Does Poetry Sell?

I’ve been debating releasing a collection of erotic poetry I’ve been adding to for the past…nine years? And as I’ve been thinking about it I  wondered..do you guys buy poetry? I do on occasion, but more and more I have begun to wonder if poetry only sells if you are lucky enough to end up in the New York Times. Plenty of other writers have had success as poets, and poetry publishers.

Nikki Grimes,whose published 50 books over the course of 30 years, had a pretty honest perspective about selling poetry that I find very realistic:

To be fair, if you are a poet, it is highly unlikely that you will become wealthy working in this genre, no matter how well you hone your craft. That much is true. But chances are, you already know that. I would wager that most writers, keen on this particular genre, aren’t looking to make a killing in the marketplace. They simply have a penchant for the lyrical line, and a passion for metaphor. Like me, they pen poetry because they, quite frankly, can’t help themselves. Poetry is in them. It’s part of their DNA. Poets don’t value their work in terms of fiscal weight, and that’s where we differ from agents and editors.

No one alive should ever expect to break bank via publishing. It’s just not how it goes, but you can be comfortable. Besides poetry is about the feeling, the intent, and inspiring others to feel and see in new exciting ways. But here is the catcher. I am a poet who likes to have food and ,ya know, live.

As I’ve researched poetry publishing it is becoming clear that it’s a gamble, no one knows either way how it could go, but ya know what? Don’t act like you’ll make money. Act like you’ll do what you love. That’s…hard to do sometimes.

Still the world would be lesser for a lack of poetry than an overabundance. Poetry, like music, can do things in a line that thousand page novels fail to do in 400 pages not because those 400 pages are ineffective, but because the minimalist nature of a poem can do things in ways novels simply can’t do. In that way poetry offers an exceptional learning opportunity for writers of all kinds…which I will detail in my next post. For now let me say that poetry is incredibly important for writers to read and comprehend. You don’t have to like all poetry, but reading a diversity of poetry can sharpen your skills at conveying feeling, producing imagery, and understanding line structure.

I am proud to say I write great dialogue because I read and wrote poetry starting from 10 years old. Actually maybe even younger I remember reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at some point with my mother’s help. How did poetry help me write dialogue? A good insult should be as sharp as a good poem and just as heavy with the punctuation. A proclamation of love that, I believe, has the most effect can be as simple as one line when you craft to context well. Poetry has done a lot of me as a writer, as a human being, and I know I’m not alone.

So why do we let it go so under appreciated? Why do people hesitate to spend $5 on a book of poetry that could effect them as deeply as 400 pages? Times are tough for many people. Yet even still there is so much we could do if we embraced poets more.

No one should ever expect to get rich off of writing. If you read those “I made a Bajillion $$$ Writing Ebooks” articles and believed them I’m sorry. There’s a reason a ton of those articles reference Stephen King or J.K Rowling, and not hundreds and hundreds of other writers. There’s a million of us. Yes, some are better than others, but this field must be about passion. Whether you write to market or no you must display some kind of passion because $$$$ doesn’t just fall into your lap; because you may write 30 good books before ever making $500; because so many authors haven’t been “discovered” until after their deaths. Writing is a cold hard mistress, and I’d say poetry holds a steel tipped whip.

But we can make it softer.
If we consume each other. If we’re willing to take that risk and buy a random book of poetry, if we’re willing to say our emotional and mental labors are worth something.

We have to create and contribute to the market as both buyers and writers. We have to recommend books and poets to build excitement and appreciation for poetry.

 

Check out my two releases:

Suffer too Good and Dirty Honey on Amazon.

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Knowing Your Writer Weaknesses

You never know what you do wrong until someone tells you, or until you do it. That is just how a lot of writing works. Even with critique groups you’re left pulling things apart yourself to figure things out.The broadest question is How to Write? and from there we get How Do I Become A Better Writer (#writelife #writerwednesdays) There’s a reason for that. Writing is a skill that is intuitive and learned, one of possessing talent and crafting skill, one of cultivating your best traits and minimizing your worst. It is easier said than done at almost every possible level. So it pays to spend more time figuring out your weaknesses especially for beginning writers and writers who have primarily written their craft for themselves. Doing the introspection, self-reflection, and criticizing yourself isn’t easy. You have to step away from your work for months if not years to even see how much you have or have not improved. But no matter what we can and must pick apart our writing somehow.

For the last few months I’ve been working on a novel, and truthfully something about it has felt off the whole time. I love the story. I love the characters. I love the central conflict. However something has constantly seemed off. So today I pulled out my book on writing guide: “Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft” (The international edition) by Jane Burroway. I sat down at my desk and began to go through the book. I knew what worked so I stayed away from the chapters on characterization and focused on the other chapters. I reread old notes in the margins, and began highlighting chapters as I reread them. Why? Well the book is pretty damn great for giving you plenty of comparative examples of what to do and what not to do from both published and purely example based writing. It doesn’t speak in absolutes, but pulls from dozens of writers and pieces to give you a concise break down of how to write well, how to write compelling stories, and how to convey theme without sacrificing anything. And I went to the section on filtering.

Yes, I the “show don’t tell” critique queen, have a drastic problem with filtering. Filtering is between showing and telling. For example “She looked out the window and she saw him standing outside her building”, when for the whole paragraph we’ve been in her head so “Outside her window he stood on the stoop of her building, waiting”. Instead of relying on the reader to be smart and follow along; instead of allowing for direct action I present the filters like “seemed”(been using that one alot) “saw”. I don’t just show you what the character sees and that’s a problem. Honestly that is probably why I do it with others. Subconsciously I do know I have a deep struggle with using filters instead of conveying direct action. Why? Honestly it’s a natural inclination, but its also it is the result of careless readers in critique groups. You gotta pick them well people. I spent an hour or two reading the book again, carefully searching for my answer and now that I have it I’m taking action not just by editing, but by rewriting what I’m editing so it is more present, more in the moment, and direct.

It’s hard to be direct as a writer just like it is hard to confront our problem areas directly. I was very lucky that I picked up that book and managed to follow my instincts into what was plaguing me. I didn’t just fall on the page, but I’ve lived with my writer self for long enough to seek out my faults. Why? Because I was in those critique circles to begin with. As much as I did get some perhaps misinterpreted advice in regards to how to clarify who is what and what is in whose view I did get advice. Solid advice and reactions that allowed me to see where I could improve as a writer. Some people really are able to identify those things on there own, but even still other’s input allows you to see how others read. You need that feedback (and you also need to give feedback too because it does make you a better writer, but that’s another subject).

So what’s my point?

Take time to understand your weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to seek them out. Sometimes a writer can be positively wrong about something in their piece. We think the best part is the worst, we think the most nonsensical section is clear as day, and we even second guess out instincts. The only chance you get to know those weaknesses and address them is by digging deep and figuring them out. Get books on craft and read them. Join critique groups. And don’t be afraid to reread your pieces. Most importantly…don’t be afraid to edit. Sometimes out weaknesses are charming and add a particular character. Hell sometimes our weaknesses are so out shined by the good they don’t matter. But no matter what you owe it to yourself to take time to better understand them.

Do you want to know more about filtering? Do you want to know more about my erotica and romance writing?  Ask me below, or just share you thoughts on knowing your weaknesses whether in writing or in life. I have plenty of advice both about writing and about life on this blog, and I think so far I’ve shared one thing…for writers both are deeply connected. We gain a lot by talking and exchanging. So go fill up that comment box!

Music: Depeche Mode’s The Things She Said.