No, Robot, No! Deadline extended

Busy month? Didn’t quite pull together your proposal in time? We’ve decided to extend the submissions call for No, Robot, No! to Monday 26th March. (We will also be putting back the final deadline for successful proposals accordingly). Consult the full briefing here, and read about our thinking behind the submissions procedure here.

A new approach to submissions

The submissions call for Sidekick’s next title, No, Robot, No!, breaks with the tradition of asking writers to send in completed individual pieces. Instead, we’re looking for proposals – an idea of what you would do with 3-5 pages, your own little slice of the book. Here are a few words on our thinking behind this.

From its inception, the idea behind Sidekick was to publish collaborative books. ‘Collaborative books’ is almost a tautology – a book is nearly always a collaborative effort between artists, editors and designers, to say nothing of those people thanked on the acknowledgements page for their varying degrees of influence and judgement. But in terms of poetry – as well as other leading genres – the writer is generally credited (and marketed) as sole author. The single author collection is by far the dominant form in poetry publishing, and this makes the poetry ‘industry’ extremely reliant on the celebrity and saleability of individuals.

(As a side note, the fact that publicity leans so heavily on author identity is one cause of the lack of diversity at the top layer – since it’s easier to pass off older white men as having the authority required of the ‘eminent poet’ archetype. It’s true that recently, there has been a shift toward celebrating alternative perspectives and experiences, particularly those of women and minority groups, but the emphasis on identity is unchanged, and this carries with it the danger of reducing non-white-male authors to cyphers.)

Beyond the single author collection, the second most dominant form in poetry publishing is probably the ‘survey’ anthology – in effect, an instrument of categorisation and organisation. Then there are celebratory or occasional anthologies, and therapeutic or self-help anthologies. With the exception of Bloodaxe’s Staying Alive and its sequels, books in the latter two brackets are critically ignored, regarded as purely commercial exercises.

So the somewhat ambitious remit behind Sidekick was to try to find or forge a new form of mainstream poetry book, one that emphasised the collaborative aspect of book creation and avoided emphasis on the figure of the poet. What if poetry was the mode, rather than the genre? What if, instead of all poetry being confined to the Poetry section of a bookshop or online marketplace, it was found in all the other sections – one of the ways in which any topic might be explored, or any genre realised?

To this end, we’ve published mainly themed, multi-author compendiums of newly solicited writing, mixing poetry with prose, illustration and graphic arts, questing for the right balance between charming and unruly, orderly and idiosyncratic. We tried to make our Birdbook series a kind of catalogue or ornithopaedia as much as a poetry collection, and we tried to involve as many different poets as possible across the various projects – driven in part by the notion that more poets can reach a wider audience if they aren’t fighting over the same few pulpits. (Or crowns? Pistols? Whichever metaphor suits).

One disadvantage of this approach is that a poet who has written one or two poems for one of our books isn’t likely to feel very well represented, or like they’ve had much influence on the overall shape or feel of the book. It also makes compiling and editing particularly fiendish – imagine trying to make a complete jigsaw out of dozens of pieces from different jigsaw sets, but without being able to choose exactly which pieces.

So we came up with a new plan: offer poets (and other experimental writers) a little patch of land. Book-land. Space for a sequence, or micro-pamphlet, or something substantial. Ask them to describe to us what they would do with it, based on a broad idea of the theme of the book. Then select a number of those ideas to commission in full and put together the skeleton of the book from there. The process is intended to be less top-down, more generative, with the work of individuals given a little more space to breathe. It should also streamline the production process, since we can start on the layout before the final components arrive.

Undoubtedly, there will be downsides to this approach as well, and difficulties we haven’t foreseen. But we thought it was worth experimenting with. As with other aspects of our unconventional approach to publishing, the results should be, at the very least, rather interesting.

Submissions

Submissions

• Submissions Call: BATS
• General Submissions Policy

Submissions Call: BATS

Deadline: 31st May

In September 2018, we plan to publish Battalion, the fourth in Sidekick’s Headbooks series, following Aquanauts, Bad Kid Catullus and No, Robot, No (out July 2018). This time our muse and subject is the bat. Bats in nature, bats in wider culture, bat facts, bat stats – also, bats as the starting point for investigations into sound, darkness, mythology, superstition, the city, and so on.

As with our previous call for submission, we are initially looking for proposals – not finished pieces, but an idea of what you would do with 3-5 pages of the book. The deadline for sending these is 31st May. If you’re interested in contributing to this project, please read the guidelines below carefully and then complete the form.

What we’re looking for

• One or more proposals for a single piece, sequence or series of pieces that would take up between 3 and 5 pages. The dimensions of the book are the same as the previous two titles in series, Aquanauts and Bad Kid Catullus, with portrait pages measuring 130 x 184mm, allowing for a gutter of about 12mm.

• Your proposal should have a thematic or structural coherence to it (ie. not just 3-5 disparate pieces) and should in some way engage with the subject of this book, even if only as an entry point.

• In terms of style and content, we are particularly keen to publish pieces that combine the visual and the lyrical in innovative and enticing ways: concrete poetry, pattern poetry, calligrams, sonograms, ideograms, collages, typographic art. Collaboration with designers and illustrators is encouraged, as is working with pre-existing texts (within fair dealing guidelines).

• We are also keen to publish pieces that include an interactive element, eg. game poems, instructional poems, invitations to the reader to write on the page or add things to the book.

• Additionally, we are looking to take on pieces that fuse the poetic with the informational. Charts, tables, timelines, glossaries. These need not be strictly factual – they might simply borrow a visual data format while following a poetic or imaginative agenda.

For Inspiration

A good place to start is the website of the Bat Conservation Trust. Archive.org has a large collection of scanned out-of-copyright texts, and Wikimedia Commons is a good source of free images that may be reworked.


Cover art for The Field Guide to Typography

from Dog Ear by Erica Baum

Alphabet of Fishes by Bob Cobbing

Page 3 of A Humament (1984 version) by Tom Phillips

from Pattern Poetry: Guide to Unknown Literature by Dick Higgins

from Information is Beautiful by David McCandless

One final stipulation

We do ask that you have previously purchased at least one of our titles, or have been previously published in one of our titles. It need not be a title in the Headbooks series, but we recommend one of these if you’re new to Sidekick. The reason we’ve added this is that we think of our books as collaborative projects. We want to work generously with other writers and their own ideas, styles and aesthetics, but we also ask that you be somewhat familiar with our own approach as a small press publisher. All you need to do is indicate on the submissions form which book/s you’ve bought or been published in and where you picked them up (this also helps us develop a picture of where people are finding out about us).

Key dates and rates:

• The deadline for submitting proposals is Thursday 31st May.
Complete the form here in order to submit your proposal. We will get back to you by June 7th, and if we decide to take your proposal further we will commission the work at a rate of £20 per page (maximum five pages).
July 14th will then be the final deadline for sending us the completed work.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to email us at submissions [at] sidekickbooks.com.

General Submissions Policy


We periodically issue calls for proposals and submissions linked to our themed, collaborative anthologies, which we are ever evolving into a platform for a plethora of styles and approaches. You can keep up to date with our submissions calls via our blog, Twitter and Facebook feeds, so follow us there in the first instance. You can also sign up to our mailing list at the bottom of the page. Calls are open to anyone and everyone across the world, and we particularly welcome submissions from BAME, LGBTQIA+ and disabled writers.

Unfortunately, we do not consider unsolicited manuscripts or book proposals. As these requests are increasing in frequency and we’re only a two-person team, we no longer have time to reply to such enquiries. Check out the detailed list of publishers provided by the Poetry Book Fair to find a good fit for your work.