This morning, I woke up thinking about ways I might rearrange my book length manuscript, Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site. I did an extensive revision of the manuscript a few years ago, as I realized that my publishing trajectory might be different from a traditional one.
Before I did the revision a few years ago, I had a substantial chunk of my chapbook as the first section. I thought it would show to book publishers that my work was publishable. Plus, many of the first books I'd been studying seemed to do it that way.
But later, I reconsidered. After all, I had sold almost 100 copies of that chapbook, and I'm a firm believer that my mailing lists are going to be the main driver of sales. If my audience had already bought the poems once in chapbook form, why would they purchase them again? My hope, of course, was that they'd buy them again so that they got some new poems and a more permanent home for the chapbook poems.
Now it's becoming clear to me that for most of us, we're going to go longer times between book publishing (and I include chapbooks here) than we once might have, unless we self-publish. I've decided to see chapbooks as books in their own right, not something to be included in a larger work.
I have that luxury because I have a huge reservoir of poems. I have several manuscripts, many of them chapbook size, including my newest one that's book-length, When God Switched Fabrics. I'm feeling more excited about that one, but I'm not ready to give up on Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site yet.
I've decided not to revise that manuscript this year. I'll spend the year sending it to any publishers I've overlooked, and if I can't find a publisher this year, I'll think about a possible revision in 2011.
I am interested in how people decide to retire a manuscript. I have several. Some are products of my earlier writing life, and as time went by, I decided that my later work was more sophisticated. In fact, that's probably my main reason for retiring a manuscript.
Retire or revise? How do we decide?