Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh You Lulu

I've learned and confirmed a few things publishing my own books. First is that of all the writers I know, I am the happiest and best suited to self publishing. I am convinced that I am writing what I must write, and that it should publish, and in the form of the manuscripts I write in. I therefore need complete control and authority over the publishing process - absent, that is, a publisher falling all over themselves to please me, which cannot and should not happen. Whether anyone reads the books - well, my view is that if the work merits reading, it will be read. If it prompts consideration, there will be discussion. My job is to do the work and make it available. My job ends there. I do not have to promote my work - i.e., no readings, thank you lord.

More on the plus side: self publishing provides optimum control over my time. From start to finish - assuming a manuscript in hand - I can publish a book in under five hours. Then quiet descends, my obligations have been discharged, my mind is clear, and I can write something new.

I am fortunate. I do not have to make a living from writing - by editing or teaching, let's say. If I were teaching, this avenue would be closed to me. I would be compelled to seek a disinterested publisher for my work. If I were an editor, I would be that publisher for other writers. Neither of those livings appeal to me.

For one thing, being the poet I am, I find it helpful, from time to time, to forget everything I know about writing. I certainly have forgotten whatever I once knew about contemporary writing and theory. Oh, it's kicking around in me in some way, having been assimilated to some degree. But not having to explain myself or others is a great relief. A constant, refreshing relief.

For another, I am not in competition for that prize, that book contest, that award, etc. I leave all that to people who would benefit from it, who make a living from writing. Not that I would win a thing, trust me.

And, well, let's face it. Most of my models are very, very dead. And not one of them taught writing - or was even an editor, now that I think about it. Most had independent incomes, besides which there are a couple doctors, a lawyer, a couple politicians, and an insurance salesman.

What choice does anyone have, really, but to write and publish as best one can?


monkeylumber said...

I often wield a very heavy trident as painting/photography, fiction/poetry and music can make up the tines of my creative thrust at any given moment. The problem for most of us in the arts is access to a reliable cheap and dependable delivery system for whatever drug we are pushing-and the ability to control the quality of our product all the way down the chain of distribution.

This is true with art and galleries. Now it is possible to have a virtual online gallery and do quite well with that alone- unheard of not too long ago when art world status depended largly upon one's associations and the golden touch of fashionable dealers- which resulted in a sacrifice of half the revenue of the sale.

Professional quality finished music can now be produced on a simple laptop then made instantly available online- direct to customer/fan within moments- with nothing more than an embedded Paypal button handling any necessary commerce. The old notion of corporate record companies which represent loss of creative control and what basically amounts to indentured servitude is all but finished.

(continued in next post)

monkeylumber said...

(continued from part one)

This leaves writing.
I remember when a vanity press was looked down upon and ridiculed. I used to laugh out loud at the circulars I received in the mail showing some smiling small town schlub proudly holding his freshly-minted historical romance novel- of course, "set in the wild camps of Attila the Hun". National Lampoon couldn't have parodied the industry any better. This would have been the late-seventies, right before the funny looking little computer thing we played pong on began to invade our daily lives- foreshadowing the demise of the printed word.
Someone told me recently that there are only about three big (albeit amalgamated) publishers left in NYC today where once there were hundreds. As a screenwriter I know approximately 40,000 screenplays are circulating the film industry on any given day. The odds of actually getting a script into production are next to impossible. They say you have a better chance of getting published as a novelist, but we all know better than to put any serious money on that nag even showing. The divine poets and their craft that once commanded most of recorded history and who were widely considered to be the visionaries of their age are occupying a increasingly diminishing rincon de obscuridad as popular taste, style and ideas about entertainment evolve and degrade. They continue to be loss leaders to the mainstream houses, relegated mostly to the university press, small runs and academia. The occasional Billy Collins makes some money in a brief flurry of popular interest and name dropping-thanks to the likes of Oprah- but he’s the exception. As we know, a poet will starve more than his belly attempting to only be a poet.
So, like a fine wine I think this Lulu thing has come of age and is an effective tool for any author who wants to raise and keep an audience in today’s 24 hour global internet village. “Build it and they will come.” Patrick, what you have done here with your blog and Lulu is quite fascinating, completely smart and modern as all fuck and I applaud you. You are reaching out and sculpting your audience/readers from the either. I for one will linger and get to know what you are about as a writer and most definitely support your art. The only question I have is... which book do you suggest I begin with? Lol!