A Look Ahead for 2016: New Book Prize, New Publishing Schedule

My favorite thing about small presses is the opportunity for experimentation, for evolution, for reevaluation and refining year after year. My favorite thing about Cobalt is our ability to balance consistency with change, most notably in our staff. As the great Ruben Quesada moves on to a new opportunity in Queen Mob’s Tea House, I’m reminded of the shift in poetry when he arrived a little under two years ago. The position was previously held by Tabitha Surface and Jill Williams, and we are gearing up to announce our next poetry editor in the next month or so. Each editor has brought a new aesthetic to our publications, and we took advantage of that by separating poetry into its own issue every winter.

On the side of consistency, Rafe Posey and Samantha Stanco have done a wonderful job maintaining our prose content since Cobalt’s inception in 2011. The work has been diverse, has explored both traditional and experimental forms, and has kept Cobalt strong.

We all have been moving, moving up and moving on in one way or another these past five years. Our staff is now located in several states, and is relying on technology to connect us more than ever. We don’t throw parties or go out for coffee; Cobalt is what keeps us together. And, while we are losing several social elements of our process, the press is able to benefit from a revisioning, a more concentrated focus on product – we are forced into new methods of collaboration that equally broaden and narrow our objectives as a group.

I moved to Montana recently. It was a physical and mental change that I could not wholly prepare for. My time was consumed by wave after wave of adjustment. Some things fell behind schedule, some things took new priority, and others dropped off the map almost entirely.

In our sort-of-annual evaluation of the press, what worked, what could be better, we’ve established some goals and changes for 2016. These are not necessarily permanent changes, and some things may return/revert in 2017.

What we’re discontinuing (at least for now):

  • Frank McCourt Creative Nonfiction Prize
  • Gabriela Mistral Poetry Prize
  • Zora Neale Hurston Fiction Prize

This is as difficult a decision as we’ve made since the inception of Cobalt in 2011. We love to reward high-caliber work, and contests are a great way to do that. We haven’t ruled out the return of these prizes in 2017, but in an effort to ease back on our ever-increasing workload, this is a great place to start.

Don’t worry, though. The Earl Weaver Baseball Writing Prize is here to stay! We’ll talk more about that in the next section.

A new schedule for Cobalt Review online:

  • June – fiction and creative nonfiction
  • December – poetry
  • End of MLB season/start of Postseason – baseball (poetry, fiction, CNF)

There are a lot of reasons why this schedule works better for our staff and for our readers. When we moved to an annual poetry issue, we gave our poetry editor more than ample time to comfortably build content for a larger, more comprehensive issue that meets his/her vision. I’m scratching my head, now, and wondering why didn’t we do this for prose already? So now we’re doing it for prose.

Personally, I work on the academic calendar. Many of us do. The amount of time I want to spend on the baseball issue, and the enormous volume of submissions it has brought in for the past three years, calls for a summer-heavy schedule. We will use the midsummer classic as a deadline for this issue, rather than a publication date, giving submitters a few extra weeks to get their stuff in (or make bold predictions about who might win the Series).

A new contest:

In February, we are going to launch the first Cobalt book prize. This is a realignment of resources. We’ll offer cash prizes (not advances) and book contracts to the winner and first runner-up. The second runner-up will receive an offer for a book deal under Cobalt Press. We care deeply about each of our authors, and our book deals are highly competitive. In addition to our “boiler-plate” stuff, we offer an additional portion of each sale of his/her book to a charity of the author’s choosing.

Here are the prizes for the “+Gamma Rays” Book Prize:

  • Winner: $300 cash + book deal
  • Runner-Up: $100 cash + book deal
  • Second Runner-Up: book deal (optional, determined by committee)

The “+Gamma Rays” Book Prize, inspired by the beta decay nuclear equation of Cobalt-60, and the comment from a physics professor at Rocky Mountain College that “‘+Gamma Rays’ means it’s shootin’ shit,” will welcome full-length manuscripts of all sorts. We are not so corny as to say things like “send us your most radioactive work.” However, we definitely want the stuff that will leave a lasting impression on us. More details can be found at cobalt.submittable.com in the next week or two.

Cobalt Press will continue to accept non-contest submissions for full-length works.

We are also in the process of identifying the rest of our 2016-2017 catalogs for Cobalt Press. 2016 will start with Donora Hillard-Hare’s Jeff Bridges poetry collection, with illustrations by Goodloe Byron. A novel for the summer has already been selected. That will be announced soon.

Until next time,

Andrew Keating
Publisher and Managing Editor
Cobalt Press/Cobalt Review

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