My debut poetry collection, The Places We Empty, was published by Kelsay Books in August 2021, and I couldn’t be happier with the entire experience. When Delisa sent me the acceptance letter, just one week after I had submitted my manuscript, I was ecstatic, albeit a little shocked, as Kelsay Books was the first press I had tried, on the recommendation of a fellow Kelsay author. Throughout the entire process, from the first contact to the final, breathtaking result, Karen and Delisa were friendly, enthusiastic, professional, and quick to resolve any doubts I had. Their schedule and contract were straightforward, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn I’d be earning a generous percentage of royalties from book sales.
Although Karen guided me as I got my manuscript into shape, she allowed me a great deal of freedom regarding the poem edits and cover art. As we were nearing my publication date, when I suddenly decided I wanted to add a trigger warning, she said, without hesitation, “Write it, and I’ll find a place for it.” I still can’t believe my beautiful book is out in the world, in people’s hands and homes. I’m eternally grateful to Karen, Delisa, and the entire team for making my childhood dream come true in a spectacular way, and I greatly look forward to future Kelsay publications.
My third book of poetry was published by Kelsay Books in August 2021. When I received their email of acceptance followed by a contract, I was absolutely thrilled! I knew about Kelsay as one of the top mid-presses and therefore couldn’t believe their acceptance! What a privilege to be published by them.
The entire time from contract to publication took less than six months! How cool is that! Throughout the publication process, which was extremely professional, and on schedule, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with Delisa and Karen. Everything was communicated clearly, quickly, and with warmth. The journey of editing and the actual publication, including the design and artwork for the jacket, was so very smooth! I was made to feel special, and that is exactly what authors wish from their publishers. Poets are very lucky to have publishing houses such as Kelsay Books that invests its time, effort, and money into publishing such amazing poetry collections. I wish Karen and her team at Kelsay all my very best. Thank you for being my publisher, believing in my poetry, and giving it space in your thoughtful, eclectic publishing house!
Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP
In my search to find a good home for my poems, I looked at the company they would keep by perusing small press bookstores. Kelsay Books had an impressive, diverse, and lively selection of poets one would consider an honor to be among. The turnaround time for manuscript approval was surprisingly fast. Karen and her staff were professional to work with. They expressed opinions as needed yet allowed an appropriate amount of autonomy.
Kelsay Books presented me with three cover choices, and the end result is stellar—lovely artwork that wraps around to the back of the book. Its design has garnered many compliments. This is my second collection with Kelsay Books; I am completely pleased with the contract and the process.
Kelsay Books just released my new book of poems, Windthrow & Salvage, and I wanted to post some impressions for other poets looking for a quality publisher. Bottom line: As a small, independent press, Kelsay Books is topnotch. If Karen Kelsay accepts your book for publication, she provides a very detailed contract that is clear, quite fair, and generous in terms of royalties. She also lays out a detailed production process and timeline.
Before I returned my signed contract, I purchased copies of several Kelsay Books collections to get an idea of the kind of quality it could provide and was quite impressed. I also compared her contract to those of my previous book publishers and found it to be, in almost every respect, comparable or better. Finally, before signing, I submitted a number of questions that Karen answered quickly and directly, thereby heading off any confusion after the fact.
I’m immensely pleased with my new book of poems. Its cover art, its paper, its interior design—all are superb. In my case, the press even managed to have the finished book to me ahead of schedule. Karen and her staff worked meticulously with me every step of the way, and they did a beautiful job of editing, design, and production. Karen is exactly what you would hope for in an editor/publisher—someone who is a perfectionist, who is reliable, and who is totally committed to doing work she clearly loves. Her contributions to American poetry, in my estimation, are immense. It was a genuine pleasure to partner with her and her staff in bringing out this new book. I want publicly to express my gratitude. Kelsay Books offers an extremely valuable literary platform for many accomplished mid-career poets. In these highly competitive times, we are fortunate to have quality independent presses like Kelsay Books as outlets for our work. I wish continued success for this very fine literary press.
Karen Kelsay not only attends to craft but also holds high standards of integrity. It was a pleasure to have my third full collection of poetry come alive through her. She is a publisher you can trust with your jewels.
Karen Kelsay has published three of my books of poetry. I’ve been pleased with the layout and especially the stunning covers. It has always been a polite and professional experience working with Aldrich Press.
I have been lucky to have had several poetry collections published by Kelsay Books. The whole process was very enjoyable from start to finish. Karen was completely hands-on through it all. She is a patient editor and helpful when it comes to questions or concerns about the aesthetics of the final product. I believe Karen looks at each project as if it were her own work and takes the time to go over every little detail. She is a perfectionist when it comes to producing a beautiful book. She is an award-winning poet herself so I believe she takes her time with each project treating it as her own, something she would be proud of as an author. I have only praise for Karen and her staff and feel honored to have been published by Kelsay Books. I look forward to working with her on a new book very soon.
Seamless and professional: those are the first two words that come to mind when I think of my experience working with Kelsay Books. From start to finish, I was utterly confident that my manuscript of poems Mothershell was in very fine hands. From the prompt response to my query, to searching for the right cover art, to the final editing process and printing, I really don’t think I could have been more pleased. SO much gratitude to Karen Kelsay and her fine staff; the poetry world is fortunate to have them!!
Karen Kelsay published my fourth book of poems, which was for me a particularly personal one since its fifty-one sonnets, taken as a whole, detailed my father’s life and his descent into age-related dementia. Karen was absolutely lovely to work with. Her personal and incredibly prompt responses to my questions and concerns were something I hadn’t experienced before, and although she was also working on other books simultaneously, I always had the impression that my book was just as important to her as it was to me. She allowed me to use a series of black and white photographs inside the book, as well as enthusiastically signing off on a personal photo of my father and me for the cover.
On her website, Karen promises to respond to manuscripts within fourteen days, and if she accepts your manuscript, to bring your book out in less than five months. I sent her my manuscript on December 10, 2012; she sent me an acceptance and a copy of the contract on December 15; and my book was in print and available for sale by March 25, 2013! And it isn’t just any book. It’s a beautifully produced, thoughtfully designed book I’m proud to sell at readings.
I hope to meet Karen someday because she seems like someone I’ve already sat down with to talk about things that matter. She’s remarkable, and not the least because she is also an award-winning poet herself who understands the frustrations and impediments that accompany the writing and publishing life.
Working with Karen Kelsay at White Violet Press was such a joy. She was meticulous, passionate, prompt, and upbeat: all qualities I greatly admire. She knows what people like to read, and she knows the business. Because of her experience as an editor of an online journal, she knew the communities beforehand and brought these communities with her into book publishing. Also, given the VIDA numbers, it is important to have strong editors of both genders shaping the course of the publishing future, and Karen Kelsay is certainly the future.
Working with Karen Kelsay on my book Hobble Creek Almanac was a wonderful and refreshing experience. Karen is a straight shooter and open about her expectations and process. There were no surprises, other than my delight with the pace and results of the final product.
I have worked with many editors over the course of my writing career, and I must say Karen is at the top of my list for providing me with a pleasurable experience. From a swift response following my initial submission, to Karen’s incredible work ethic, and the final product, everything went as advertised and agreed upon. Karen cares about the work and does her best to satisfy the expectations of the writer. She looks at the production of a book as collaboration, which makes the birthing process from manuscript to book quite pleasurable. I can’t say what the future holds for me or my writing, but I would hope it would include working with Karen again.
Karen has published two chapbooks for me—Zero Gravitas (White Violet Press, 2012) and ALPHABETRICKS (Daffydowndilly Press, 2013), and both times she was a delight to work with—remarkably speedy, patient, helpful, and professional. With the first cover, she designed it beautifully; with the second, by my request, she let me design it. Authors have lots of input into layout and design; you won’t feel “steamrolled” into accepting the first design proof.
Karen helped with PR by getting the word out on Facebook and by landing me a spot on the First Books Panel at the West Chester (PA) Poetry Conference. She’s terrific!
Working with Karen Kelsay was a seamless pleasure. She is a serious poet and knows instinctively what matters to other poets. She understands that typeface and layout can make or break a poem. Her high standards work to fulfill the intentions of the poet. She loves to make things and her books bear witness to this love of craftmanship. I greatly appreciated her patience and tolerance.
My first full-length book of poems, The Cone of Uncertainty, was published in March 2018 by Aldrich Press at Kelsay Books. I am so pleased with the book and have received many compliments on its design.
Karen Kelsay was wonderful to work with. Beginning with the speedy response time (within two weeks) after my manuscript submission, through the design, editing, and proofreading, Karen was prompt and helpful in responding along the way. Each step in the process is clearly spelled out, and Karen was available to answer any questions. She was especially supportive and helpful in the end with a delayed shipment of books I needed for a book launch. She went into action and managed to get what I needed in time for the event. For many writers, publication is a daunting prospect. Karen makes it manageable and positive.
It was a genuine pleasure to work with Karen Kelsay and her White Violet Press on my book Steel Masks. Her meticulous attention to detail, her quick response to inquiries, and her overall professionalism combined with a sure sense of design produced a book that I was proud to call my own. Kelsay did all that I asked and made suggestions that were both sensible and helpful. I recommend her and White Violet Press without hesitation.
Joseph S. Salemi - Editor of TRINACRIA
Finding a publisher for your first book of poetry can be a daunting challenge. Fortunately, there’s Kelsay Books, a small press willing to work with mid-career poets to find a larger audience. One of the most frustrating things is the often-long wait time it takes for a publisher to respond. Kelsay Books has reduced this wait time to two weeks.
Though my book wasn’t supposed to be published until December, I was pleasantly surprised when it came out ahead of schedule in August. From start to finish, my experience was smooth and hassle-free, and I found Karen Kelsay professional and easy-going, quick to respond to any of my concerns. From a simple photograph, she produced an elegant cover that I am proud to display. The interior is clear and readable, in a format inviting to readers. I couldn’t be more pleased with my first book of poetry Trash Picker on Mars.
When my chapbook was accepted for publication by Aldrich Press, I was at once happy and apprehensive. It was, as they say, my first dance with a publisher. I was both afraid of stepping on and being stepped on. As it turned out, the process was amazingly smooth. Expectations were clear; the process, outlined and followed.
My first book, Driving Home, arrived before schedule. The quality of its cover, format, and design have brought both praise and envy from my fellows. Without reservation, I encourage those fortunate enough to be accepted by Karen Kelsay’s company, to go forward with pride and assurance.
When I saw the quality of some of my colleagues’ books that were produced under Kelsay Books, I made it my goal to get my poetry collection, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV, published through them. I was elated when I got the news because I knew I was working with the best.
Kelsay Books represents the fourth publisher I’ve worked with in both my nonfiction and poetry. I can honestly say my experience with Karen was outstanding from start to finish. She was forthright, prompt, honest, and accommodating. During the final editing and setup of my book, she was working on it despite being overseas on vacation. When it came to my cover design, she accepted the artwork I gave her and produced a beautiful cover. These efforts are proof of her dedication and commitment to her clients and her industry. To make things even better, the book was completed a month ahead of its scheduled release. In my mind, Kelsay Books sets the standard for publishing poetry.