I know this isn’t going to win me any readers, but I have to be honest about something that came up the other night at the writers meeting and that has been circling around in my head running from lobe to lobe to avoid getting thought about.
I am a snob about being published by a publishing house versus being self-published.
The question was raised by John as to why someone wants to be published, particularly in book format.
…shoot–someone just walked in. I’ll come back to this shortly.
I’m back. The point is, just as it always was, that it is very difficult to get published these days and what seems to make things maybe a bit worse is that more and more people think they’re great writers along with the ease of computer writing and setting up a manuscrapt (oops, typo here, but it kinda sorta is relevant so I’m leaving it), and on the other end, the very few major publishing houses are great monopolies that have absorbed many of the former mid-sized companies and now they rule the publishing world. But there are still plenty of small presses that I for one would be thrilled to be picked up by. That leaves me just short of the self-publishing route. Now let me say here that I HAVE self-published, literarily self-published, myself and others in the form of magazines. One, a traditional archery magazine for five years that I actually cut & pasted in the copy and ads and did all the work for short of the computer generated typeface. I was worshipped as a goddess. But this was only because there was a strong need for such a periodical at the time and I put my heart and soul into it. The other, otto, which is a current publication out of our Narratives group and this time, I’ve even done all the computing as well (though the layout is much easier with a computer than with rubber cement and scissors). The overall feedback from all but a few has been Yeah, so?
I am strongly for the author self-publishing. If it’s crap, it ain’t gonna play in Cincinnati, so nothing ventured, nothing gained is fine. But if it’s good, then to me, the goal is to simply see it as a stepping stone, a way around the bad odds of being picked up first by the big boys. Now, as Josh pointed out at the meeting, is when you take your published book and your sales figures back to market.
Why does one want to be published by let’s say, Random House or McGraw? Because it is almost (or it used to be) proof positive that your skill and talent is appreciated and recognized. Very few if any authors are silly enough to attempt the effort in dreams of fame and fortune. The minute a publisher signs you on is applause enough, and that, I think, is similar these days to the self-published author counting book sales because the middle man, the publisher, hasn’t already confirmed their work as being saleable.
Back to my hangups: I cannot deny that my smile fades a bit when asking a new author the name of his publisher and finding out his book has been self-published. I admire the work, the effort, the confidence, the dedication, and when I read the book, I’ll possibly admire the author and his talent. But I would still hope that if the talent and skill are evident, that the book will be published by a conventional publishing house. And while the moaning and groaning has always been the same about why the little guys don’t get noticed, the truth is that (and I read this in one of the litblogs this morning–sorry for forgetting where to allow credit) agents and publishers are honest-to-god looking for the next big new author. They WANT to be the ones to discover talent. They’d drop Danielle like a hot potato if your manuscript was so terrific and your potential for producing more was there. You represent money to them. They are only doing this (at least at the upper eschelon of the corporation) to make money. You, on the other hand, are doing it to be recognized for something you see in yourself as a skill or gift.
No doubt I too shall take the self-publishing route some day when I feel my work has reached a level of literary goodness; I’m not going to wait long enough to achieve greatness since I’ve past my midlife mark a while ago. But I shall see it as an excellent way of getting my work out there to be read and marketed rather than as an end in itself.