Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Birth of Old Man River [Poetry Friday] and Marketable... or Not


Minnesota: The Birth of Old Man River

A lake creates a lazy stream
That flows through pines and slips away,
Then picks up barges, logs and steam,
Becomes a mighty waterway.


Walk on rocks across this sliver,
Cross the current, slow and mild.
It will grow to Old Man River
Though for now it’s still a child. 


--Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

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The headwaters of the Mississippi River are in Lake Itasca, Minnesota.  At its start, the river is narrow and shallow, and you can cross the Mighty Mississippi by walking across some rather slippery rocks.


The water is high this year, so that rock path across the beginning of the Mississippi River is a bit underwater! Photo: Laura Purdie Salas

Here I am reading the poem:
Happy Poetry Friday! And welcome to my musings on our current topic, marketability of our manuscripts, and what we do with our unmarketable work.

Ah, this is such a touchy topic! As a poet, marketability is even MORE of a challenge than most other formats/genres. And as my career progresses, I am even more aware of this, always, because I need to make a certain income and want to earn that income by creating books I love. So, do I think about whether a project is marketable before I start it? Absolutely. If I decide it is not, what do I do? I might still write it, if it's something I feel like I just HAVE to write. But if it's not something I have to write, then I might skip it. I have way more ideas than I have time to write, so it's a matter of prioritizing. What project am I excited about writing that I think has at least a decent chance of selling to a publisher? That's what I take on.

Unfortunately, I usually don't realize a project is unmarketable until it's too late! Take my 50 state poems (please, publisher, take it!). Above is the Minnesota poem from that collection, plus a photo I took Tuesday at the headwaters.

So, what's my solution? Well, I have 6 poetry collections that I want to get out there. Four of them got lovely, wonderful responses from editors--some even went to acquisitions--but were deemed too hard to sell. Another one never went out because my agent felt it wasn't strongly marketable, and the final one I wrote for my blog in April. I am having trouble moving on from these unpublished collections. So...I've decided to e-publish them. I've got wonderful educators writing some teaching activities, and I'm going to try to market them TO educators, primarily.

I am fairly certain I won't recoup the monetary cost of producing the books (I'm estimating about $2,000 for the six books together), because self-published e-books typically DON'T sell well at all. At. All. Not to mention the many hours of work it will take. But my big hope is that I will connect with more teachers and librarians, spread some poetry love, and, ultimately, share my name and work. And that I can get some closure and put all my creative energy into new projects instead of constantly looking backward at what feels like unfinished business.

P.S. Don't get me wrong. I have LOADS of unpublished, unmarketable manuscripts that I would not consider putting out there. Some manuscripts are unmarketable for good reason:>)

P.P.S. Jone at Check It Out (who does the wonderful April poetry postcards!) has the Poetry Friday Roundup. Enjoy!

P.P.P.S. It's almost the end of our Rafflecopter Giveaway for Joan Bransfield Graham's THE POEM THAT WILL NOT END. Just go here and click on the link at the very end of the post. Good luck!

--posted by Laura Purdie Salas

17 comments:

Rosi said...

As an old Minnesota gal, I love this one. Thanks!

laurasalas said...

Thanks, Rosi! It was hard deciding what to feature from my adopted state:>)

Irene Latham said...

My father and I visited those headwaters on a trip through Minnesota a few years back... it was an icky, slippery day, so we didn't get to walk the rocks.. next time! Congratulations on your decision to epub... I look forward to reading! xo

laurasalas said...

Yeah, I didn't walk across this time, either. Wasn't dressed for it! Cool to be here this monthing near the mouth in New Orleans last month!

laurasalas said...

It won't let me edit! After being

Jane Heitman Healy said...

Wonderful poem, Laura. Just a market thought, could you do a series of Minnesota poems and submit to a MN publisher such as the MN Historical Society Press? I think that because you do so much work in schools, your ebooks can sell successfully. Best wishes!

Patricia Cruzan said...

My husband is from Minnesota. I'll share your poem with him. I enjoyed reading it.

catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com said...

I love that one, Laura! Best wishes with your ebooks!

Margaret Simon said...

Way down here where the Mississippi is huge and deep, it's hard to imagine its baby-sized beginning. Good luck with your e-project. I admire you for taking it on and valuing teachers.

laurasalas said...

Thanks, Jane. I've thought about doing a collection of North Shore poems (as if THAT hasn't been done before!) for a MN publisher. Not at the top of my list at the moment, but maybe someday:>)

laurasalas said...

Thank you, Patricia, Catherine, and Margaret--we'll see what happens!

Jill said...

Beautiful, evocative poem, Laura. Wow, the water IS high this spring. When we were there even the kids could walk across the rocks safely.

Carmela Martino said...

I just heard yesterday that MN has been inundated with rain this spring (even more than we've had here), so I'm not surprised about the water being high. WONDERFUL poem, Laura. And I would think 50 state poems would be a marketable idea. Shows you what I know.
Good luck with your ebooks.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I am certainly no expert on what is marketable, but I do know what I like and what has value! I wish you the best of luck on your e-publishing endeavors, Laura.

Robyn Hood Black said...

What a delightful poem, Laura - and what I love is that I "heard" it in your voice before I scrolled down to hear you actually read it. You are so good at giving words time to "be" - the pacing here is just perfect. Best wishes with these collections and their launch into the e-world, where I hope they find their way into many classrooms and into the imaginations of kids. Thanks for sharing!

Mary Lee said...

Thanks for an insider's peek into the marketability issue. I'm glad to get to help with the e-book project!

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liked your poem and good luck for your e-book

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