Jun 19

This is not a crude curse, but merely a suggestion. And possibly a good one at that. Because I’ve just been to uPublishU, an all-day seminar at Book Expo America, and if I learned one thing it’s this:

WriterTypingJeez, has publishing changed!

Once upon a time, you wrote a book, probably on a typewriter, possibly with a quill pen, then you looked for an agent and/or a publisher, and if you managed to sell the book you got an advance and waited for the royalties to roll in. You could wait a long time. Like forever.

But never mind! If you had gotten that far, you were a “published author,” and could, literally, write home about it. So what if your book didn’t sell. So what if your book was about dinosaurs and the art director put an illustration of a stick of dynamite on the cover because it was called Dino-mite Puzzles (this happened to me). So what if they never publicized it because you weren’t famous, which you were never going to be if they didn’t publicize it. You were a published author!

Nowadays, you can publish yourself. And probably should, according to the experts at uPublishU, who hinted (or said outright) that  traditional publishing was on the way out, and that you have more control and can ultimately make more money by going it alone. This, they said, is the Golden Age Of Self-Publishing.

Never being one to miss the golden age of anything, I left the conference full of hope, even though, or maybe because, I had been involved with traditional publishing for many years.

Besides being (A-hem) a published author, I was a book packager in the 90s. And no, we didn’t put books into cartons as my doorman supposed (he wondered how so small a personage as myself could do such physically demanding work), we supplied the editorial content, art, and sometimes even the finished book to a publisher, who would handle the distribution.

We worked on established series like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, which we updated, and on new series that we created and sold to the publisher, although trying to figure out what a publisher would buy was next to impossible. The closest we came to a formula was “something new and different that has stood the test of time.”

So I suppose if you’re an aspiring writer these days, you should write a book called Filthy Shades of Beige. It’s new: Mommy Porn. And has stood the test of time: Sex sells. Oh, and about that book. . .

Several Shades of Hypocrisy

The funniest story I’ve heard so far is the woman who said she didn’t like the first book in the series, and the second was even worse, and she hated the third.

Did you know that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally self-published? Hmm. I hate to speak ill of the successful, but honestly, if this is your thing, go directly to The Story of O, and get the real deal. But I digress.

OMGWriterNowadays, many authors are digressing. They’re bypassing the publishing houses and going straight to sites like gopublishyourself.com (I wasn’t kidding about the name) or other online services like CreateSpace and are entering the brave new world of self-publishing.

No longer is it considered lower than low to go it alone — it’s not even called “vanity publishing” any more — which makes sense in a world where so many books are sold on the Internet, and book stores are dropping like flies. Bye-bye, Borders. Hello, Amazon.

So your favorite blogger is going this route too.

Yes, yes, it’s true! I Can’t Believe I’m Not Bitter, The Book, is coming soon to a computer near you. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how to get it—electronically, if you want, although the printed version will look nice on your coffee table and will make a great gift, as we like to say in infomercials.

There are a few problems, mainly that self publishing is a mountain of work, the actual writing being the easiest part. Rewriting is the pits because when you change one thing, it changes everything: like pulling a hanging thread on a sweater, it all starts to unravel. Then there’s coming up with a cover, cover copy, choosing a service to print it, and hardest of all, distribution, getting people to know about the book so they can buy it.

This is called “discoverability,” the latest buzz word in the publishing world. Trust me, it’s daunting.

Then there’s the question: 
Doesn’t anyone actually read actual books anymore?

Book002Oh well. No one ever said it would be easy. 
Maybe “Go publish yourself!” should be used as a curse after all. . .

It’s a very useful phrase to blurt out when someone is going on and on about their problems—or complaining, unfairly of course, about you. If they look angry or hurt when you say it, you could quickly explain that you weren’t being rude, you were merely suggesting a great new way to express themselves in print.

Everyone thinks they’ve got a book in them. And who knows, in today’s world anything could be a bestseller! And anyone can be a “published author.” Especially me.


Cartoon from The New Yorker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *