Browsing through varying LinkedIn forums, I keep on coming across sweeping broad brushstroke statements to the effect that most self published works are poorly formatted and written rubbish. If this truly is the case, then why bother stating the obvious? Of course badly written, scrappy looking work won’t sell. But what is also true is that even brilliantly written, spectacularly perfect work may not sell either because it is not what the market wants right now, and as is repeatedly demonstrated, not even the ‘professionals’ get it right. Remaindered book shops being the singular living proof.
Yet, if we are to believe what some say, to self publish is to be forever damned by the traditionalists. Had the temerity to put a piece of work in the public domain without their consent? Only to be denied access to wider bookshop markets because the distributors won’t list a work with less than so many thousand pre printed stock available? Even then, will mainstream bookstore buyers touch self published works? Experience says no. Unless someone knows something I don’t, and I’d love to hear of a low cost entry level way into this section of the market. Apart from the eBook route.
So, what to do? Do I, as one who chooses to eschew the traditional publishing route of Agent and Publisher repeat what I did for so many years, write, submit, then wait, and wait, and wait, only to be handed a non specific “Sorry, no.” after three (or even on one particular occasion, six) months? Or simply go for it full thrust, transition, and try to blow a hole through the blockade like some of my characters repeatedly do in ‘Falling’ and ‘Darkness’? Should I ‘write for the market’ like we are all exhorted to do by creative writing classes and tutors? Okay, say I, but who defines what the market actually wants? What is ‘The Market’? I don’t know. The literary marketplace is diversifying so rapidly, I don’t think anyone else really knows, either.
‘Writing for a market’ might be the ‘safe’ option, but I’ve never really cared much for ‘safe’. If I did, I’d never have slung a leg over the saddle of a horse or motorcycle. Even after repeated falls and many bruises. Or handled bad tempered animals with teeth bigger and more dangerous than a large diameter circular rip saw. Or any of the other dangerous pursuits that get my heart pounding. So I write what I want. Not what others would have me write.
On the whole I think those who demonise independent self publishers do both themselves and their employers / companies a great disservice. Whenever I hear someone vouchsafing thus, it makes me extremely reluctant to deal with their company. To me they represent an elitist world view, rather like the voices who simply can’t bring themselves to believe that an English market town grammar school boy could become the most celebrated playwright in the history of the English language. Shock horror! The man never even went to University! How dare he! Yet the name of William Shakespeare echoes across time, even four hundred years on. One small town boy made good.
But then, we all have to start somewhere, be our journey in this life short and spectacular or slow and barely noticed. The only sin is not to try. Damn the dissenting voices.