Thursday, February 23, 2012

The challenge of a hybrid publishing platform: split motivations

When I decided to try self-publishing a few of my short stories, it was with the decided orientation that doing so was--in utter frankness--a last ditch effort. It was the only remaining course of action that could lead to certain stories seeing the brilliant gaze of reader's eyes. This was not, in my opinion, because they were bad stories, but because they were stories that didn't fit into any editorial paradigm I could find to which to submit (so deduced from the grab-bag of rejections collected for the pieces in question). The first story I self-published, What the Market Will Bear, is still one of my favourite stories; it still makes me laugh out loud when I read it, and I still think it is original and witty and relevant. And, despite the fact that it has sold about zero copies in its indie published form, I'm still very happy I produced it thusly, because the only other option was for it to languish in a drawer.

Lately, though, I haven't been particularly driven to publish any more stories independently. This is not because I've turned away from the platform as such; in fact, I am more than ever convinced that the hybridization of my publication efforts is the ideal position. The problem is that I simply do not want to publish my stories independently. I don't like dealing with covers, with eBook formatting, distribution, or troubleshooting. And that means that I'm submitting my stories to more markets, keeping them in circulation longer, and when I finally go back to potentially turn them into self-published eBooks, they appear less attractive to me, and I waver: one hand on the Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard, and the other on the venerable "trunk." Although I've always believed a "trunk" is a ridiculous thing for a writer to have, insofar as just about every really finished story can probably find a home somewhere, I'm now realizing that it may very well become the home of my unsold stories, because--I hope I can say without sounding too pretentious--my writing has transcended itself.

At some point, does one have to choose an ideal platform? It is obvious from the things I do and say that my ideal situation is traditional publication. Debating the points is futile: my personality dictates that, at this moment in time at least, I am more enamoured of the idea that a team of agents, editors and publishers would like to sell my book, than that individual consumers would like to buy the writing I have simply and cheaply packaged directly for them. Obviously, this doesn't mean I must abandon my attempts to independently produce my work; but it at least suggests that I ought to. I've learned the basic knowledge that will help me make the complete transition to self-publishing if, as the oracles predict, traditional publishing goes belly-up in the near future, so I have, as it were, got what (know-how) I came for. And, just like how I pay utterly zero attention to critiques of my work because I have no time for it, it seems like a good idea to ditch something that doesn't terribly interest me, in order to use that boring time more profitably (excitingly) elsewhere.

I worry any of my statements can sound pejorative towards one publication orientation or the other; but they're not meant to be. Ultimately, the fact of the matter is, I may swing around and barrel down the track in the other direction at any moment, yanking story upon story from the submission churn in order to self-publish every last word I've written. Knowing me as I do, that's really not even all that crazy a hypothesis. But, at least until the final implosion of traditional book publishing, I doubt it; not because I don't like the idea of self-publishing in theory, but because in practice, it all comes down to just writing. Just writing is what makes me glad.

(Well, reading too. I like reading. Me like reading.)

This may, eventually, result in nothing more than Ouroborosian self-consumption; but at least it will be a sweet, honest self-consumption, in which I declare: "Ah, self: how delicious you are, that no one else may taste of your flesh."

And that last sentence is pretty much the weirdest thing I've ever written.

-bn