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Regrets? What regrets? 7/5/2010

posted Jul 5, 2010, 6:05 AM by Kathryn Simpson   [ updated Jul 6, 2010, 2:34 PM ]
Yesterday I read an article from Laura Miller in Salon.com. Take a look: http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/06/22/slush?source=newsletter

It gave me a sort of "I just stepped in it and now I'm sinking"-type feeling. Clearly Ms. Miller's view of the publishing industry is different from my own. She is not in the business of encouraging new writers (or old ones, either) to feel confident in the decisions they've made. In fact, it seems she's more in the business of just generally discouraging writers from pursuing publication, because really...why bother? I could be mean spirited here and say that's all well and good for her...she's been published by both Little, Brown and Penguin. But I don't know her story and there's no reason for me to ladle her with snark. I'm sure she's labored through many many manuscripts penned by very well-meaning authors, each of whom were absolutely positive their work was a brilliant act of literary genius, but were actually contrived and terribly constructed examples of Why The Fact You Can Read Doesn't Mean You Should Write. We've all read books we wish we could erase from memory. We've all been disappointed by novels written by authors allegedly in possession of a great talent, and found ourselves scratching our heads in bewilderment or frustration, thinking, "I'm sorry, but I just don't get what all the fuss is about." 

(I'll share my personal list of Authors I'm Not Sure Are Worth The Hype at a later date. My own name may actually be on it, come to think of it.)

Her article gave me the blues not just because she sounded so bitter and disenfranchised with the very industry in which she butters her bread, but because I know there is a chance that her predictions could come to bear. I like to believe I'm an exception to the rules about new authors who get lost in the ocean of bad product, never to be heard from again. But I am also at least a part-time realist. I know the odds are against my books developing a steady and consistent readership. And I sat on the couch last night processing her column inches and getting more and more agitated. Just bristly. 

The husband, who read the article over my shoulder, said, "So, what? Does this make you regret self-publishing?"

I've thought about it and the answer is no. One reason being that it's too late to regret. Oh, I could pull the whole thing back from AuthorHouse and go back to submitting samples and queries to skittish publishers and agents. Go back to waiting for the mailman to bring me rejection letters. Go back to waiting for my Humphrey Bogart hero to ring the doorbell and promise me the key to the door of best-seller lists and royalty checks with commas and zeros. But I am certain that's not an option. I made a decision and we acted on it. I don't believe I get or need a do-over here. Call it ego, or stubborn German/Irish jackassery, or whatever, but I don't think Ms. Miller has any more firm a grasp on what's going to happen in publishing over the next years than I do. It's like weather forecasting. I'll know it's going to rain when the drops start to fall. And there's a 50/50 chance that I'll be right.

I didn't write The Farmer's Story to become a wealthy author. I wrote it because I felt certain in my gut that it was a story that deserved and needed to be told. I don't need people to read it and like me, or to even like the book itself. I do need the people who do read it to think about what happens there. And think about how they might handle those situations the same or different. I chose to self-publish because I'm late to the prom, and now I want to get on the dance floor as soon as possible, thank you. And because self-publishing is so much like the independent music scene that it just makes sense to me now. Ms. Miller doesn't see it that way. She doesn't have to. 

So, no. I have no regrets over this decision to self-publish. I am happy that we've taken the reins into our own hands. For me, writing is a solitary and painstaking activity. If the publishing turns out the same way, that's fine, too. At least it's a bed that I made. I'm happy to have a chance to lie down in it.

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