4 Jun 2011

Self-publish or Perish ?

So I've recently bought into the whole social networking malarkey. Few days in, and I'm sold. As always, it started as a purely selfish interest borne out of a friend's recommendation as a possible remedy to my continuing difficulty in finding a publisher for my first novel.  Basically, I have now spoken to four publishers, one of whom declined outright. I've grown considerably older waiting on the others.

In the meantime, my manuscript has been doing the rounds among friends, family and anybody kind enough to indicate mild interest really. Poor thing's been had for free by so many strangers -in the loo, in bed, on the kitchen table, under office desks- I'm surprised she doesn't spend all day crying in the shower. It did however help me regain a modicum of self-respect after the emotional hammer-blow that was my first (and so far, only) rejection. A few of them offered to help out in the guises of editing, design, layout and marketing if I were to wander down the self-publishing route.

My friend's own suggestion was to get with the times, start tweeting, facebooking, what-not, as a way to meet fellow sufferers and the odd breaketh-througher-of-writerly-shackles. I dutifully adopted a twitter handle (@icyhighs) and made the technological leap of faith.

While I'm no nearer to that promised land of the published writer, the experience has been rewarding. I'm still new at it, but it has certainly opened my eyes to it's endless possibilities. I had no idea so many people relentlessly take time and effort to recommend pages and retweet and upload and recycle. I'm slowly reading up on the self-publishing phenomenon and constantly amazed by how strong a community there is built around it.

I'm still not entirely convinced self-publishing is the way to go -  the final lap to victory of the underdog is an image etched permanently in my mind thanks to a religious childhood fixation with sports-movies, one I cannot help aspiring to. On the other hand, publishing, promoting and marketing one's own work seems altogether too entrepreneurial and up-and-at-'em and not  nearly as romantic as the notion of the struggling writer.

But my minimal interactions with writers who have rolled up their sleeves and taken the e-gamble has taught me that the road is just as fraught with failure and dejection and non-recognition as waiting endlessly for that miraculous phone call/email/text from knocked-off-feet agent/publisher, that the fact that these brave people at least tried to do something about their dreams on their own initiative is something to be lauded.

This presents me with a dilemma : self-publish or (possibly) perish? Haste or wait?

If I do decide to self-publish, it will of course have to be after months, maybe even a year of proper research, hard work and dedication. I simply don't know enough about the industry to go wading into it without the necessary safety equipment. That decision will have to wait, till next Friday which is when one of the publishers I spoke to- one who seemed to be more interested than the others- has promised to get back to me. What I have decided however is that the journey itself- whether I get there or not- is one worth cataloging, if only in appreciation of the numerous bloggers and netizens whose own tales of publishing trials and tribulations have helped me so much in the last few days in gaining some perspective.

Truth is it's nice to know you're not alone. That's perhaps the greatest gift the internet has to offer - proof that there's always somebody going through the exact same situation, irrespective of how unique it may seem to you. I'll have to learn how to tag keywords in my posts, which forums and communities are helpful and which ones are not etc but I'll get there. I think. And if I don't, at least I won't be the last to know.

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