___WORDS FROM ME_____________________________________

publishing and how to avoid it


It’s really not what I thought.

When I was a kid – and a not very smart young adult – I thought all you did was write your book, type it up, and then take it down to the local library.

You’d hand your weighty tome across the counter. Some helpful librarian would regard you with stupefied awe because you’d actually Written A Book. And then said librarian would take your precious manuscript into the bowels of the building (actually, as a kid, my local library was a narrow, mid-row terrace with both its small downstairs rooms knocked into one and shelved with books, no real room for any bowels, though it did possess a legend about its cellar and secret tunnel used by a local highwayman, but that’s a story for another time) and once in those bowels printing presses of mysterious metals and grim inks would be charged up and a book or ten made and put on the lending shelves.

If the book was taken out enough, then maybe the library would go on to print enough of them to sell in WH Smiths, where people went if they wanted to buy a book and not just borrow it.

If you got really lucky, enough people bought it and made you rich and you got one of those jackets with leather elbow-patches and eventually sunk a swimming pool in your back garden.

That was my thinking.

It took me a while to figure out that things didn’t work like that. Slowly the shuttle weaved in and out and my mind began to pick up the thread of how publishing actually worked. Unsolicited submissions. Rejections. Small Press print. Rejections and acceptances. Vanity Presses. Always acceptances – for a fee. Agents. Rejections and acceptances and then despair when the books can’t be sold. Publishers. Rejections. And then an acceptance. Editors. Rewrites. Copy Editors. Arguments. Oh, you know. The whole kit and caboodle.

And somewhere amongst all of that it’s easy to forget that a book has to be written, rewritten, refined and found to be of commercial value. And that last is the real kicker. Commercial value. Meaning it has to fit in. It has to make money, or be thought likely to make money. Just because it’s good enough to be in print doesn’t necessarily mean it will see print. That one in particular was a hard lesson for me to learn when two agents who were interested in my stuff reluctantly came to the conclusion they didn’t think they could sell it. 

So in some ways I prefer my naive version of publishing. It seems nicer, more geared up towards writing and what we might, just now and again, call art.

I suppose the advent of the e-book, in particularly Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing facility, is making my old and naive notion of what publishing is about a reality. For good or ill, regarding the quality of the work. You write your book, type it up, then show it to the world and see what happens.

But there’s a crucial difference. Libraries were open to everyone in my world. You didn’t need to find a hundred notes to buy an e-reader or have to be able to afford broadband internet access... My naive notion of publishing wasn't that elitist. 

Commerce. It gets everywhere.

PS – Did I mention my book’s available to buy here?

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