Self Published

It’s a shame that time and again the old dance of going after writing for being self-published still gets carted out from time to time. I have said it before and say it again – how is it that you can make movies yourself – INDIE – and music yourself – DIY – but god help you if you go through nontraditional means to get your work out there you’re suddenly a hack.

How does that make sense?

Now, I will grant you that let’s say that 95% of all self pub stuff released is OK to Not Good (my work is closer to Meh than either of those) which tends to be what people focus on, and that’s not unfair but it’s not a whole picture. Go into any bookstore or onto any book site and look at what’s there, that was published via traditional means, and how much of it is empirically good? How much is at least OK?

The difference between a published author in today’s market and a self pubbed one is luck as much as anything else. It’d be great to say – all of the people published today are genuinely talented authors with voices that cannot be denied.

That ain’t the case.

There’s a lot of crap out there, self pubbed and traditionally pubbed.

The greatest sin of self pub work, and I fall into this COMPLETELY, is the lack of editing and an editorial voice. Now, I prefer my work raw. I have a lot of things I can fix/do fix but I like that the work people get comes FROM me and isn’t filtered through other people. But that’s not always a good thing. Editors help keep the writer on task, cleans up the work, and makes sure the thing makes sense. Also, when a work is created for commerce it also forces those involved to take a harder look at it. I know I have enough stories written and more in my head that I could keep churning out book after book after book but knew that I needed to stop where I was. There’s a point of self-parody that you don’t want to reach.

The sins of self pubbed authors are many but most, MOST are self-inflicted and most only damage that author. When you look at some of the work that is picked up and put out traditionally, that to me is the problem.

Too much literal crap is put out.

There is a market for EVERY thing out there so variety is always great but having spent the last twenty years looking for publishers and getting no responses, or the same canned responses you start to pay more attention to trends. You start to laugh at the narrow focus the publishers have – We only want Christian fiction for babies – and you take heart a little. I was at a horror writing convention and had two pitches to publishers, a little one and a big one and each one I had ten minutes to pitch and each place yammered about themselves for six-eight of those minutes. They knew they were never going to buy anything from me, they knew it because that’s how that system works. Very, very few people get traditionally published these days.

And that’s fine.
But don’t tell me it’s because they have more talent than everyone else out there.

And don’t lecture me when I say to hell with the system and head in a different direction.

The biggest issue I have with the whole thing is that it takes away the common thread that binds us all together – we’re all writers. Good or bad, we are writers. I have a lot more respect for a writer that isn’t very good but writes out of passion and love for writing than I do for someone who has their works ghostwritten so they can keep cashing paychecks based off of their name value. Taking it all together there’s just a lot of crap out there, a lot, and it’s our job, your job, my job, OUR job to wade through it to get to what we want to read and what is worth our time. Don’t expect me to fight battles though for you, for anyone that belittles and denigrates what I do though. There is a battle being waged between Amazon and a large publishing house that has sweeping implications but the thing is that you can’t tell me what I do is invalid then ask me to take your side. Just like you can’t be on the sidelines catcalling people who have professional careers that are riding on how this turns out.

We need less They and Them and more US. We are all writers. We’re all trying to get our work out there and seen. The sad fact is that most of us, the greater part of most of us, will never live the dream of seeing our books in stores, having people anxious to read our work, and will never make but negligible money on what we do. I know so many authors that have their work put out traditionally but who still don’t make any money and it makes me see that it isn’t just Amazon that is broken but publishing as a whole. We began treating books and writing as if it was fast food to consume, crap out, then consume some more. The industry focused so much of its efforts on The Next Big Thing that it lost sight of the idea of finding and fostering talent. And book prices have made it easier to just get an e-book or not bother reading at all.

Books lost their magic.

We took it away.

Our fighting, our arguing, or finger pointing distracted us as the magic left.

The last time I stood in line for a book was to get the Seventh Harry Potter book and I expect that that is the very last time there’ll be a book that people stand in line for and that’s just sad.

Established authors need to remember where they came from and to encourage and nurture young writers. Not just kids but adults. Anyone who wants to write. Most people won’t see the stories and novels through to completion but they should be encouraged to do it. We need to spend less time bashing self pub authors and more time seeing why they went that way and how their work differs from traditionally published work. We need to stop acting as if we are better than one another.

It’s about stories, about telling stories, not about how we tell them.

So yeah, I AM self published. After spending years and years and too much money looking for someone to give my work a chance I decided to go the DIY route, the same route I took for all of the projects I have ever done. I would love to say my work is polished and will blow you away but it isn’t, and it won’t, but my stories deserve to be told. I deserve to tell them. If people aren’t interested then fine, but to tell me that my stories are invalid because of how they reach people is crap, and it’s lazy, and it’s the sort of thing that has made the publishing world the elitist manure factory that it’s become. I have spent hundreds of hours on my work, have created my own covers, have laid my work out, and have worked to get these stories and books out there. You can tell me my stories aren’t any good but you can’t convince me that they don’t deserve to be seen.


The Past Doesn’t Always Need To Leave

It doesn’t take long to see people and things that are crying out for technology. People whose work and tasks could be made so much easier if they’d just succumb to what tech has to offer. There are those though that will refuse using ‘new-fangled’ devices and methods because they like the tried and true, the way things were, and the ‘by hand’ method. Ya know what? They’re not always wrong.

