I’ve announced that I’ll be self-publishing my cancer poetry book. Somedays I feel good about that decision. Somedays I think it’s a horrible idea.
There are days when I think, that I think too much. Today is an over thinking day.
Back in the deep dark past of the 1980’s I took some classes on how to get published. The process at the time involved writing for the Writer’s Market, a thick tome with names, address, types of material sought, and so on. Then, you’d send a SASE with a note asking for the writer’s guidelines. Then you’d wait. Then you’d prepare a cleaver cover letter, another SASE and you’d send in your story. The rejection normally took two to three months.
In those days, self-publishing existed and was often referred to as, “The Vanity Press.” Apparently only extremely vain people publish their books without the benefit of a publisher. There were also veiled threats that if you went to a vanity press you’d catch some kind of leprosy that would prevent you from ever being able to get a real publisher to print your work.
Word on the street was that you needed to receive the blessing of an editor of a “real publisher” to be considered a “real writer.”
I was never a real writer. I was some imaginary person who sent out SASE as a hobby to prove to the world that I was in fact a second-rate hack in need of a restraining order. At least that’s how it felt.
Then we in the computer business figured out how to build the internet, wrote web browsers, and thought that a place where you could buy books on-line rather than the local book shop, was a good idea. Yes, I’ll take my share of the blame. Just wish I’d received a larger share of the profits.
Today the publishing world is in the throes of radical change as a result in the shift from a paper world to an electronic world. Submissions are done on-line. Rejections, while still slow, are sent via email. Writer’s guidelines are found on websites and the whole process is streamlined.
But there are also millions of blogs, Facebook pages, and twitter accounts that give us mere mortal writers an outlet for our writing without the blessing of high priest editors in New York. These communications channels give writers something that they’ve lacked in the past, a way to talk directly to their audience without needing the publisher’s marketing machine.
Now it’s very possible for a person to write a book, get it listed on Amazon, and using their personal social network find an audience for the book. Today there are many examples of authors self-publishing books and getting good sales. In rare cases, some of these books have even garnered contracts from “real publishers.”
No doubt these successes have some people thinking, “Why do I need a traditional publisher?”
Well, as evil as some people think publishers are, they do bring useful things to the author’s table. Start with money. Printing, editing, marketing and other things cost money. When you get a book contract the publisher picks up those costs. Then there is their experience with editing, marketing and so on. Skills and expertise that many authors lack. They can sell lots of copies of books.
Which brings me to my little book. I did think about trying to find a publisher to print my book, but I ran into a few issues. Almost no one publishes poetry. Some small presses and literary presses do, but they are few. Likely it would take one to two full years to get it placed and I’d be forced to rewrite and edit more before that could happen.
Then the realization hit me that my little book isn’t likely to survive that world as at best it has a very limited market. Likely the world-wide market for a depressing book of cancer poetry is about 250 copies (okay, that’s a wild guess, it might be closer to 25) – mostly among my family, friends and fellow cancer victims. I know all those people so the marketing effort is mostly going to church and saying, “Hey, Bob, here’s your copy of my book. Ten bucks. Thanks Dude.”
Watch out, I could set the world on fire with sales.
So why? I don’t have a good answer, but it’s not about sales. It’s not about setting the world on fire with my words. It’s not about carving out a piece of immortality with my words. It’s not about anything the publishing world stands for.
It’s about me completing a work of art. It’s about telling a story. It’s about a transition in my soul. It’s about giving voice to an event that has transformed my world and turned me from a wannabe to a real writer.
Till next week,