I spend a lot of time reading technology and writing blogs (not just on this site, but everywhere). In this day, you have to. Last night I came across a blog where a young writer such as myself who had undertaken a similar project, completed it, and sent it to traditional publishing houses only for it to get rejected. He was thereafter thinking about making the jump to self-publishing and had lots of interesting input from editors and proofreaders encouraging him to do so–his work was good, there really isn’t much rhyme or reason to how a novel gets published.
It was weird how much this floored me. When I think of self-publishing, my mind automatically jumps to those one-dollar-to-free novels I buy on my Nook. Honestly? They’re horrible. I’ve read third grader’s essays that are better proof-read than some of those guys. I almost wanted to reach into my screen and tell this blogger not to do it! It’s literary suicide, I thought!
But it’s not.
I still live in some outdated vision of literature. I’ve had an e-reader for a few years now, but when I think of a book, I still think of just that. A book! I want to hold it in my hands. I want to turn the pages. I want to find it on my shelf smiling at me like an old friend. I want to leave it by my best friend’s bed to read when I’m done. I buy digital copies sometimes, but they’re copies. I know somewhere out there that book actually exists.
Today I read a few blog posts about how to actually make money as a writer. One guy starts going on about how publishing houses are monopolies that produce nothing but trash and the only way to create real work was by self-publishing (and that’s not just digital copies, there’s a million forms of it). Essentially, he destroyed my every romantic notion of being a writer.
You hear that when it comes to writing, content is king. This doesn’t really make much reference to the quality of the content so much as the quantity. I’ve heard of novelists in self-publishing that put out books every few weeks. This seems impossible to me. I’m trying to write a big story here. Every day it overwhelms me with how big it is. I can’t imagine writing it any faster without reducing the quality. Would it be better to be writing sub-par novels once a month in order to make a buck?
God, do I even need to answer that for you?
I’m sure there are people out there who make great money, and probably produce quality work in very little time (On The Road was written in three weeks, but don’t let that discourage us. It’s a very short book). But even then, that’s not the end-goal of my project.
I always had this rather childish fantasy of walking through a bookstore (and let us not get into the fate of the bookstore! Call me sentimental, but I don’t want to exist if bookstores do not) and finding my book on a shelf. I want to hold it. I want to open it to my favorite passage and sit right there on the floor of the shop to read it, like catching-up with a long-lost relative. I want to write my name in it and leave it for the next passing soul to pluck it from the shelf. I want to hold my book more than most people want to hold their first child.
But it’s more than that. I want someone to read my book. I want to have something worth saying that I can convey in such a way that makes this fragile language of ours make sense. I want someone to leave my book by their best friend’s bed. To dog-ear the pages. To leave scraps of paper between the pages bookmarking their favorite passages. I want someone to love my book as much as I have loved books.
I guess the heart of that romantic notion is just as easily accomplished with a self-published book. You’d cut the legalities. The Middle-men. The monetary vultures and hangers-on sucking the life out of my work just to make a buck. But I want to believe that there is still a heart in the publishing world that’s merely helping make my book as good as it can possibly be. That it takes a lot of great minds to make a great book.
It’s a literary sea out there. It isn’t a jungle. You could drown in all the books in the world, both digital and physical. I want my book to float.