Interview with Glenn Lyvers

This time we tracked down Glenn Lyvers, a publisher—you know, the people who decide what books are published. We interviewed Glenn Lyvers, the masthead at Prolific Press, a publisher beloved by his writers and unknown to almost everyone else. That’s the way publishers roll—they hide in the shadows and wield most of the power over what you read today. Our brief interview was informative, though we’re already catching heat for not asking more questions. It seems people really have a lot to ask Glenn Lyvers, and others like him.

(photo: Jeff Tatay)

Ycrazymind: OK, Mr. Lyvers, what is a typical workday like? Start at the beginning and tell the readers what it’s like to be you every day.

Glenn Lyvers: Every day I wake up before sunrise and realize I’m still plunging into a never-ending pit of hell. It’s the dream I had last night, and it’s real when I wake up. I went to sleep behind in my reading, and woke up more behind in my reading. Overnight, submissions came in—piled up, and are waiting like impatient old men at a soup counter. Staff members start sending me emails about submissions I can’t remember anything about. The coffee isn’t brewing fast enough, and until I have coffee, I’m a zombie.

Once I get organized, a sort of determination sets in. Every day I have to reset, dig in, and find a determined resolve to do all that I can to help people. April has questions about orders, intern applications pop up, writers can’t get into the submission manager, the bank needs assurance that we really did make a big purchase of paper from on online retailer, an employer needs the verify past employment of a worker, a college wants to verify a publication credit for a writer or teacher, people want to know what the status of their poems and stories are, and my dog starts to cry because she desperately wants me to take her out to pee.

That’s my life. I wear 50 hats, and my poor dog needs to pee.

Ycrazymind: With everyone today having a soapbox online, how do you deal with disgruntled writers?

Glenn Lyvers: Once it’s clear that I can’t please someone, despite my best efforts, I filter it out like background noise. I don’t have any negative feelings about disgruntled writers. They are passionate people. Some are crazy cat ladies who have nothing better to do than lash out. Some are manic men who are so self-absorbed that they freak out when someone else doesn’t think they write well. It takes all kinds. If a writer wants to lash out online, it’s really not hurting anyone to let them. At the end of the day, if you’re pleasing everyone, you’re doing it wrong. And if I didn’t have at least one person consumed with blogging about how bad I am, then I’d feel like a failure. (Lyvers busts out laughing with a very genuine grin. For the first time during this interview, he seems to look like he’s having fun.)

Fortunately, I don’t have many of those. I’m almost always able to make tough decisions and still maintain great relations with the writers. The real pros know about rejection, and keep trying. They know I want them to succeed. We just can’t publish everything. I care about the writers, and I think it shows.

Ycrazymind: What is your secret about staying afloat and how did you deal with the changing technology that seems to have frustrated the publishing business over the last few years?

Glenn Lyvers: Staying afloat is never easy for a publisher. For Prolific Press, we stay afloat by keeping busy. We have a lot of projects going on. We don’t sign a contract to publish a manuscript until we have the funding to pay for it. If I could give other presses advice, it would be to stay in the black. That’s the financial end of things.

But the real secret to our success has to be the writers. We’re just plain lucky to have so many great writers submitting regularly. I probably know a hundred of our writers by their first name and dozens by the sound of their voice on the phone. I have developed some great relationships. The readers love our writers too. Without them, we’d dry up.

What was the second part of the question?

Ycrazymind: The technology. How do you deal with the shifting technology?

Glenn Lyvers: We try to use the best technologies available, and partner with cutting edge companies to produce our products. Technology hasn’t been an issue for us, maybe because we’re not a huge business. We can change more easily and keep up.

Ycrazymind: On a scale of 1-10, ten being the highest score, how would you rate how hard Glenn Lyvers works as an Editor? What makes you think this is an accurate score?

Glenn Lyvers: Rate myself? You don’t make it easy do you? (Lyvers smiles and fidgets a little.) I’d say a nine. I’d be lying if I said I never relaxed. I make mistakes, sometimes real blunders when I’m exhausted. Another interviewer called me the hardest working editor in America. I’d say that’s stretching things a bit. All publishers and editors work very hard. We all have that in common. I do work hard, but there’s probably someone else out there who works even harder.

Ycrazymind: If you could invent the perfect complement from one of your writers, what would that sound like?

Glenn Lyvers: (Lyvers pauses, looking down at his lap for half a minute before answering.) From a writer? Probably that I delivered everything I promised and enhanced the work. I don’t know. That’s a tough question. It’s important to me that I keep my promises and even do more than expected. If they say that, well, that’s quite a compliment.

Ycrazymind: Lastly, what is your 5-year plan for the future, in terms of publishing?

Glenn Lyvers: In 5 years, I’d like to be publishing more titles every month than we have in our best month so far. I want the books to be better, the readers to be even more thrilled. I want our writers to make more money. It’s hard to say how to get from here to there, but in 5 years, I plan to double our inventory, increase payments to writers at the journals and in the full publishing program. In 5 years, the plan is to be better than we are now.

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