Sorry I've been away so long. No excuses.
When I went to the upstreet 2 reading in NYC on May 21, I talked about distribution with one of the featured poets, who used to run an independent press and publish a literary journal. One thing he said reverberated in my head for days afterward: "DeBoer has a rep for not paying its publishers."
After sending DeBoer one last email--consisting only of the subject line, "Are you still in business?"--and receiving no answer, I left a voicemail message, saying that the new issue of upstreet would be coming out soon. To my surprise, Faye called me back, opening the conversation with, "Yes, I'm still in business." I told her I didn't understand her affidavit, and couldn't figure out how many copies of upstreet 1 had been sold. She started spouting numbers of covers returned, and finally said, "Oh, I can't do this on the phone." Then, after a long litany of complaints about what a difficult business she's in and how she doesn't make any money on litmags, she gave me the bottom line: she can't pay me.
upstreet 1 was not a loser (some magazines are). It sold. DeBoer owes me money, but they're not going to pay me. I told her that upstreet 3 was going to come out at the beginning of July, and she said she'd do a recall on upstreet 2 to find out how many sold, but that she couldn't pay me for them. (That was just the whipped cream; the cherry on top was when she told me I could send her 150 copies of upstreet 3 to distribute, but she wouldn't pay me for those, either.) In the middle of her whining harangue, I asked her if she still distributed Fiction; she said they had sent her their last issue. I asked about Ploughshares; she said they had not sent her the last issue. So they've dumped her. I especially liked her remark about Poetry magazine: "I told them--You have millions of dollars. I don't see why I should have to pay you." I think I'll try that approach with the electric company or the phone company the next time they send me a bill. Before I hung up, she had agreed to send me the 25 undistributed copies of upstreet 2, and a statement of how much she owes me for upstreet 1. I got the books back, but not the accounting. (If I had to make a guess, I'd say DeBoer owes me between $700 and $800.)
I told all this to someone at an independent publishers' organization I belong to, and he said that Faye hardly ever pays, and that the editors who continue to use DeBoer consider it a "marketing tool" to get their journals into the indie bookstores, and just kiss those few hundred copies goodbye, expecting nothing in return but some visibility and readership. In other words, I give DeBoer 250 copies of upstreet (which I paid to have printed and shipped) and they send them out to the bookstores; then, when they do their recall and get paid for however many copies were sold, they just keep all of it.
This organization suggested how I could get some information and advice on distribution from others in the litmag business, and I've been talking with a number of them over the past couple of weeks. What I learned from them, and what I'm planning to do next, will be the subject of my next post.