Archive for the ‘self-publishing’ Category

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s sad about the snake and one is tempted to write something touching, a sort of eulogy, even though it’s just a metaphor.  But here it’s a metaphor for a world that is both physically and metaphysically close to all authors.  It’s a metaphor for the world of publishing.

Averse to “business,” I blithely write books and blogs about all the strange things that interest me.  But the business of publishing is a field of bloodthirsty battles right now, strewn with the smoking ordnance launched by both sides – traditional publishing and independent author publishing.

Educated as a sociologist and published in both venues, I can only take the long sociologist’s view while happily typing stories into an electronic reality that pays my rent while eroding the reality that used to pay my rent.  I can’t take sides, but there are sides.

Recently somebody wrote a scathing 4-part article in the Boston Phoenix (normally a young, savvy, cutting-edge local paper, so the article is odd) slamming independent author publishing as a “dead-end.”  Of course it isn’t a dead end or any kind of end; it’s new; it’s a beginning.  My friend Lou wrote a careful, thorough and compelling response to the article and to one of its supporters that is so direct and clear that no more need be said.

Why DIY Publishing is not a Dead End

by M. Louisa Locke.
Posted on July 15, 2012

This morning I read a post by Anderson Porter about a four-piece article written a few weeks in the Boston Phoenix by Eugenia Williamson, entitled The dead end of DIY publishing. I had read the Williams piece earlier, and the more than fifty comments, which in my opinion had done a more than adequate job of pointing out its problems. But when Anderson seemed to accept much of her analysis, and labeled the comments as “the usual pitchfork-waving, spittoon-dinging dismissals, I found myself spending the rest of the morning writing a reply. When I finished, I thought I ought to expand a bit, and post what I had to say as a blog, thereby at least justifying a morning lost to writing on my next book. So here goes:  (Click here to see Lou’s post entire.)

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This morning I got a message on this site from a man who absolutely hates Bone Blind.  Email being what it is, this person could be something other than is suggested by his name and message. I had to ponder this, since I’m basically a hermit and have no natural enemies.  That I know of.  But then I probably wouldn’t notice anyway.  The best possible enemy I could come up with is the young woman who slept in the dorm bunk beneath mine (very briefly) in college.  She hung her rosary over the top of the bunk’s upright by my head, and her nightly snores were like small helicopters crashing in ponds of thick soup.  It wasn’t easy, logistically, but one night I managed to hang upside-down under my top bunk and –Geronimo! – drop that rosary right in her mouth.  (Yes, kids can be so cruel, etc.  And I wasn’t even a kid; I was 19.  It’s terrible; I’m not arguing.)  But I don’t think today’s message was from her.  It was so long ago that she may be dead and besides, the author’s discursive style just didn’t say “Midwest.”  So I was left with the possibility that he was who he said he was and thought what he said he thought.

And what he said was courteous, articulate and seemingly heartfelt.  He read my other books and liked the style.  He said he will buy any subsequent books that I write.  But he couldn’t get into BB’s “demographic,” didn’t care if the characters plummeted to depths or spiraled into space and didn’t think I cared, either.  Wow.

So I had to think about that.  BB doesn’t have a demographic, or at least I never intended one.  But do I “care” about Finn and Tally and Yost as much as I “care” about Bo and Blue (protagonists in previous novels)?  I do, or I wouldn’t have gone to the considerable trouble of releasing them from their prison in a box in my garage.  I wanted them to have the life enjoyed by all fictional people, a life that may include being disliked by real people. Yes!  And I imagined their responses.  Sensitive Finn is puzzled at the attention and somewhat hurt that my correspondent doesn’t like him.  Tally?  Hard to say, but at least on the surface she’s all hardass, dismissive, flip.  Yost is least affected, but would be equally happy to have a beer with the guy and talk, or give him a speeding ticket just for the hell of it.

The point is that, oddly, they’re there, somewhere, and can react to a real, live person as they could to other fictional people inside their novel.  On the other hand, they’re not me and I have no need to defend them.  I only wrote their story and am only happy that my correspondent read it.  I’m also happy that he cared enough to write to me about it.  The writer’s world is not like the real one, it seems.

And the world of the contemporary or indie author is not like the old, traditional one, either.  Responses to the Bo and Blue novels were filtered through the offices of a mega-publisher and then my agent before they ever got to me.  I received many “fan” letters in response to those books, and not one was negative, suggesting that the negatives were filtered out somewhere along the pipeline.  (It didn’t occur to me then, but seems obvious now – how possible is it that no one wrote to say s/he really hated at least one of seven novels?)  But that traditional wall between author and reader is a crumbling ruin at this point; anyone may contact any author who has a blog or website.  And every author has a blog or a website.

So is this a bright, new day of stimulating exchange, or an anarchic Gehenna fraught with dire peril?  Both.  The line may be drawn by the competencies of those involved.  Last week a pathetically incompetent indie “author” savagely attacked a reviewer (whose review of her “novel” was actually quite benign).  The event went viral and within hours she was reviled all over the Internet, some clever wag going so far as to write a parodied review on Amazon, lauding her nearly-unreadable text as comparable to that of James Joyce.  I loved the parody, and laughed, but underneath I was sorry that the fiasco could occur at all.  She should have been protected, somehow, from her own incompetence and its brutal result.  In the old days there were safeguards, but now there are none and there will be casualties.  I hope she isn’t one of them.

