Publishing Your Book Isn't About You

There is a lot of discussion about the book vs. ebook revolution. I've spent my entire life building my personal library and I hate to see books go the way of vinyl records or even CDs. The smell of a leather bound edition, the feel of the paper and the gilt edging are things I love. I love reading a book, of holding it, and sometimes writing notes in the margins. I love bookmarks and bookplates, damn it.

I held fast to this sentimentality until someone showed me the actual numbers and I realized that how I prefer to read has absolutely nothing to do with how I publish my own books. Ebooks comprise 30 percent of all book sales and those numbers are quickly rising. Did I say quickly? It's a tsunami, folks. Get to higher ground or be washed out to sea with all of the other writers who refuse to adapt. We're not still writing on scrolls, are we?

Back when I assiduously shopped my manuscript to publishers and agents, I often spent $75 in postage to overseas addresses just to have my manuscript end up in the slush pile. I liked having that manuscript in my hand, of putting it lovingly into the cardboard box made exclusively for it and taking it to the post office, where I'd proudly put it on the counter. I liked that the address said The Bloomsbury Group, Simon & Schuster, or Alfred Knopf. And I paid for that feeling. Some people eat; I mailed manuscripts.

Ten years later I got serious. I quit the writer klatches (online and off), of sitting in bookstore cafes "looking" and "feeling" like a writer, and I wrote. Did I ever write! I realized that readers want to read, and they want to read now. They don't care about how you like to read, they care about what you write. They don't care if you like to curl up with a book, a crisp, juicy apple, and a cup of tea. Most of them don't read there. Most of them read on the train to and from work, in waiting rooms, or at the gym. Most don't sit at home with all the time in the world. They're commuting. They're going to after-school ball games they're not interested in. They're busy. Trust me, when they go to bed at night, they're too tired to sit and read; there aren't enough hours in the day.

If you're strictly a reader and not a writer, then it's your call. Stick to what you enjoy. We write for you, after all, but if you're a writer who wants to be read, your reading preference doesn't matter. And if you are a writer and you're lucky enough to get signed by a publisher, your work is going to go digital anyway. That's a given. So again, sentimentality doesn't matter here.

The thing is, writing the book is about you. That's where the art is. Publishing is about the public. Once you publish your book, it belongs to them.
"Ebooks and indie publishing are going to rescue the art of writing. Why do you think you're being told to limit your wordcount by cutting adverbs and adjectives? It's not to make you a better writer, it's to cut the costs of ink and paper. Publishing an ebook costs nothing. It's a computer file. Don't tell me all this about better writing; most of the publishers out there have degrees in business and marketing, not English Lit. And the agents aren't going to care about your art, they have to bend to the publishers so that they can make their cut. Do we consider Virginia Woolf or Mark Twain bad writers? Bullshit. It's about the publishers' bottom line, not about your art." Lynette Erwin
I especially like what Lynette said about the indie revolution rescuing the art of writing because I can see that happening already, not only in the written word, but in music as well. My youngest son, Micah Atwell, belongs to a huge, global network of indie composers and musicians who compose, record, produce, and market their own work, and it's so much better than what's on the radio these days. It's not cookie cutter product dressed up in crotch-grabbing, pouty-lipped sexuality, it's art.

I'd be a liar if I told you I'm not interested in selling copy, but the reason I write is to be read. To achieve this I have to give up the ghost where the reading public is concerned and give them what they want. Privately, I'll curl up with my favorite books, my apple, and my cup of tea.