Thursday, November 30, 2006

Flexing My Muscles

So I’m back from vacation, rested and relaxed from a week and a half of seeing friends, visiting foreign places and abusing the hell out of my credit card. More importantly, I’m still working through my list of submissions. I have identified a few good prospects and at least one person who is very obviously missing a comma in the first sentence of his novel.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine who used to review for a site that has since been shut down and he agreed (in principle) that it is better to simply review the good stuff than to waste time reviewing the bad stuff. True, it is worthwhile to tell readers not to bother, but when the author’s only true enemy is obscurity, it is easier to simply focus on what should be read than to distract yourself with everything else.

Which brings me to my next point. One of the links that I have collected to pass along came from someone that I tend to regard as having nothing good to say about self-publishing. Accordingly, I was going to use it as an example of that one viewpoint and then tear it to shreds. Having just reread it, I actually think that she has a lot of good points to make. Authors do tend to be delusional and often have no idea what exactly the publication (and subsequent marketing) process is really like. Read it for yourself and, as you do, check your reaction. Does it make you angry? Upset? Resigned? Then self-publication is probably not for you.

However, she does make one point that bears rebuttal. Readers are not interested in becoming slushpile readers. I would agree with this, except that standing in a bookstore without recourse to some kind of book review resource is not really any different than sorting through the slushpile. As a reader, you have no idea what you’re going to pick up and whether it will be any good. You have no idea whether it will really entertain you or whether it will simply make you regret your purchase. For all intents and purposes, you are buying on faith.

Still, our poster is talking about the readability of self-published books – the fact that they should conform to certain basic standards. I agree with this completely. If, as a writer, you find this somehow unfair or unreasonable, then you might as well stop reading this blog right now. The only way that self-publishing will ever gain any degree of respectability is if those people who choose to self-publish start being professional about the process.

Don’t believe me? Even those industries with a healthy attitude towards self-publishing are saying the same thing.

Finally, I give you a self-publishing manifesto of sorts. Again, I agree with this completely, with the caveat that if you are going to support the community, then you should be willing to start by representing yourself as a mature, capable, creator. That means learning from your mistakes and not whining when they are pointed out. That means acting like a businessman. That means treating the fact that your book will probably not be carried in bookstores as a challenge, not a conspiracy.

“If you want something badly enough, you make arrangements. If you don’t want it badly enough, you make excuses.”

- Hanif Kureishi

Don't make excuses.