Saturday, March 31, 2007

"To Publish Or Not To Publish"


Since making the decision to self-publish my first novel “Proud Souls”, many people have asked the (critical and crucial) question: what made you decide to self-publish over opting (or waiting) on the more traditional route of publishing your novel? Well that answer, though easy to explain, was one of the more difficult decisions I have had to make with regards to my own personal writing career.

First and foremost I had to dig deep within myself and determine what my writing actually signifies to me in my life. If I had ambitions of using my writing as a means of “making a living” or becoming rich as most people would want or expect, then opting to self-publish my novel was no doubt a bad choice. Because (for those of you who know) the odds are never in favor of authors who publicize and market their own material—not because their works aren’t good enough—but rather because most people don’t have the resources (money and contacts), the time or the know-how to reach their objective. Naturally however I would be lying if I said I didn’t have dreams of one day writing on a full-time basis. I currently write at least once a day and with such a habit as I have said before (and quote me), there is an agony I suffer because of the desires of my inner muse to transpose my thoughts and ideals onto paper. I am a night-owl, staying up later than I should, long after people have gone to bed, and it’s during these moments of solitude and silence that I wait attentively and I listen to the silent whispers of my soul and in those moments I hear the words, see the pictures and then begin to draw my stories with words.

My writing is my passion, it can be dubbed a hobby, but that wouldn’t be fair. A hobby in my opinion is something we do to pass the time, to make life tolerable for the moment, but a passion however is something greater, something that stirs from within the depths of our souls and it’s something that is much too hard to explain but easily interpreted externally as the one thing we were “meant to do” or destined to become. It is the happiness you see and feel when you are around those people in the world that seem to be doing what they should be doing--what they were meant to do. It's that thing you can't explain. Now with that said and understood (I am talking to myself naturally), the decision to self-publish my work became easier.

In the literary world, self-publication carries as much controversy as do arguments over best practices for querying a literary agency, how or when to write a synopsis, and which method is best served to land a publishing contract. I have felt the pains that come with each of those processes; “Proud Souls” proudly (no pun intended) bears its share of close to forty documented rejection letters. Now, does that mean my work is no good or does it mean it didn’t fit with a particular agency/publishing house at the moment? Or, does it mean my story suffers for lack of exposure I have received prior to querying or shopping the story to prospective buyers? See, publishing houses are businesses and they, like any company in this country are in business to make money. They put up money to “retain” an author, buy the rights to a story, design the cover, edit the manuscript, market the future release, advertise and publicize the author, bind the books, store them in a warehouse, package them, distribute them and sale them. All costs associated of course, pay for each of these minute steps all in the grand name of publishing.

If you are savvy to business, then you know each of these steps can be costly and the entire process can be dangerous and critical to the existence of a publishing house; If the book does not sale then the company loses money and the costs associated with publishing a particular novel are lost, because as many people don’t know, books distributed to major book retailers don’t always have to be returned, they instead are sold to discount book stores and monies are lost. That is the major gamble associated with unknown authors like yours truly. The flip side of that coin is, because publishing houses are in business to make money, more and more good writers are often passed up in lieu of controversy, actors, athletes and others who “write a book” only to detail their story to a figure called a ghost-writer…they are the ones who actually do the writing. When publishing houses land contracts with the latest tabloid star, they almost guarantee themselves royalties and profit and the sacred art of writing, posed and blessed upon people by the literary gods is ignored and sometimes, fatefully lost to the world as we know it.

Then comes Bobby Ozuna and the countless others like me who have a knack for this craft, practice it, live and suffer to birth it and bring each story and character and setting to life. What happens to those stories? They are packed away on dusty book cases in our homes, stored and lost within directories on our computers or trashed, along with hope in our passion.

I have often argued in return for the sake of others like me, that just because an author chooses to self-publish, doesn’t mean his or her work was not “worthy” of publication. It may simply mean there is no fit for them in the otherwise guaranteed profitability of the day’s latest tabloid scandal. Recently a friend of mine said that their own editor had nothing positive to say about self-published writers or self-published books. My answer was this: Of course they don’t. If an author like myself chooses to create, market, stock and distribute a book all on my own, then essentially the “middle-man” is cut out and with that isolation comes loss of potential money. I didn’t have to pay a high-priced editor, though as you will see when the book is released this July(2007), if fairs no less than any other book you can pick up on a shelf. I didn’t have to beg and plead with a publishing house to consider my work, as I have full control over its entire creative process. I have no deadlines or demands over my shoulder requiring a particular amount of sales or revenue because my initial costs were low, my product is marketable and I have used the oldest method known to business: I talk to people on a personal basis and share something of myself and in that, people are willing to take a chance on me and my project, my passion, my hearts blood.