Humans have a developed a very bad habit of throwing out old ways and old methods as soon as there is a new way to do something, forgetting why we even did it the old way in the first place. Some things make sense – it just makes more sense to do things in certain ways like a word processor over a type writer as an off the cuff example. Or washing clothes in a machine as opposed to by hand. The list of things tech has helped with can go on and on, and should, because it is a way that we have culturally evolved yet…there are reasons we do things ‘the old way’ and we are forgetting that.

Having someone pump your gas and bag your groceries was about more than just a convenient service it was about the whole experience. It gives you a bit of humanity and connection and makes it personal. Whether we looked at those positions this way or not but those people were ‘experts’ at what they did and they knew how to bag and how to check your fluids and top off your tank. Neither are things we can’t do but these were services that kept us social and that’s important. Humans are social animals and we need to be and the more tech we develop that pushes us deeper into ourselves the more we need reasons to reach out. We are cutting jobs and services and making ourselves nomads. Which is not to say that the world needs gas attendants and baggers but that we need to remember that we are cutting a LOT of these smaller jobs out completely and while those folks can work elsewhere in that system this is one less thing they can do to make a living and one less reason for us to interact. We don’t NEED a lot of services but those services keep the humanity in the process.

We are tactile creatures and the memories we make come when all of our senses are engaged. We are moving towards a future where our interactions, our memories, and our entertainment will all be digital and our senses won’t all be part of those moments.

We need physical stimulus.

We need interaction.

We need each other.

There’s a rush to move away from video stores and book stores and I can see why. It’s easier and faster to just get something digitally now but we’re losing something vital – connection. The trouble with streaming movies is that it’s all done with little thought, it’s all impulse and spur of the moment. ‘Oh, I guess that sounds ‘OK’’. Sure, there are things that had targeted but most things we stream we watch because they are there and then stop watching if they don’t call to us. There was something very deliberate about hitting a video store (and I mean a store since Red Box and the others aren’t really the same thing) and browsing, taking in the art, reading the film synopses and really CHOOSING a film. And when you went to the video store it put you in a mindset – this is movie night. We were making time to WATCH A MOVIE. You are making a date with yourself, with your significant other, your friends, your family, with whom or whatever and you are making a date to watch something that YOU felt drawn to. And that creates a ritual and – dun DUN – MEMORIES! I still have fond memories of sitting with my family and renting movies, or of going to the video store and discovering a film for the first time. All of this can happen digitally, sure, but the ritual is different in the very least.

Ritual and discovery are also key when you talk about books. A book is a book whether it’s digital or physical, same goes for music and movies and all ART but in saying that there is a difference. There is THE art of that art that is different. With a book there is a LOT of design that goes into the book – cover art, book layout, chapter layout, intro, outro, thank you, author photo, description, and so much more – that is all done with exacting deliberation which doesn’t always translate to the digital form. You get the story but not the art. Then there is the book store, the chapel to the written word. It is truly a place of discovery and comfort where you can go and discover what is out there. And again, you can do that online but it’s so DIFFERENT much like digital books are different. We can download a hundred digital books without a thought but how many of those will we really read? But with physical books there is more investment, in space, in time, and in cost, that it prods us to get around to it. There is comfort in the physical book because it reminds us of the intimacy of reading, of discovery, and the stories we hold so dear.

We CAN do it all digitally but we don’t HAVE to.

There are stores, are services, are THINGS that we gleefully leave behind as we catapult into the future never realizing that to some degree we CAN have it both ways. Yes, things are changing; the physical medium of things is disappearing but not all of it and not all of it at once. We don’t have to abandon everything. There is value in nostalgia because it means something, it IS something – it’s US. It’s our past. We never want to wallow in nostalgia, in the past, but you also can’t act as if it was a burden and this mechanical future is all there is. The digital can be easily erased, sometimes a good thing…sometimes not so much. The physical takes deliberate action to obliterate.

What I say, what I ask is that you not forget why you love things. Not forget why you are attached to things. And don’t forget that we are tactile, PRESENT beings and that it’s our presence and our senses and our emotions that make us what we are and show us what we can yet be some day. The past doesn’t have to be buried like a burden, it doesn’t have to be exalted as a the ‘good old days’ but it can be cherished and appreciated for what it is, what it was, and what it still shows us about ourselves.

Not everything is sustainable. Not every business can be made to be successful. Some things we do just move beyond. But some things are worth fighting for, some things are worth building around, and some things still have an audience. The quaint term is to call anything that niche ’boutique’ but the fact is that if there were well run and maintained video stores, record/music stores, book stores, full service gas stations, grocery stores, on and on, there would be people there to support it. Some things can’t be saved but some can if it has the right ownership and leadership. If the people involved understand and appreciate what they have and what they can do. The obsession is to franchise, to branch out, to have a thousand stores and sure, that’s where the big money CAN be but the solid money is behind a well run and maintained business that listens to the needs of the public and the desires of its clientele and adapts to best meet those needs and desires. The past is all around us, is part of us – it isn’t nostalgia but is part of the fabric of Man and yet we try to ignore and deny it. We burn it to the ground thinking it will be gone forever and we can re-write history. Only every generation wants to erase the past generation and it’s madness. There is a reason that re-sale and used stores are thriving – because so many of us are hurting for money and can’t buy the newest, brightest, shiniest thing out there and the things of the recent past are sometimes good enough. In our quest for newness we are leaving ourselves behind.

Take that moment and think on the things that you love and loved and remember why. Remember those memories. And let’s stop trying to bury the past, its businesses, its technology, its meaning, because even in the mistakes of the past there are lessons, and even in the most outdated of things there are memories waiting to be re-awakened. This is not just about sentimentality but connection and that connection is vital to carving a path to the future. And ya know what, new technology or not some things were better in the past.