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.”



as seen through my eyes said...

You make some very valid points. Publish Bobby Publish....

My favorite Robert Frost poem an except from "Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening"

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I guess you'll be up many a night polishing your craft before you sleep. I hope you promise to continue writing, it's definately what you should be doing.

Morris Rosenthal said...


Just finished reading your post, will put through your commments on my blog now.

I remember running my local five mile route back in 1995, a year after I wrote my first novel (which I never published on paper) and when I had just discovered the Internet via the old GNN service. While out running, I decided to take a guide I'd written for computer technicians I was training a couple years earlier, redo it for a new website, with the dream of one day selling it to a publisher.

The funny thing is I remember my goal very specifically. I thought if I could just get to $20K a year as an author, I would keep writing fiction and and eventually show the world:-)

While it took a while, I ended up doing much better than the $20K/year and found myself with a career as a how-to writer. Somehow, I never got back to fiction, and I wonder if things would have worked out differently if I'd just published that novel myself and kept working at various computer /engineering jobs to support the writing habit.


Bobby Ozuna said...

Thank you for taking the time to review this article and post a comment.

Writing and marketing fiction are tougher than most non-fiction markets--for reasons I don't yet understand--but everyday I research, study and apply some good 'ole trial and error...I am one step closer to accomplishing my publishing goals.
Thanks for the post!

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