Saturday, May 14, 2011

Representative Books

I know quite a lot about publishing, at least from what I read in books. That may be a biased source though, and so I look elsewhere, particularly to my own experience.

I am published and a publisher; and in the field of book publishing my credentials suggest I am impervious to bias, for I am exactly equally published as publishing. In all, I am somewhat more published, having dotted the literary magazines here and there until deciding I did not care to do that any more.

I do not care for publishing, but I must publish. In the same way, I do not care for gardening, yet I must make love to my wife. Can I be any clearer?

Publishing is an act whereby an author consigns his or her work to the public, however that term is defined. The public may be general, or subscription-based. It may be the monks sharing the abbey where you scratch away at your parchment. It may be this, or it may be that. It may change, over time, as the illuminated manuscripts on museum display testify.

No matter. The author publishes and so is rid of the thing being published. The effect is immediate and indelible. One is free, free to...well, write some more. But free at least of one construction and open to another. That is a wonderful feeling, and it is a freedom, a release, make no mistake.

But with freedom comes responsibility. Or does it. No, not in my case. I have no book tour obligations to meet. I have no reviewers to thank. No sales figure I might hope to reach to ensure that the next book can be published. I am not made naked, for I have spoken only to a handful of people about the poems or the book that was made out of them. As to editors or readers, I have my friends on Facebook, where I will occasionally post poems - and my wife, Endi, who is the only person I let read my manuscripts. But then she is the only person I trust to read my manuscripts as a reader, not a writer. That is, she can put her writerly self aside long enough to read and tell me a couple useful things. I almost always implement her advice (then pull back a bit) and the manuscript clicks into place.

So, I have a manuscript and must publish it. That takes about five days. I obtain an ISBN number, I draw the cover; I format the manuscript, fixing all the bugs that occur in that process, and I publish. I obtain a proof copy and hit the button to distribute worldwide.

My only obligation is to continue to write.

Is there regret? yes, there is regret, for I am never more alone than when I let go of something that has been constantly on my mind. Do I ever wish I published by more traditional channels?

Let me put it this way. There is not one word out of place in my 16 books, not one line I would change, not one drawing I would substitute. In the process of writing these books, of rewriting, of tossing out and putting in, always polishing until I was absolutely sure - in this process, I have established a greater good for myself than could ever be realized by merely publishing one book, in whatever manner, to whatever sort of acclaim. I feel that I have been true to my work and to myself. At the age of 52 I write to the edge of my abilities - sometimes beyond - and I have no regrets. I have no reputation to protect, no persons I rely on whose favor influences what words or images I will put to paper today.

I do believe that publishing the way I do annoys some of my friends, or concerns them, in that I have chosen to be "unpublished" in a conventional sense. In short, they disagree. The solution is a practical one for me though, and I ask that it be seen in that light. Certainly, it is no critique of other means. I celebrate my friends' successes on and off the publishing field.

There is so much that concerns each other - apart from being read, I mean.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Operating Book Talk

Are morals cause or syntax? Do we dress in our morals or are we driven by them?

On another subject, this book (First Days Last) is fulfilling the promise of a bear. I have poems, drawings, and visual poems. I never imagined that the finished manuscript would make sense in a way that makes sense, but I am wondering now how it will make sense in a way that does not make sense. Or, it is bound to do both - sensibly, I hope. So I have arranged the elements in accordance with the abc/cab/bca scheme I outlined a while back, and now have printed out the poems themselves. I will arrange those by themselves then insert them back into the manuscript in that order to see what the whole effect is like.

With respect to morals, I think we do both. I will be very relieved when I have published this book.