Day 104

Tom Wolfe started as a newspaperman, one of those old time reporters.

“…it was always nighttime in my daydreams of the newspaper life. Reporters didn’t work during the day.”

That’s how he envisioned what writing on a newspaper would be like. He said he didn’t want to — and didn’t have any intention to — set out to change it. But somewhere along the road he did, simply because he found himself in a situation where he needed a new format to properly get across the ideas that he was trying to write.

As I’ve mentioned in these pages, that article was the “The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby”, which in turn became the title of a book, a collection of his articles that came out during that time period that reflected what would come to be called “The New Journalism”. In the literary world — or at least the newspaper/magazine world — it was as big a change as the Beatles were (perhaps not coincidentally, who came out at about the same time).

But even then, he wasn’t trying to change the establishment (or at least that was his claim). Maybe his little portion of it. But as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said about the collection: “Excellent book by a genius who will do anything to get attention.”

Why shouldn’t he want to get attention? Every writer wants it. Every published writer, anyway (yes, there are many who will write a tome or two, and tuck it safely away into a shoe box).

Attention is even more important these days. The written word has been on a steady decline since the founding of the New Journalism. Not because of it, mind you, but because of the rise of TV, then video games and movies, and now the Internet (though in weird way it is a revival of sorts as well as a death knell…) So any edge that you can get is important. Anything you can do to get your work read.

I’m finding that out more than ever lately. I’ve talked about Terry Fallis here and how he went from rejection to self-publishing to a major award to a multi-book deal with McClelland & Stewart. Love that story, and glad he’s reaping the rewards of all that work now.

Rex Pickett has self-published his sequel to Sideways call Vertical, which I’ve also mentioned here.

There’s another writer I’m going to talk about tomorrow (Monday) who also self-published, though very much in a different genre.

There is almost a romantic quality to self-publishing, and that’s something that until recently, there wasn’t. Self-publishing was always considered to be dirty, to be hack, unprofessional in every sense of the word, amateurish, and a very last resort. However I think that will change — is changing already. Especially with the rise of ebooks and other outlets for our work. Self-publishing will take on a new aura in 2011, I’m fairly certain of that.

It won’t replace an actual book deal. That’s a brass ring that simply cannot be tarnished, and economically is still the best route for writers. It is definitely something that I’ll be looking for when my book is ready.

But it’s still not a bad plan to brush up on the ins and outs of self-publishing. Finding a publisher, after all, is such a long, long shot.


(Novel Writing Totals)

Hours Today: 1
Words Today: 1,822
Hours Total: 70
Words Total: 94,606

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2 Responses to Day 104

  1. It won’t replace an actual book deal. That’s a brass ring that simply cannot be tarnished, and economically is still the best route for writers.

    Perhaps in big markets that’s still true. However, in small markets – one where the writer can develop a sizable online following – the spreadsheet suggests otherwise.

    In my particular market, an essay book (nonfiction) would do very well to sell 5000 copies; figure the royalty on the trade paper version, then contrast that with getting the full vigorish on 2000 copies you could sell on your own (with an active web presence), and the scales sag pretty heavily to the self-published side.

    In larger markets, of course, distribution wins (but you’re still doing your own marketing).

    Just a small market thought…
    The Trout Underground’s most recent blog post: The Underground’s Short Casts for 2010-12-18

  2. Graham Strong says:

    Hi Tom,

    Yes, you’re absolutely right. I don’t know a whole lot about that market, but I know enough to see how niche books — especially when you start talking about ebook format, where costs are low to nil — are better and more profitable when the writer is in full control.

    In this post though, I was thinking more about novels here; I think I probably glossed over that point too much. But even in the novel market and mainstream in general, I’m expecting a publishing renaissance. In fact, I believe it has already started, and will explode in 2011. I can see a possible future where it will be better to self-publish a novel in many cases.

    (Of course, as you and I and many others have seen over the years of first the rise of desktop publishing and then writing for the web, there are other pitfalls to allowing the masses easy access to “publishing”, but that’s another story… and one I’ll surely cover in these pages eventually.)

    For now though, for the average first-time novelist, I believe that distribution, recognition, editing and all the other goodies that come with finding a publisher far outweigh consciously choosing self-publishing. I see it more as a last resort.

    The flip side is that last resort is now more accessible than ever, and will slowly make things easier for writers who can take advantage of that properly.

    Still, the prestige of having someone else say that your work is worthy enough to put their name on — and their money into — will always be there, I think.


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