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
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.
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 I am having trouble moving on from these unpublished collections.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