Guest post: Thoughts on Modern Publishing – by Awake In the Mad World Author, Damon Ferrell Marbut

30 Jan

 

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The truth I’ve come to understand about self-publishing goes beyond the excitement of what is possible for an author beginning to develop in the current market. The self-publishing industry is still, but was a tremendous change for the literary world at first. It’s levelling out a bit, and earning respect in some regards, but I detested the notion of self-publishing for a considerable amount of time. I’ll get to why soon. But because it’s a real and thriving business enterprise now, for publishers and authors alike, who more often assume both roles, to make sense of strategy (which I don’t like discussing so much in that I only ever wanted to simply write) one should consider what they’re up against when entering this field and this market.

First off, I disagree with those who say it can all be done for free. Or scratch that. It largely can be done for free, but I don’t believe it’s done well. Some writers are great on the keys, naturally or academically trained to write stories that change how people view genres or read about certain subject matter. But then, they may not be so gifted at marketing and self-promotion. Or it can be the other way around. They can be terrific at marketing, establishing Self as a brand, but their writing can be unpolished and substandard. Many people argue, unfairly I think, that self-published authors can’t get book deals because they aren’t good enough. What motivates a person to publish a book on their own should be based on how they understand the relevance and importance of the work they have initially produced. Writing a book doesn’t mean as much these days. Yes, it’s an accomplishment that speaks to the investment of mental and emotional and financial resources, but a writer must understand two things before positioning him/herself to publish in any capacity: why he or she is writing to begin with, and what they wish to do or become once the book is “out there.” And then own it all.

So yes, it does require money. Not necessarily exorbitant amounts, but some money. I’ve seen plenty of people spend unfortunately large amounts of money on terrible, typical book covers, and some spend little to no money on fine cover images that leap from the shelves, online or physical. Or they have the ability to do it themselves, achieving a great or not so great end. And time, when you self-publish a book, redefines itself if you are serious about the legacy and impact of your book. So many books are being published daily that understanding where it belongs, and being comfortable with being wrong as you go along and discover audiences you didn’t anticipate loving your work actually responding to it more, or that the audience you pursued doesn’t care for it at all. Much of being a self-published author is surprise. There is luck in there, too.

Then there’s sacrifice. I’ve written about this recently in an article I was asked to produce on the writing process. The people in your life need to be prepared ahead of time to see less of you, as you write and as you market. You will, if you stick with it, get busier as you promote and as you simultaneously begin a new book. I’m at the point now that I almost need an assistant. And my partner is patient, my friends understand, but there exists that pull from them that occurs (in my head at least) when you know all that laughter and storytelling and coffee shop visits and dinners out have to be minimized so you can work. And it is real work.

I read a couple of books on self-publishing when I was starting with it last year at this time. I was encouraged by former professors from graduate school, and an editor who published my short fiction in New York, to go ahead and produce my own unique book and develop it in the market and then, after it was taking on a reputable life of its own, approach an agent and then a publisher to take on the book so I could relax from the effort enough to write more. I’m at that point now in talking to agents. A year ago I said I wouldn’t want to let go of the control once I committed to it, but now I’m happy to let it become its own creation in the market. I worked a great deal on telling my stories well, or to the best of my abilities, and even scratched a novel or two to get to the voice I want as my own in modern publishing.

I think most would agree that authors must determine what social media works best for them. In the beginning, I joined every group and community I found, just to learn the language of the new industry. A lot of it is disappointing and sometimes infuriating. For example, I wrote a fairly incendiary post on Goodreads after I saw an “author” asking people to give her plot lines for her book. Back story for it, actually, because she was too lazy or incapable of giving it time to come to her. And people lined up to throw in their two cents. I was horrified. Plainly spoken, many authors in the online communities aren’t realistic about their work, and can be selfish, aggressive and shameless in how they pursue the exposure of their books. Some organizations let you down, some are fantastic, some try incredibly hard but cannot handle the workloads the multitudes overwhelm them with. But it must be understood that without the good and bad I’ve experienced, the near-misses and the successes, without the fantastic enthusiasm of those who do love to write, who do wish to learn how to cultivate an online presence and, maybe one day, a career in writing if not something that leads to teaching it, without those I admire for their constant fight through the noise and nonsense that complicates the self-publishing world and earns it a bad name, I would not be as proud of myself as I am today, for working as hard as I’ve worked to be able to discuss the industry with confidence. It is business, but it is improving by the minute, and so there is no shame in producing one’s own book and elevating it to its highest potential through the online communities that are now aware of what they’ve created and work so diligently to construct an industry image worth preserving and which they can proudly claim to join.

To finish, let me go back to why I first despised the idea of self-publishing. I didn’t know anything about it. It’s that simple. I was still in love with the old, traditional publishing model of finding people to support your work. But it isn’t completely like that anymore. In self-publishing, we must make our mark first, we must earn our ways into that delicate, hopeful space before the eyes of agents, editors and publishers. They aren’t absolutely necessary anymore. But the romance of that traditional era can still be had by authors who want it, if they know why they are writing, are kind and patient, and simply continue to do the work.

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Damon Ferrell Marbut was born in Mobile, Alabama. A Southern novelist and poet, Marbut’s “Awake in the Mad World” is a contemporary fiction novel and is currently an entrant for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana. His collection of poems, The Difference Between Young Gods, is under review with several publishing houses, as are two short fiction titles. His follow-up novel to Awake in the Mad World, which is based in New Orleans, is in progress.

You can contact Damon through his blog, like his Facebook Author Page and message him at http://www.facebook.com/DamonFMarbut, or follow him on Twitter @dfmnola.

What are your views on traditional publishing? Would you seek a traditional publishing contract once you’ve self-published your book?

Next week, I’ll be gearing up for publication!

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2 Responses to “Guest post: Thoughts on Modern Publishing – by Awake In the Mad World Author, Damon Ferrell Marbut”

  1. Lorna's Voice January 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Nicely written article. Thanks. As I am in the midst of the marketing phase of promoting my self-published book, this post was very timely and helpful. .

  2. itlnbrt February 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!

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