A couple of days ago, as anyone unlucky enough to be on my Facebook friends list will have noticed, I released a new chapbook: We are the Makers of Maps. (Buy it here, give me your monies!) Over the course of my spamming the hairy hell out of Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ I got into a couple of conversations with some writer friends. People who have been about this whole wordy thing a lot longer than I have and they all offered me great support and bits and bobs of advice. So, thank you all for that, you’re freakin’ ace so you are. 🙂
One of the pieces of advice and encouragement that came up a few times was “Next time send your stuff to a publisher!” Which, to be perfectly honest, is really nice because it’s, basically, these experienced folk saying that my work may be good enough for someone else to invest time, energy, and money into turning my words into a book. That feels, well, all the feels. Good feels. 🙂
However, it did bring to mind another conversation I had recently with someone who implied that, as I don’t send my stories out to publishers with an eye to getting a collection printed, that I don’t take my art seriously. Because if I’m not looking to a proper press putting out my work then I don’t value it. I can completely see where people are coming from with this and I really would like a press to put out some of my work, if only for the extra promotion it could get my work and, especially this, the feedback I could get from a proper editor. Something that any writer could do with, especially one as wet behind the ears as myself.
However, and there’s always a however to a blog post isn’t there, that leaves out quite how much I enjoy about the whole process of self publishing. For starters there’s the DiY aspect of it. I’m an old punk and the DiY ethos is somewhat etched into my bones. It’s true that the small press, especially the weird fiction small press, is also infused with this punk ethos and many of the presses are the literary equivalent of the punk labels that used to be run out of people’s bedrooms and squats the world over. This is something that I absolutely adore about the weird milieu and is something that keeps me passionate about it. I’ll always support the small press.
However, again, I really, really enjoy the process of putting a book together. I’m getting better and better at using professional publishing software and actively enjoy tweaking the document to make sure that the words look *exactly* as I want on the page. I love putting the covers together, chasing down orphans, experimenting with different fonts (Bembo ftw btw), and generally being able to play with my words all the way from brain to page.
For me reading has never been just about the words on the page and the ideas that they convey. It has always been an aesthetic experience. The smell of the paper, the feel of the cover and the pages in my hands, the rustle as I turn them. Which is probably why I don’t really get on with ebooks, they neither look nor feel right for me to have the full experience of reading.
So self publishing, to me, is taking my art seriously. I may not be great at it, I may have a lot to learn. ‘May’, hah, I really do have a lot to learn. But I want to do that whilst practicing my art which involves the whole shebang from idea through to ink splattered across the corpse of a dead tree.
So, I think I’m going to carry on self publishing my work, for the time being at least, and in doing so know that each thing that I publish is mine. Entirely. Every quirky piece of language, every unforgivable grammatical crime, every falter in the story, the way that the layout looks nice. It’s all me, warts and all.
This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop sending my individual stories out to magazines and the like. I get a massive buzz from someone liking a story enough to want to both buy me a beer for it and put their name to it. But when it comes to collections, and eventually to my first longer piece, I want to have as much control as possible, I know that I’m going to not reach as many readers because of this, and I know that I’ll likely not make as much money this way, but those are secondary concerns to me. I mostly just want to produce my work in the way that I want.
There’s also the point that I would imagine I’m extremely difficult to work with on account of being, at times, a pig-headed, bullish, dick who thinks that deadlines look best in the rear-view mirror. 😀
Just to be clear, I have *absolutely* nothing against either publishers nor people who have their work published traditionally. Anything that gets us more amazing literature is good by me. I also tend to think that self publishing evangelists are extremely irksome. There’s no ‘us vs. them’ in the weird.
Oh yeah, go buy my book. 😉