Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Chaos of Market Selection

Checking The Listings

I went to market today,
A list of poems in my hand.
Stalls there of needy publishers,
Reaching for gold from the land.

The words I wrote have worth here;
Readers and mags follow my trail.
Hustlers call out with promises,
Seeking bargains; the holy grail.

Should I commit to publish,
Signing away my thoughts' last rights?
Should I hold onto ownership,
Or submit to prizes’ sites?

Decision flees from my mind,
When possibilities abound.
Prizes everywhere tempt me on,
Toward a giant lost and found.

This poem epitomizes my day today. Aside from traveling two blocks down the street to get my hair cut and the time it took to do laundry, my time was used for investigating literary mags or travel mags. Would that I could make up my mind.

This writer rediscovers a terrible problem each time the marketing quest takes over. It revolves around the seemingly boundless array of choices possible for each piece of treasured verse or prose. I spent five hours today looking through submission guidelines for the appropriate venue for my little babies to sparkle and dance before editors’ eyes.

I came away with a minimum of ten submission sites for poems and short fiction--all for adult. Finding something that fits me and the market in adult work is something else again. On the creative non-fiction side of things, there were a minimum of five markets there that could allow me to do something that I would really like to do.

Oh, there were dozens more on every front, but I was thinking only in specifics, and reading through that many market guidelines takes me inordinate amounts of time. So I called it a day when I got to the mid-point of the B’s. When I think about this dilemma facing each writer, I also think of the same problem and its impact on everyday life for everyone.

Back in the 50’s when I grew up, going to the grocery store (supermarket) was a simple matter of filling the list Mom carried in her head. The cereal aisle consisted of limited offerings: oats, shredded wheat, cream of wheat, cream of rice, puffed wheat/rice, farina, corn flakes, and rare handful of others.

Today there are probably 50 different kinds, most of which have generic brands offering the same thing for less. The soda aisle sported perhaps 10 different choices at most and no such thing as flavored waters came into the mix. It seems that every broad grocery aisle overflows now with choices to tempt the shopper into a stupor of either over-shopping or decision-making chaos. I feel sorry for the young kids of today. I hear it nearly every time I go through a store.

Parent: “Well, make up your mind so we can get out of here.”

Child: Dead silent, enormous eyes riveted on five sets of shelves, each spanning twenty feet of length, and all of them filled with choices. There’s no time for internal debate or eeny-meeny…

We wonder why kids have problems with decision making and problem solving skills today. Producers have made it nigh on to impossible for people to make a decision they can live with. There will forever be that question mark in the back of their minds which connotes the nagging voice saying, “Did I really get the best thing I could have, or should I have gotten…”

And so child and parent forgo feeling good about any decision they make. When selection becomes so large, so do possible mistakes. One can never be certain that success is reached, regardless of assurances by family and friends.

Everyone now must balance seemingly endless choices against immediate success/good feelings about the decision.

In the publishing world so many choices of markets helps a writer find potential placement for whatever gem she/he wants to submit for publication. It creates markets for those writers who wouldn’t fit a mainstream mass market mag or a literary mag. For the publishers the payoff is more potential subscribers and contributors. In that sense it’s a win-win situation.

It has subtle drawbacks, though, as most situations do. For the writer it also adds to confusion. For the publisher it adds to the work load of unsolicited manuscripts. That’s part of the downside. There’s the potential for another question mark for both writer and publisher. “Did I get the best market/writer for my effort?”

For someone like me, who likes to write in several genres equally, it broadens my scope of potential markets. And it adds to decision-making chaos each time I dive into potential benefactors.

I’m not complaining about the increased potential--merely commenting on the mental chaos that results. For me, I become the child in the toy aisle, looking at that magnificent selection and being told to hurry up already, and pick something.

My imagination still works fine, though, and I could well imagine how a piece of my writing would look behind those covers I perused today. That wasn’t difficult at all.

Now if I can just write the perfect cover letter for each submission…