Is a person blessed by God with a voice to sing to the nations any less of a singer if they don’t have a record label? Is a garage band, who advertises themselves with flyers and distribute their own CD’s at local gigs within their hometown any less of musicians? Is a painter any less of an artist if their work isn’t hanging from the walls of a major museum? The answer is no. And a writer, who puts forth honest effort into developing their craft, takes painstaking steps into studying the basic fundamentals of character development, settings, mood, theme, tone, archetypes, acts and humanity is therefore no less of a writer, author or storyteller if they aren’t draped with titles and labels born by those who don’t actually understand what it is to be a writer.

When I came to understand and appreciate this, it was then that I took it upon myself, with the help of many other people who too believe in natural born talent, and I made the choice to produce and distribute and market my own work. I have made the choice to give my art-form its fair and due diligence, by sharing my own works with those willing to take a moment to listen. Now whether “Proud Souls” or any of my future projects ever receive recognition apart from those simple compliments given by those who appreciate my writing…I can live with that and to quote
Mr. Robert Frost: “…And that has made all the difference.”

~Ozuna

Monday, March 26, 2007

Inotauthor???

I have been asked many times by those people closest to me why I often use the title "Inotauthor" with relation to name and my stories. Well, for those of you who often pose this question just to realize that I am a master at ignoring those inquiries that I would rather keep private and more to myself, this blog’s for you!

With the release of my first novel, "Proud Souls" this July (2007) and the upcoming debut of my first published short-story—“Corrido”—I have begun working to extend my network of friends and associates outside my routine and customary means, and in doing so, I have decided to try various methods for including others as part of my creative process. And in venturing out I have (already) met some extraordinary people, one of which is my new acquaintance and friend, Maria Sanchez. Maria as the world will see is the artist behind the painting on the cover to my novel, “Proud Souls.” Maria told me I should consider “blogging” as a means to “get my name out there.” She then gave me some pretty significant advice. Maria said if I shared my work openly, the world might (possibly) fall in love with my writing…but if I shared my thoughts behind my writing, the world might (possibly) fall in love with me.

I thought the advice was pretty sound and with the upcoming release of my new website, I thought it was time to break a few of my own privacy rules and let the world in on some secrets behind this writer's methodical process for creating and drawing my stories with words as I like to say. I suppose there is no better introductory story to tell—or remaining excuses avoiding the question—than to share the substance behind the “Inotauthor” handle I have so often used over the years. The immediate and honest answer is, I don't have the faintest idea why I selected that name, but I can tell you—like all things associated to Bobby Ozuna—there is a pretty good story behind it (I suppose that's why I'm a writer.)

Years ago I kept my writing private. I did this for various reasons, but primarily I did it because as a “man” it felt awkward to be in such balance with my more creative and passionate side. Now, history has showed us that for as many women who utilize their creative sense, there are just as many men—painters, sculptors, and writers. I did rationalize this point but still, somehow, I talked myself out of sharing this inner desire to write. It wasn’t until the latter part of 2000 that I shared my first writings with a gentleman named Ladd Holder. Ladd and I became immediate friends and we shared the same interests, tastes and ideals behind some of what I would call better writers of my lifetime. In speaking with Ladd and sharing some of my early works, he was quick to say, with all due honesty that my writing was horrible. But like a true friend he then went on to say that despite my raw edgy approach to writing stories, he did sense a real talent for creativity. He explained something very important to me—a topic I sincerely consider discussing once my website is released—and that was the art of practicing your craft. Ladd told me that he believed that my destiny was to become a writer. He then went on to suggest I begin studying the craft, author styles and story structures, something quite honestly, I didn’t want to do. I was like most when I say, I wanted to sit down, draft a story, type it up and call it done! A masterpiece! Well, that isn’t true….at least not for me.

I did however take Ladd’s advice and I began reading more quality work, paying special attention to character development, scenes, and story “flow” as some may call it. Being our taste in comedy is the same, Ladd had the habit of asking me if I “got my flow on.” (You have to know Ladd Holder to appreciate the comedy behind that statement). Regardless, over many conversations and Southern Pecan Pies, I began to understand the complexity that came with being a writer. When it became tough, I would tell my friend that I was not an author, or in being silly, I would say, “I not author…”

So now I say to each of you who have sincere aspirations to write, like me, you must first come to terms with who you are (and what you are not) and make the choice to listen to the voice inside your soul, the silent cry pleading desperately to be heard. It's that beating, living presence within your heart that occupies your every thought until you become so uncomfortable that you have no choice but to remain still and listen. I believe if you do this, if you choose to listen to the voice of your own soul, you will then learn to find relative peace in an unmerciful world. I had to spend ample amounts of time alone, listening to the same sounds of my own soul before ultimately appreciating who I am as an individual.

My name is Bobby Ozuna and I am an author...a writer…a storyteller…a creative work of art all on my own. And in keeping with my traditions, I opted and adopted the handle, “Inotauthor” as my tribute and my reminder of where I began many years ago when I found the courage to face my destiny.

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