Saturday, September 7, 2013

And We’re Back…with a Vengeance!

Yes, I’ve been woefully remiss in keeping up the blog so let’s do a bit of a recap to catch us all up:

  1. The book did not sell (not that this should come as a surprise because if it had sold to a publisher, you would have HEARD about it by now). 
  2. A great bit of wallowing was had by all (well, mainly just me). 
  3. Post wallowing, a large amount of doubt settled in for a nice long harboring (every word I wrote, maybe still write, is second-guessed, thrice-guessed, etc. to the point that progress has been non-existent). 
  4. New works-in-progress (see previous entry) were cast out into the streets in their various states of undress to fend for themselves. 
  5. A bout of depression ensued. 
  6. Meds were adjusted.
  7. I said “Fuck it!” to the traditional publishing world!
Which brings us to this post. I am back, full of the piss and vinegar of yore, ready to take the literary world by storm.

How, you ask?

There was a time when I felt that self-publishing was admitting defeat. Of course, I, like so many others, equated it with “vanity” publishing. To some extent it still is, though the world of self-publishing, which I prefer to call independent publishing, has changed drastically in the past few years. The digital age has altered the publishing landscape, some for the bad, some for the good but altered it none the less.

  • Bad: Traditional publishing has faltered. They are no longer the arbiters of what is happening in the literary world. Sure they still have cachet and signing with one of the big houses is still a coop and a sought-after prize but they are also dwindling in scope. They are running a bit scared. They don’t take risks like they used to. Before they take on a book (or an author) they want to know that it comes in such pristine condition that it’s practically ready to print as well as coming to them with a built-in audience. They just don’t have the budgets for editors and marketing, not like they used to, so they need to know that they will recoup their monies and more. While they may have always sought that next great blockbuster that will be on every bookshelf in the world (think The Da Vinci Code), they also took chances on smaller books, those works of Literary Fiction that defy classification, that have no “true” home in the bookstores because they don’t focus on a genre formula (and therefore don’t have a built-in audience) but on characters and writing. The works like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Virgin Suicides take a lot more convincing to be snapped up by traditional publishers.
  • Good: As traditional publishing falters, the digital publishing industry has allowed writers to skip the middleman all together and produce their works to sell directly to the public. Companies like Smashwords and BookBaby make it even easier (for a price, of course). A writer can simple convert their book into an e-book format and upload directly to the Amazon Kindle site or to Barnes & Noble Nook site or any other number of e-book selling sites. They can design their own covers and set their own prices. They become the author and publisher in one. They also need to become the marketer too, which is difficult and time consuming, but it might actually be more than you would get if you signed to a traditional publisher these days. 
Unfortunately, another component of the ‘bad’ is the fact that a lot of these authors cum independent publishers don’t take the time or expend the money to put their works through the stringent editing process that the traditional publishing companies do (or at least used to when they had the money) to elevate their works to the next, professional level. Consequently, a good portion of the novels being produced is sub par and perpetuates the “vanity” stereotype of self-publishing: that anyone can publish anything. There are no guards on duty in this lawless world; no editorial Nazis with their blood-red pens slashing at your manuscript, like a mad plastic surgeon creating a masterpiece, until it is perfected.

Of course, there are writers who know their limitations, their weaknesses and seek out those who can help. I am one of those writers. I think I’m a good writer (my daily affirmation calendar would tell me to say: I AM a good writer). I can create good, well-developed characters. I can even create a good plot line and tell a decent story. What I can’t do is edit my own work. I get so mired in it that I can’t truly see the good and the bad. I know I need someone unbiased who will show no mercy and tell me like it is. I’m a big boy, I can take it if I know it’s for the good of the whole.

It’s been every exciting investigating the world and possibilities of independent publishing. There’s a great sense of control, a sense of casting off the chains of the rules of traditional publishing and just focusing on the work, the words on the page, the way that I feel they were meant to be read. No worrying if the ending is too dower. No worrying if the subject matter is too dark and therefore unsellable. No worrying about word count to bulk it up to constitute “a novel” rather than a novella. The book can be a long (or short) as it needs to be to tell the story properly and succinctly and fully.

Needless to say, my enthusiasm is renewed, my energy refilled. I am once again excited about writing, not just this novel but once again engaging my other works in progress. I’m once again feeling the dream beat inside me, pulsing through my veins as surely as my blood does. I once again call myself a writer and I am glad to be back.

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