Thursday, February 09, 2012

My Self-Publishing Manifesto


With the Postcards Trilogy put snugly to bed, it’s time to pose the question, “Now that you’re in the Self-Publishing Groove, are you going to self-publish your novels?”
The answer:
No.
There are many valid reasons to join forces with the self-publication beast, and many, many more specious rationalizations for taking its paw and skipping down the yellow-brick road with it.  That the decision to self-publish (or not) is fraught with writer-angst is made manifest by the nearly equal number of Why I Chose To (or Not To) Self-Publish posts that follow the decision.  Consider this just one more in the churning Sea of Rationalization.
My self-published Postcards series was a textbook case for self-publishing:
  1. do it yourself to see how hard it is
  2. get it professionally published to learn how it should be done
  3. keep the self-publishing option open in case the writer/publisher relationship breaks down
That’s all well and good and I am proud of the books and pleased with the results but I see my fiction work as something totally separate.  All my life I’ve wanted to be a published novelist, and I think I owe it to myself to not short-circuit that dream by slinging some sub-standard manuscript up on Kindle.
Patience has always been part of the game, but self-publishing appeals to our not-so-latent desire for immediate gratification; my manuscript shouldn’t be sitting with an agent, it should be up on Kindle right NOW so I can start reaping the rewards I so richly deserve.  And while I admit that the idea of my WIP sitting lonely and unloved on some publisher’s slush pile does make the siren call of self-publication appealing, it’s still not something I want to do.
Writer’s are in the absurd position of needing validation.  It’s ridiculous and unfair and causes us to put forward arguments like, “If a person paints, we call them an artist, if a person builds cabinets we call them a carpenter, ergo, if a person writes, they are an author.  Why do we need one of ‘The Big Six’ to bestow that title on us?”  And that is true.
The problem with this comparison, however, is that the writers are choosing who to compare themselves with.  What about actors?  Does practicing acting in your home make you an actor?  And if you met a person who claimed to be an actor who said to you, “I don’t believe in the antiquated model of auditioning for parts—I follow a new paradigm, so I’ve rented a hall and written my own play for me to star in.  Would you like to buy a ticket?  I have plenty left,” would you consider that person an actor, or a self-deluded wannabee doing something any idiot with more money than sense could do?
(Incidentally, what we learn from this is that self-published writers need to keep comparing themselves to artists and carpenters and if someone says, “But what about actors” it would be best to change the subject immediately.)
And so we arrive at the heart of the matter:  I don’t want to self-publish because, like the antics of the wannabee actor, anyone can do it.
Until a few years ago, aspiring to be a writer—a published author, someone who wrote a novel good enough to put between the covers of a book—was a noble ambition.  There was no shortage of people who said, “I could write a book,” but those who actually did it were few.  But now, anyone can; they can, their little brother can, their grandmother can, their great aunt Tilly can and, seemingly, they all are.  Having a book with your name on it these days is meaningless; the only thing that injects any significance into the phrase “I have a book out,” is if you can truthfully follow it up with “and I’ve sold a quarter million copies on Kindle” or “and it was published by (insert Big Name Publisher here).”
I’m not likely to sell a lot of books, so the only thing I can do to make saying “I have a book out” worthwhile is to secure a publishing contract.  Anything else would be a compromise and an admission of defeat.
Here’s hoping I won’t be back in six months admitting defeat.

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