Welcome to the first Meaty Monday.
Meaty Mondays will be a series of writing focused posts that appear – as the name suggests – on a Monday. I can’t promise they’ll be any more interesting or more useful than my normal posts or even if they’ll appear every Monday, but they will be longer. This week, I’m going to talk about my puzzling attitude towards self-publishing, or indie publishing as it’s called nowadays.
I have a very strange relationship with self-publishing.
I’ve self-published any number of video games and other pieces of software. In fact, I spent over seven years doing just that and that was before the iPhone kick-started the current golden age of independent game development. Even now, I still harbour secret desires to go indie again and crank out some of my own games for iPhone and iPad.
If I was still in a band, I’d be out there building websites, uploading recordings to iTunes and Bandcamp and hawking t-shirts, coffee mugs and limited edition hand warmers to anyone who strayed too close.
If I could draw, I’d have my own online comic strip. And the t-shirts, coffee mugs, limited edition hand warmers and the hawking.
But books? Books are different.
I have nothing against self-published books. I’ve read books by indie authors and enjoyed them. I don’t take pricing or publisher into account when I’m choosing a book to buy. As Roger Eschbacher discusses in this blog, it’s entirely possible to self-publish a book that’s as professional as anything else out there, particularly if you’re able to go the Kickstarter route. That said, I do wish more indie authors would put as much effort into creating a professional product as Roger and Scott Bury. Incidentally, if you’re a budding author and don’t read Scott’s blog you should give it a try.
It’s certainly not because of the money – I’m neither fooled by the ‘indie author hits the big time’ headlines or naive enough to see creative writing as anything other than an exceptionally improbable way to earn a living.
But still, there’s something stopping me from taking my lovingly crafted novel and becoming an indie author.
Books need an editor and I don’t just mean someone to make sure the author hasn’t made any stupid grammatical errors. You can pay people to edit your novel and it’s relatively affordable. There’s more to it than that, at least for me. I need an independent filter for my work.
I need someone to assess the quality of the story not just the technical aspects of the writing; someone to validate what I’ve written as something other than self-indulgent twaddle. You need to have a certain amount of arrogance to want to force a story you’ve written onto the world and ask people to pay for it. I’m arrogant enough to believe I’ve written something worth reading, but not quite arrogant enough to want to try to sell it without an impartial observer assessing its quality and finding it unique, or at least enjoyable, enough to publish.
Even now, as the Internet, digital distribution and the feasibility of low volume printing usher in a publishing revolution, this outdated idea that someone other than me needs to care enough about my book to want to get it out there persists. It’s irrational and probably stupid. Some of my favourite authors have published their own work and there are plenty of talented authors plying their wares on the indie circuit. Still, I can’t get past the feeling that I’d be unwise to go that route.
But as the great man says, never say never. The psychological barrier that is preventing me from going indie has worn down to a very thin membrane and every now and again I catch a glimpse of the wraith-like shadows of temptation lurking beyond. Every now and again they press eagerly against that tenuous barrier. So far it’s stayed intact but one day it’s going to break.
And then you’ll be sorry.