In the Beginning….

March 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

It’s not that I’m a complete dilettante. I’ve published before; a few short stories, here and there. I’ve won a couple of prizes for them. I even got paid for writing them, which is a big deal when you’re 22 and have been dreaming of being a writer as long as you can remember.

You’re 22 and piss-poor, but you’re happy, smiling away in your tiny basement apartment and drinking your shitty warehouse wages, because the future is yours. Everything you ever wanted is just around the next corner. All you have to do is grab it.

A few beers, a few jobs, a few stories later, and you’re 27.  Not old, for a writer; but not a kid anymore, either. Especially considering how early you started; you wrote your first novel at the age of 18. OK, so it wasn’t a good novel, but it was a novel all the same.

So it’s time to get serious. If there’s one thing your 27 years of life have taught you, it’s that nothing is ever handed to you. Nothing comes easy. Dreams are pointless unless you chase them, but they’ll never happen unless you make them.

You have another novel now, a better one. You’ve been moulding this in the dark for five years. It’s outlasted any job or relationship you’ve had. You’ve infused it with your own red life, filled its dark heart to the brim with cruelty and beauty, and now it sits brooding on your desk. At night you can almost hear it breathing, snarling.

Time to find a publisher. But before you can do that, you should probably get an agent. So you look around. You send out emails and manuscripts, first to the big guys, then to the smaller guys, then, finally, to anyone you think might take a chance on an unknown.

Mostly, you get ignored. Often, you get a formulaic response: thanks, but no thanks. Now and again, a spark of interest sends you swaggering for a while; but then the verdict comes. It’s good, it’s really good, but we just don’t see how we can sell it, especially in the current climate.

They couldn’t sell Kafka either. No one wanted to publish Lolita. Confederacy of Dunces was published too late for its unfortunate author. Most great books were rejected at least once; all great authors were rejected many times. You’re in good company.

But you have something the old masters never had. You live in a world far smaller than any they imagined, a world bounded in copper wire where you can talk to anyone, anywhere, without leaving your apartment. You live in a world where technology has robbed the old gatekeepers of their power, where anyone can be heard by everyone. You live in a world where a book you wrote in Vancouver can be ordered by someone in Australia, and printed right there. No shipping, no bulk quantities. Print on Demand. Another front in the ongoing democratisation of culture.

After rejections into the teens, I started to wonder what exactly I need a publisher for. How much did I expect them to invest in advertising a first-time novel with unconventional formatting and difficult-to-classify subject matter? What kind of changes would they ask me to make? What compromises would I be forced to suffer in order to put before the public a book I might no longer recognise as my own? And if I sold my novel’s soul to the corporations, what could I expect to get in return?

So I decided to do it for myself. All of it. This blog will follow my adventure in self-publishing, from choosing a printing service to marketing to sales and beyond. The (hopefully many) highs and the (hopefully few) lows. You’ll see me fail or succeed as it happens. Either way, it’ll be my own failures, and my own success.

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1 Comment

  1. mapelba said,

    The world is a buzz with all the options. What would those long dead great writers do now? I worry that self-publishing would give me what I want–whatever that is. It is interesting to see other people’s journey down that road.

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