This article by Roxane Gay, Taking No For An Answer, over at HTMLGiant got me thinking about self-publishing’s defensive stance against publishers, who as Roxane rightly points out, are positioned as “the enemy.”
A lot of the rhetoric around self-publishing confuses me. I wonder when publishers became the enemy. All too often, the rhetoric of self-publishing sounds like writers who are trying to convince themselves that going it alone is the best option because they don’t want to wait or re-evaluate their work or take no for an answer. This is not to say I think publishers are magical and benevolent entities who always have a writer’s best interests at heart. I know how the world works but I do not believe publishers are hell bent on being evil either. Publishing is not that simple. We cannot make sense of who gets published and who doesn’t by reducing the process to a writer believing they are talented and having that faith somehow translate into a book deal. There are any number of factors involved including confidence, timing, and the right people at the right publishers seeing in your writing what you, as the writer, see in your writing. It’s amazing that anything gets published when you think of all the small miracles required to get published.
And this got me thinking about indie publishers, whose ranks I’ve been a part of for a long time, and have recently re-joined under the auspices of Anomalous Press. Those of us who work in the non-profit model, who’s goals are not to publish the next bestseller, and who probably aren’t making a living from publishing books (or like me are investing my own money to do so). In my previous enterprise with Arrowsmith Press, the goal was to break even on the cost of printing, and mostly we did. No one involved, three talented and dedicated individuals, made a single dime, and we all invested years of our labor to get these books into the hands of good readers. Several of the authors we published first books for went on to get deals with FSG and Penguin to name two. We provided all this for the love of the work.
So I wonder, since there is no shortage of indie presses and publishers out there, taking risks on new works, devoting themselves to projects they believe in, where we all fit in to this scheme? We have more resources perhaps than a self-publishing author, but not by much. We’re no threat to ‘big’ publishing, the publishers who can afford to offer advances and expect to make a profit.
I don’t really know anyone who self-publishes, but I would really love to know about the decision that goes into it, and whether independent publishers and small presses fit into the equation at all. Anyone?