Meanwhile, the message I got this morning was negative, but nonetheless made my day.  It made me think, which is a gift.


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A woman in my Jung study group defines herself as “an Episcopalian Buddhist,” a term to which I can relate. Zazen is not my thing; if I’m going to sit for any length of time, give me a chair with a back. But for a while I, an agnostic Anglican, fell in with a Buddhist sangha where you could lie down to meditate! I loved lying around on a soft carpet beneath the all-knowing eyes of a gigantic Buddha. Listening to myself breathe is tortuously boring so I never did come close to meditation, but nonetheless picked up a sort-of-Buddhist perspective that surfaces at times like this.

I have managed to get one book up on Amazon for Kindle!

C of S coverIt’s my first mystery, Child of Silence, long out of print but editions of it are all over the place since it went into several printings and was a book club selection. (Plus five foreign translations and a TV movie in France.) So its reincarnation as an eBook with a fantastic new cover (by DeronLeeAssociates@gmail.com) is exciting, but almost beside the point. The point is a peculiar sense of luminous calm that seems to accrue to the process. I have, with the usually-patient assistance of eBook producer Kimberly Hitchens, channeled a book into an existence that’s both insurmountably transient (As in- What happens when the entire Internet crashes?) and eerily permanent. It’s Change personified, ambiguous and hypnotic. And the Buddhist Third Noble Truth, in my proto-understanding, is that an ability to go with change is really cool.

So I’ve set my first book in Change, and will do the same for the others to which I hold the rights. Those already-published books, and new ones, will become electronic zeros and ones in a realm about which I know nothing. And so what? All I need to know is that doing this feels expansive and right. Child of Silence is now a cyber-pulse anybody can pull from the ether and transform into a familiar alphabet, its story available. Wow.

There is much discussion about real (meaning paper) books vs. e-books, these discussions involving a need to declare one’s deep attachment to real books. I admit an attachment to my grandmother’s 1890 edition of James Whitcomb Riley’s Rhymes of Childhood that is always in my bedside bookcase. Along with a hundred equally indispensable volumes. Then there’s the other upstairs bookcase and many more in the living room and my office, all double-shelved with books. I’m at the library weekly. To me, voicing a fondness for books is the equivalent of insisting that really, I do like, and am loyal to, water. “I” would not exist in the absence of either.

But unlike water, books are not physically (as in physics) definable. Books are experiential – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all that. Riley’s words, “Aroint him the wraithest of wraithly things!” lie silently upstairs on century-old pages thick as grade-school construction paper. But those wraithest of wraithly things are no less so in Arial 12 on my pc screen, or carved in marble or written in sand. They are in my mind. And so I’m okay with any vector between words and minds.

The process necessary to the channeling of words into eBooks is, however, not very Buddhist. The process may be the antithesis of enlightenment, insisting as it does on close attention to HTML codes and Kindle’s renowned aversion to italics in headers. But this is the skeleton without which the magic would just swarm, amoebic and indecipherable, in a sloppy puddle of letters. So for the first time in my life I eagerly read techie stuff I loathed until two months ago. I learn a new vocabulary. “Metadata. Ping. Stray page breaks.” Who knew the placing of letters in space was so complicated? But it is and I’m in awe at the work of centuries of printers, typesetters, bookbinders, everybody who made books real. I guess attention to The Ten Thousand Things is necessary in order to get out of The Ten Thousand Things, as in reading a book. I’m not sure if this is a neat insight or just something everyone else has always known.

But in the end, when the metadata is hidden and the page breaks corralled, there is something that wasn’t there before – an eBook. This one is mine, but there are thousands of them, each some soul’s attempt to tell a story. I don’t know what there is, except stories. So I think maybe the doing of this, the intent of it if not necessarily its reception, is a slice of Nirvana. At least I think that today.

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Abigail Padgett

There are “First Adopters,” brave pioneers who sleep in Best Buy parking lots for weeks in order to be the first to get new techie stuff the minute the stretch-wrap comes off the pallet. But there is no category for the rest of us – Middle, Three-Quarters of the Way and Last Adopters. We aren’t statistically significant. On the other hand, we also aren’t stuck with nine sequential versions of the X-Stream digital waffle iron with built-in GPS.

I’m right down there with the Last Adopters, indeed may be the last, but I’m coming around. Like everyone else on the planet who reads, and especially everyone who writes, I’ve lurked. I’ve watched a publishing industry that’s been around since Gutenberg (1450 C.E.) change overnight. I love trees and rejoiced with them at what digital publishing will do for their numbers. But about my own numbers I remained clueless.

While every author I’ve ever known raced out to design new covers and put at least their backlists up in e-formats, I continued to lurk. I watched the hand writing on the wall and apparently thought, “Gee. A hand is writing on the wall.” Many months would go by before it occurred to me to read the freaking message! Slow, I am slow. The movement of glaciers is fleet in comparison.

But finally I get it. I have a backlist of seven published mysteries, one cool new one that my agent couldn’t sell (too complicated and who’s ever heard of Boston?) and another, new, magical realist series ready to launch one way or another. Except… hey. I don’t have to sit around reading old issues of Field and Stream like I do in my dentist’s office while I wait for something to happen, do I? I can publish whatever I want, whenever I want, myself. Wow.

Stay tuned for Adventures of the Last Adopter, which I envision as something like a marriage of “The Shadow” and “Springtime for Hitler.” Clueless or not , I’m going to publish something!

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