With credit to Babylon 5 and the heady days of the Shadow War when intergalactic elder races asked key characters these very same questions. (Incidentally, said war infeasibly ended just six episodes into season four after three seasons of build up. Incredibly the show just got better for it, at least through to the end of season four, which was perhaps the best science fiction ever seen on TV.)
For the purposes of this blog who I am is a writer, and what I want is to be published.
I recently went to a meeting that discussed e-book publishing, hosted by the fine folk at the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. I am not a morning person, as anyone who has worked with me can attest, and rarely acquire personality until 10am, so being friendly from 8am on posed a challenge. I finally warmed up in time for the round tables, and therefore the entire meeting, to be over. Despite my lack of personality, the event was very helpful to me, confirming much of what I had already learned, but also adding some very useful insights from people who had been through the process of e-publishing. It was very much worth it. Thank you, one and all.
The people there were friendly and enthusiastic, and their enthusiasm did indeed rub off on me, as it was with renewed optimism that I left the hall. And yet… However much it was an expression of desire to see and help new writers flourish, and however absent the hard sell was, I could not help but feel that there was some mining of the writers going on, (how could there not be?) in that there was a litany of services being offered for sale. A lot of people were there to try to make a living. And there were writers there too. Please forgive my cynicism, but I could not entirely shake it.
That feeling does bring me back once again to my sense of general dissatisfaction with the lot of the writer. What follows is a long sequence of first world problems. My life is fantastic, I am lucky to be leading it, I want for nothing and am thankful for my family, friends and chosen career.
But… I am sure this has been stated many times before, and by those both more knowledgeable and eloquent than myself: it sucks that the writer seems to be at the bottom of the pile in the industry that is writing.
I learned I could pay for editing, for formatting, for portraiture, for graphic design and for cover art, for marketing, for social media assistance, and on and on, anything related to the business of getting your writing fit for public consumption and/or sold to said public. Or, if I am to be fortunate enough to go the traditional route I discover I can help publishers and agents make money and get my cut after theirs is taken, and the distributors, printers, artists, editors, copy editors etc. etc. etc. have all been paid.
I have a visceral need to write. I may once have imagined glory, fame, and money, but now I know better I am still driven to it. I am close to having my book whittled into publishable form. (By my own lights and standards, that is.) I am about to meet one version of the buzz saw that is reality in the form of feedback from fellow writers in the critter forum, something I look forward to as of October 2nd. A future post shall detail my fun with critter.
So who I am is a gold mine for others, apparently. A means for other people to be enriched, via one route or another. What I want is to be published. What being published means has changed for me.
It used to mean a Penguin paperback (for instance) on a shelf in WHSmith next to the Belgariad. It used to mean the traditional route, of being chosen and accepted into that rare published club, of having my worth as a writer determined by others whose motivation in choosing my work would be at least partly determined by whether or not it would make them money. Which is fair enough – it is a business after all. Once that was what I thought being published meant, and I wanted it.
Now it means creating something I am proud of and one way or another putting it out into the public arena for consumption. Yes, I know it is a crowded arena, yes I know the chances of success are vanishingly small – they always were, even for those chosen by the old system – one print run and onto remainders was the fate of many if not most. No-one may read it. I have to accept that chance as much as accept that no-one who reads what I have written may like it. But publication is the only way to try to have any readers in the first place, and why else write if not to be read? (Hmm, therapy springs to mind… I digress.) I am highly unlikely to make any money, no matter how nice the cover that I will pay to have created turns out to be. Right now I can honestly say that won’t matter.
Because I am a writer. Because publication means release. Catharsis, truly. And if that means self-publishing, then I am all for it. If it means becoming a one man industry arranging for print on demand options, paying for an audiobook version to be made, making sure my ISBN’s are all lined up in a row and my e-book is legible on all kinds of readers, then so be it. This blog will have to expand into a website. That will be more work, more money. Seems likely I will be mined after all. But that won’t matter, because I will have written something I am proud of, and done the work to set it free and let readers determine my worth as a writer.
Because after that there are more stories to write, and be proud of, and set free.
- Writers and Validation (indiespiritpress.com)
- Traditional Publishing. And The Odds Are . . . (mdkelleher.wordpress.com)
- Who Do You Think You Are, Calling Yourself a Novelist? (margaretdilloway.com)