Notes from the Diary of a Literary Rebel, Part 4

As I attempt to bring my diary up-to-date and figure out how in the hell I’m going to finish off my novel, I thought I’d share with you another post from my long-abandoned MySpace blog.

And look!  This one has to do with writing and publishing 🙂

June 30, 2008 – Monday
Self-Published Writers’ Websites
Current mood:  tired
Category: Writing and Poetry

Checking out a former coworker’s work on a self-published writers’ website today, I wondered something; are any of the authors on there good?

I don’t mean good as in readable, but good as in writing stories or poetry that would be critically and/or commercially successful.  My former coworker’s work wasn’t bad (and yes, you can tell how good a story is going to be by how it begins, unless an author puts everything into the first few pages and nothing into the rest of the book), but it could have used some editing, especially in some sentences that I felt was one or two words too long.  When one self-publishes (as I did with my poetry book a while back), the author is also the editor, and while poetry can get away with this approach (though an editor who knows what he’s doing can make poetry better, too–just look at Ezra Pound’s masterful editing of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”), fiction needs more than one set of eyes to read it.

Of course, all of the authors on these websites might have first readers (people who read the work when it’s in some semblance of a finished form, but before it’s ready to be sent to the publishers), but I doubt it.  With the exception of poetry (because it’s shunned by major publishers unless you are famous, like Jewel), a process exists for short stories and fiction to be published outside of self-publishing.  And for those authors who don’t want to sell their souls to big publishing houses or box themselves into a specific genre with agents, university presses take unsolicited manuscripts (and they will publish poetry, too).  True, you can make more money by selling a book independently, and the website I looked at this afternoon has a way to link up with amazon.com in order to sell one’s book through that website, but who writes for money?  There are only three reasons why anyone writes anything, and two of them have to do with ego.  The other is because we authors love to write.  The two ego-driven reasons are seeing your name in print and believing that other people actually want to read the shit you’ve just written.

So, is self-publishing just another ego trip for the author, a way to say that they refuse to play by the rules?  There are, of course, famous stories about books that almost didn’t get published because they were too “out there” for the average readership.  After all, book publishers make their living on bestselling novels, not literary masterpieces.  Sometimes, books can be both, but they’re rare, and more rarely pointed out to the masses.  And there have been famous books which were self-published, such as Leaves of Grass (and you can correct me if I’m wrong about that).

I say, though, that if you want to strike a blow for the little man, don’t self-publish.  Instead, start your own publishing company (like Virginia Woolf’s husband), and only publish the books that you like.  I’m sure that, in time, you’ll be accused of not publishing your fair share of A Confederacy of Dunces, just like the major book publishers.  Speaking of which, that book was published by a university press.  Won a Pulitzer Prize, too.


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Author: Greg Salvatore

Writer. Voice Actor. Humanist. Feminist.

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