Saturday, 17 March 2012

Brave New World

Once more into the breach, dear friends.

I have a few publishing credits under my belt because, shockingly enough, on occasion editors have taken a fancy to my work and agreed to include it in a collection they have sent to print.  It is always a thrill and an honour, and nothing quite matches the thrill of scanning a reply and seeing the word "Accepted", just as nothing quite stings as strongly as the inevitable "not for us" or other polite euphemism that we writers are so used to when being told we're not wanted.  I have been fortunate enough to receive the good news several times now, but each victory is a struggle, a battle won in a war that at times seems hopeless.  It was like being at war not with the mighty empire of China, but its Great Wall.  Unfeeling, unrelenting, the publishing industry does not care how many stories you sling at it; it will always sit there, resolute and steadfast, unmoved by your plight or the ferocity of your firepower.  Rare is the writer who breaks a few stones; rarer still is the writer who breaches to the other side and can consider themselves an insider.

Until recently, scaling the wall was the only option for a budding author.  Write a slew of stories, submit them as often as it takes, and hope to build some credits so that you might be taken seriously enough to be considered for publication or gain an agent for that novel you've always been working on.  There was only one way to play the game and the rules were set to make entry near-impossible.  Now, the publishing industry finds itself encircled by an enemy unfathomable in its power: the Internet.

Self-publishing has long had a certain stigma attached to it, and with good reason.  Vanity presses would take the money of hopeful authors who had no hope of seeing returns, or even seeing their book on shelves.  Pseudo-academics would use their own imprints to add an air of legitimacy to questionable research they could not bring anywhere near a mainstream journal.  For a long time it did not bode well for one's career if self-publishing was deemed necessary.  Now, however, thanks to the plethora of platforms and the digitising of the reading experience, publishing on your own is not only acceptable, it is becoming a norm.

Not the norm, of course, because there remains the prestige attached to having one's book published by a major house, not to mention the marketing advantages.  But with the likes of Smashwords and CreateSpace, authors no longer have to stand sniveling before the court of publisher opinion.  It is not up to anyone but themselves whether their material gets out there for public dissemination, and it is up to the public whether it yields any returns or gets read at all.  Publishing is democratised and the playing field somewhat leveled.  Of course, as with any open system plenty of drivel will seep out as an over-enthused writer pours a barely concealed fan-fic over the keyboard and throws it online in a rush to see their name in lights, long before considering character, pacing and plot, or even spell-checking.  That is unfortunate, but with the ebook format gaining popularity and millions around the world having a device capable of reading anything at the touch of a button, being on a shelf in Borders no longer seems a requirement to be taken seriously as media to be consumed.  Which is handy, since Borders no longer has shelves.

So it is with this in mind that I have made my first foray into self-publication with my story Diminished.  It is not for the sake of vanity, though I must admit having my proof sitting on my desk does give me a warm glow somewhere inside.  It is to see how viable this process is for a little-known but experienced writer.  Can one really make it on their merit, if they put in some work and publicize their own work?  And what of price?  It's not free, but it's not expensive, certainly not compared to some publications out there, electronic or otherwise.  It is not very long either, but by no means were corners cut in the quest for a quick upload.  The story is one I am proud of, one I want to share, and one I hope will herald a new beginning as a self-published author in a world where 'self-published' does not have to be muttered in shame.

For the TL;DR crowd - I've published a novelette (all on my own this time) that I'd love you to give a try.  It's available for Kindle as an ebook and in paperback.  And it's cheap!

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