28 May 2013

Do it yourself, for yourself

By Clark Brooks

I published a book last week. What's that? Why, thank you! Yes, I'm very pleased. It's on sale at Amazon.com and at the on-line store at my personal web site among other places. Again, thank you very much. What's that? Oh, I decided to go the self-publishing route. Hey wait! Where are you going?

Are you one of those people who still attaches a stigma to self-published books? Aw, come on, don't be that way. Listen, I know there are stereotypes out there:
  • Self-published authors are lazy: They lack the ambition necessary to get their works published "legitimately"
  • Self-published books are vanity projects: Some authors just want to be able to see their name on the cover of a book.
  • Self-published books aren't good: A self-published book was probably rejected several times by "real" publishers, because it didn't stand up to standard quality control processes like editing or proof-reading and/or it just sucks.
As is the case with all stereotypes, there's some truth there. However, I can assure you, at least in my case, my book was thoroughly scrutinized by professionals (they cashed their checks, that's for sure) for quality control purposes. Whether it's any good or not is for the reader to determine, but it went through extensive edits. Vanity? Not to brag (honestly), but between my blog, my sportswriting and various other published works, the novelty of seeing my name on something has pretty much worn off. Okay, it's still a thrill to see it on the cover of my book, but that's not the reason I did it. And as far as being lazy... well, all right, I'll cop to that, to a degree. I simply didn't want to go through the whole query letter-rejection-find an agent-more letters-more rejections procedure. Not because I have thin skin and fear of rejection but because that stuff just doesn't interest me. I don't care about it. Writing query letters takes time away from writing content and days are too short as it is. I didn't want to do it so I didn't do it. Just like so many writers conferences and workshops that focus on How To Get Published (ie: navigating the quirks and perils of an archaic system designed to stack the the odds heavily against you even if you do everything exactly correct) instead of How To Write More Gooder, it's a waste of time.

Personally, I wanted to put my material into a traditional format (a book) that I could put in people's hands. I wanted to work with people (editors, illustrators, etc.) with whom I wanted to work. I wanted complete control over what the final product would look like. I wanted to retain full ownership of every piece of it. I wanted to be actively involved in the marketing and distribution of it, on schedules set by me. I wanted all of that and very little of it would be afforded to me by submitting to the traditional publishing process. In exchange, I might have gotten my book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble for a year, maybe. For me, that trade off wasn't good enough.

Someone who gets their hands on a lump of clay is a sculptor. Someone who puts paint on canvas is a painter. Someone who can get sounds out of a guitar or a piano is a musician. Yet when it comes to writing, someone who doesn't follow the one long-established path from point A to point B doesn't deserve to be considered a legitimate author? That's nonsense, but writing is the only creative discipline where that provincial mindset still holds sway. One need look no further than the crumbling remains of the music industry to see that not only is it not necessary, it's probably not even sustainable.

The gatekeepers of the traditional publishing process still serve a purpose for those who feel it suits them, authors and readers, and that's fine for them. But if you think there's still just one way to get things done, you're simply not paying attention. After all, why should anyone wait to be let in through a gate when there are so few walls to keep them out?

1 comment:

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