Which Century Did You Say This Is?

papyrus page

One of the old p-readers

On multiple occasions in my endless years of blogging I’ve referred to the last novel I wrote, Benedict and Miramar. Somewhere I’ve heard the advice that if you write a novel and it doesn’t sell, start another. I’ve done that, though I think my own reason has been because I just need to write. At any rate, I now have three novels done, revised, maybe worth reading, and lying seriously unwanted on the shelf. The other titles are The Illusion of Being Here and The Land of Melancholy Spices. (For the record—you keep records, right?—I wrote two other novels before these, but I hope I’ve thrown away all copies of those first two.)

Since the days when I began writing on a kerosene-powered typewriter, we have entered the digital age. The effect of computers on our lives has been deep and profound (actually “profound” means “deep”), and it seems almost everything except bananas is being changed by this technology. Do you remember when we used to hitch up a horse and clip clop through the streets to the publishing house, to talk with a man wearing high collars, and shake hands over the agreement to publish a novel?

I’m not a Luddite, and yet my idea of publishing still involves a literary agent, a large publishing company that has suddenly been enlightened with recognition of how good my writing is, and warehouse pallets with copies of my wondrous book.

In other words, I still believe in Santa Claus and fairies and book stores.

I’m being told to get over it, and maybe I should. Last week after the meeting of my writing group, I stayed talking with two people who have experience I don’t have, and they advocated that I consider self publishing. After all, they said, you have several novels, so why not try this with just one of them and see what happens. As a person who believes in fairies and book stores, I have been extremely resistant to self publishing. That may be partly because I’m old enough to remember the days when self publishing really was mostly for people who wrote badly edited trash that would never get beyond friends and family. Once when I had a radio show about literature, back in New Jersey, a man wrote me asking to be on the show, and he hid the fact (though I figured it out) that he had paid to be published. He hid it because self publishing wasn’t something you wanted people to know, and in those days it was called “vanity” publishing. This event wasn’t that long ago.

The world changes, and here in our digital year of 2014 self publishing really is a different activity. It’s no longer a vanity press putting out paper copies to pile up in your house until you can give a few away. Now the writer can hire independent editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and so on—if the writer is willing—to create a professional product. More profoundly, with the advent of new technology, much of self publishing is not on paper but ends up in e-readers. The changes are enormous, and self publishing is becoming (has already become, maybe?) not only respectable, but smart, and in some cases lucrative. A careful analysis of self publishing by Hugh Howey indicates that while the writer may not get rich, though some do, such publishing may be a better way to go financially than with traditional publishers.

Yet there I’ve stood, with a letter for Santa and a plate of cookies. My colleagues’ point is well taken, that with several novels, why not try this with one of them and see how I like it. And really, no one is reading the novels as it is, so why not? I’ve been trying the traditional route for years, with novel after novel. For one novel I contacted 70 literary agents, for another I contacted 90. You see what I mean. Everyone hates me. You probably hate me.

Therefore I’m thinking I’ll take The Illusion of Being Here and go for self publishing. That book has a bit of magic in it and takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, with some scenes in Moscow. A book with witches and boats. It may take some time for me to get the book out, as things have to be paid for, which I’m willing to do, but in my working situation my income begins to seem uncertain (like that’s new, huh?), so I may be slowed down by financial concerns.

But I’m thinking I’ll try stepping onto that path where 1s and 0s pull us into the old stories of what humans are doing here on this madhouse planet. I’m being told “put down the papyrus scroll, Davy”. Oh…OK.



Filed under Giving Birth to a Book (That's Why I'm Screaming)

4 responses to “Which Century Did You Say This Is?

  1. Lori

    Yes yes yes! Please self publish! David – I’m now co-chair of the fiction committee for the lovely and large Tucson Festival of Books. We have some great self-published authors come every year! I really think it’s a great idea. And your writing is amazing. As you say, it’s not being read using the old route, so try the new! xo Lori

  2. Thank you Lori. I do intend to pursue this. Спасибо большое (for those who don’t speak Russian, that’s “spasibo bolshoye” which means “and I hope I earn enough to buy beer”).

  3. Moi? I’m shocked, shocked that you could say that.

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