Another Question: Is it Second Rate to Self-Publish?
In the olden days, which is where I’m from, self-publishing was for old geezers and their recollections of World-War-Two or fiction writers that were not good enough to get a proper publisher. But, a bit like mental illness; while there is a lot of talk about how times have changed and self-publishing is as valid as normal-proper-publishing, I’m not sure attitudes have really changed that much in reality. There are still a lot of people who would, wrongly I’m sure you agree, worry if a Schizophrenic was rewiring their kitchen, or if they got sat next to a self-publisher on a night out.
Don’t worry, if we ever meet, I will, unless you bring up bloodywebsitebuilding, chat about the weather and kids and, unless you are having an episode, whichever they floats your boat (if your they isn’t mine, I will challenge you, but in a good way).
I have no alternative to self-publishing really; I messed up my chance using the conventional route and, even with the right self-medication (which gets a bad press), I can’t stop writing.
And this is an instance where not being Salman Rushdie comes in handy. I have enough self-confidence and feedback to know that I can write good, witty and interesting page-turners but sufficient taste to know that I am no Tolstoy. Self-publishing might well suit.
I think the fact that no professional reader need look at your work before it is published is a problem. Traditional agents and publishers know what they are doing; they can provide useful feedback and help a writer improve and they can get you in touch with the relevant bits of the world outside your kitchen.
The trouble is, in my case, they didn’t. I sent my agent my first full-length story before it was properly proofed and since the relationship was also attained via nepotism, I don’t think that they were that bothered with me. The experience reminded me of a bad relationship more than anything else. At the time I tried to get close I wasn’t at my best and when I no longer got replies to my emails, I had to stop beating myself up and get on with my writing life.
I have tried to solve the lack of pre-publishing feedback by asking friends and family who read fiction to have a look at my stories. This is actually a big ask, it takes time to read a book, time that could be spent reading something else, or sleeping, or talking to their kids. They have lives to lead outside their kitchens. To make it as easy as possible on them, I ask people to read for as long as they are interested and if they don’t make it to the end just tell me the page number where they stopped and anything else they think.
Some very good friends and family have taken the time and thankfully provided me with some really useful feedback. This has given me the opportunity to re-and re-draft. That way, the way what I publish might or might not be second-rate but the story will be good.
I am giving in to the temptation to write, ‘They play’s the thing’, surely? But not in the same paragraph.
People often tell me, ‘You can write’, which has a specific meaning I can’t quite glean, and a couple have liked characters so much that they don’t want them to die. They get the plot and any themes I toss in and frequently make it to the end. I don’t feel second-rate.
I haven’t decided how much your judgement on this issue will cost you yet; Ten, Twelve pounds? I’m not sure. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.