Friday, February 24, 2012

Self-Publishing and Kindred Spirits

In my effort to establish an online presence through social networking, I recently joined a self-publishing group. Self-publishing is a subject I could, I think, get into and share (and grow) my limited expertise. I’m not talking about an “independent publisher” per se, but self-publishers who write and publish their own stuff. I’d like the focus to be on fiction--not because I have anything against non-fiction, I read lots of it, but because when it comes to marketing, the paradigms will be different, and in my opinion, once the focus becomes too broad, well it’s too broad. The focus gets lost.

Independent publishing includes self-publishers, but not all independent publishers are self-publishers. Small publishers are also independent in that they’re not part of the big publishing consortiums headquartered in New York. But small publishers still have editors and typesetters and cover designers, etc., and they publish other people’s stuff, just like the traditional publisher. They are traditional publishers.

What I envision is a group of people, each of whom is "responsible" for every aspect of their respective books. People interested in exploring the facets of typography, fonts, interior and cover design; digital books and upgrades to digital book software programs (i.e. Mobipocket and Epub...and KF8); people interested in following the International Digital Publishing Forum and the intricacies of various digital book structures and how the files work to make the book display on the screen. Learned knowledge, shared by all. I’d like us to explore building websites and online stores and using social networking such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to market books.

What I don’t want this group to discuss is writing. I want it to be about self-publishing--the physical act of publishing--words on paper, words on screen--words heard on CD.

I thought that was the focus of the group I recently joined, but it turns out, its goal is to improve the image of self-published work--the argument being, and the point is valid, that poorly written, edited, and produced work reflects unfavorably on us all.

A worthy cause, but how can it be done without putting in place the same roadblocks to publication already present in the “traditional publishing” world? I don’t believe those roadblocks are there to guarantee good writing (which is subjective).

Theoretically, traditionally published works are better because “experts” guarantee the reader that the writing is “right.” Truth is the “experts” are schooled in what they think the reader wants to buy--editing, interior and exterior design, marketing, and distribution are the perquisites provided with the traditional paradigm--a paradigm set up to publish, distribute, and sell books, not create literary masterpieces--though I’m sure an editor is happy when one crosses her desk. Nor do I believe the paradigm is designed so that only certain authors “make the cut.”

The model was established long ago with the realization there was money to be made from the publishing and marketing of books. It has evolved to where it is today to meet that objective--by necessity there is room for only so many. And yes, the publishers had the power to decide who played the game and who didn’t. The companies belong to them, after all.

Computers and the internet have broadened the playing field, allowing others to play the game--with a different paradigm, which is, admittedly, in flux. Given how fast technology is changing, it might always be in flux.

Personally, I just want to write and publish. I don’t want to regulate or even speculate on regulating content provided by a fellow “self-publisher,” who needs to concentrate on his own writing, not the writing of others.

Thanks for your visit.


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