Friday, November 13, 2009

On "Picking up the Marbles and Going Home..."

We all know what the phrase means, but how does it relate to self-publishing?

Publishing is a tough business. Yes, it is a business. If all we wanted to do was write and create magic using words as an art, then why do we need a "business?" Surely, if you want to write and then share your art, you could offer it via your web site for free. You certainly don't need to publish it or get involved with the harsh and cruel world of publishing. If you want to make a little change from your art, why not install a "Donation" button on your web site and ask readers who enjoyed your story to offer a little for the pleasure of reading it for free. It could work and you could bypass publishing completely.

But most authors want a "book." A book that is considered "published" and available on the great and mighty Amazon. We want to feel as if we've arrived as an author and only by having an honest-to-God, "real" book listed on Amazon will we feel accomplished.

And what about self-publishing? What makes the self-published author feel as if they've "arrived?" Large sales? High rankings on Amazon? Having everyone talking about your book? Landing a "real" publishing contract from one of the "real" publishers? Getting fan email? Having to turn down blurb requests? What makes it real for you?

And what about the times when writing and publishing begin to tear you down? The work involved in self-publishing is hard and long. Never ending. You are basically going at it alone. Personally, the freedom of going it alone is what attracted me to self-publishing. But what about the times when no matter how much time you spend online promoting or sending out review copies, your books get little to no sales and little to no notice. You blog and blog and no one shows up at your blog. What then? No, you don't have the funds to hire publicity agents. It's only you. Will you remain a happy writer? Will you continue writing when no one is buying your book or talking about your book? Is the love of writing that strong in your physical and emotional psyche to stand up to that kind of frustration and disappointment?

I may be off-base here, but I believe we are fooling ourselves if we think we are writing only because we "cannot not write." We write because we are storytellers. As writers, we are writing down our stories. But what is a storyteller without a listener? A writer without readers?

At what point do you pick up your marbles and go home?