections. The second collection, a kiss for the worthy, draws on Walt Whitman’s classic work Leaves of Grass, while the third, rescue and redemption, derives from T.S Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
This is a new kind of poetry that tells stories, draws pictures and elicits emotional responses from readers. Just as the best poetry should.
One of the early reviews for the collection.
Frank Prem has an extraordinary way with words and his poems invoke great passion and emotion in the reader. This latest work is inspired by a poem called Madonna of the Evening Flowers by Amy Lowell. The poet has taken each line of this famous poem and used it to inspire his own poem.
The first two poems set the scene for this collection of love poems and particularly the first part of the book which focuses on absence. Many emotions partner with love and one of them is a feeling of loss when our special person or people are not there. This also applies to mothers who feel a great sense of loss when their children start growing up and moving away. Absence is quite integral to love and the air of melancholy that is evident in the first section of these poems results in an intensely emotional reading experience. The later poems move on to cover a wide variety of different emotions and situations.
This collection includes some stunning poems and I loved the poet’s take on the theme of love and the use of a famous love poem as inspiration. I enjoyed the two older poems that were included at the end of the book and was interested to note how the poet’s style of writing has changed and simplified over time. I thoroughly enjoyed all the poems, both the older ones and the recent once.
One of my favourite poems, because it moved me and I dwelled on it for a long while, is too much (to bear). This is a short extract from this poem:
“the hallway seems
I look around
to find you
you’re not there
Head over to buy the collection: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Read the reviews and buy all the books: Amazon US
And Amazon UK: Amazon UK
Read more reviews and follow Frank on Goodreads: Goodreads
About Frank Prem
I’ve been a storytelling poet for about forty years. Longer in fact, as I remember the first poem I wrote while at secondary school was about 150 – 200 words long and was accepted in lieu of a 500 word essay. I think that may have been the start.
I love to read my work to a live audience, and have audio recorded some recent recordings and popped them on my author page. I have also done some studio- recorded work under the direction and accompaniment of my wife Leanne Murphy that can be listened to there. These poems are on mythological themes and the accompaniment by Leanne makes them a little bit extraordinary.
By profession, I am a psychiatric nurse and have worked across most facets of public psychiatry and the mental health/mental illness spectrum. My experiences and reflections on what I have seen and done are the subject of a forthcoming memoir – scheduled for late 2019, or perhaps more likely, 2020.
I’ve been published in magazines, zines and anthologies, in Australia and in a number of other countries, but for a long time I haven’t sought much publication. The whims of editors are a little too capricious and unknowable, so I have preferred to hone my craft and self-publish on my poetry blogs
Leanne and I reside in the beautiful township of Beechworth in the North-East of Victoria (Australia).
Connect to Frank
My thanks to Frank for sharing his adventures over the last twenty years and it is a lesson in perseverance and creativity… I know that he would love to have your feedback… thanks Sally.