Making It Happen
Perhaps it is an indication of how deluded I am, but I am sure you have all been wondering what became of me the last week or so. The answer? I went on vacation.
Well, I went to Wisconsin to watch my baby brother get married. And since I hadn’t left town for more than a weekend in almost two years, I decided to make a vacation out of it.
And , seeing how stressed out I’ve been over the last few months, overwhelmed, really, I took this vacation as a chance to do nothing-literally nothing- I didn’t feel like doing. Which (perhaps it is a mistake to admit this) included blogging, amongst other things.
The point is, vacation brought out a couple of big epiphanies, which seems to happen when you stop obsessing about your problems. All of a sudden, you know how to solve them.
So. Epiphany #1: I am going back to school.
And Epiphany #2 (which is the one that applies to this blog): I am going to self-publish my novel.
How did I come to this conclusion? Well, I’ll tell you.
I love writing. I do. I think this is a well-covered fact in the realm of this blog. But I’m struggling right now, and a lot of that comes from my decision to pursue writing as a career rather than as a hobby. Which is really just a nice way of saying I’m not making any money. And yeah, you can talk about artistic integrity and not doing it for the money and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But when the bills come in and you don’t know how you’re going to pay them, you start to second guess that.
Writing is only a career — a career — if you are getting paid for it.
I realize that self-publishing, at least at the beginning, is the opposite of a money-maker, since you have to pay to get it done. But after the initial investment, you’ve got seemingly endless opportunities to sell your work to anyone who will listen to your pitch.
As opposed to right now, where all I’ve got is a stack of rejection slips a mile high.
Oh, they all say nice things: The story’s great, the writing’s solid, the characters are likeable. But they still don’t want it. And I’m at a point where I’m starting to wonder if traditional publishing is worth the heartbreak. I have confidence in my novel. I don’t have confidence in the people who run publishing houses. Or at least not enough to trust my career to them.
So I’m going to take my work (and its distribution) into my own hands.
Self-publishing has long been looked upon as a last-ditch effort for shitty writers to get their books out into the public realm. But that seems to be changing these days. The popularity of e-readers has made self-publishing more affordable to writers, along with the advent of print-on-demand technologies, so more writers are able to invest in their own work and distribute it to a wider audience on the internet. Add to that the slow demise of the traditional publishing industry and their ever-increasing fear of taking on unknown writers, and you’ve got a population of good writers who can’t get published who suddenly see self-publishing as a viable alternative to the query-agent-editor-publisher-distributor-possible bookstore-possible buyer status quo.
And because e-readers make it hard to tell who is self-published and who is traditionally published, some of the stigma gets lost in translation.
And anyway, it seems sort of absurd to me that a writer, an artist, should have to rely on major corporations to make a living off of their own work. Do we expect dancers to have corporate sponsorship? Do we look down our noses at a painter selling her own work to buyers? Certainly for other artists having an agent is helpful, but it is not considered necessary for artistic (or industrial) legitimacy. So why do we demand that writers jump through extra hoops just to get respect in literary circles?
Let it be said, though, that part of me is really upset that I don’t appear to be getting that three-book deal with Random House. And maybe I am a result of the instant-gratification culture in which I came of age. I’m not getting published now? I’ll never get published! I’ll do it myself! Who knows? All I know at the end of the day is that I worked really hard on my novel, and I would be heartbroken if it never gets read by anyone but my friends (sometimes).
And let’s face it: the odds that I will become the next William Shakespeare, read for generation after generation for hundreds of years are slim even with a publishing contract. I always said that what really I wanted was to make a living (or at least part of a living) off of writing. And in these uncertain times, when self-published authors are selling more of their work than ever, and when agents and publishers are scanning the self-published books for possible clients, it seems a better time than ever to get this ship on water.
If I don’t chicken out first.