Two articles concerned with the question of the artistic possibilities of self-publishing a book caught my attention this week.
The first was a testimonial by Mark Bastable published in The Telegraph and titled “How I overcame snobbery to self-publish an e-book.” In it, Bastable gives a variably convincing account of his decision to self-publish his fourth book, after having gone the “proper” route for the last three (ie. the traditional publishing model). What I found most interesting, however, was the paragraph where he rattles off all of the decisions he had to make when he went DIY:
“So, this month I launched a novel into the e-market,” he writes, “the culmination of several months’ slog, proofing the text, writing the blurb, doing the cover design (or, actually, paying someone to), getting the internal text layout right (or, actually, paying someone to), developing and launching a website (or, actually – yeah, that too). All the stuff that a publisher used to do, the e-author has to do for himself. Or pay someone to.”
Whew. It’s always sobering to see a list like that in print and be reminded of the immense amount of work self-publishing requires. But Bastable makes the case for the silver lining: message control. From the writing, to the editing, to the marketing, you’re in the driver’s seat, and you get to call the shots.
I found an inspiring echo to this book talk in a piece by Jason Boogon Galleycat extolling the virtues of Shane Carruth’s excellent 2013 indie sci-fi film Upstream Color. Produced entirely outside of the Hollywood system and released on a wide range of streaming platforms at about the same time it hit theaters, Upstream Color received widespread acclaim, cementing Carruth’s position as an indie auteur. But is this a stepping stone for blockbuster success? Probably not. Boog nails it, I think, when he goes on to write about how films like this can only exist outside the normal system of production:
“Writers spend too much time arguing about the goldmine potential of self-publishing. When we talk about indie books, why does money dominate the conversation? Instead, we should worry about the artistic freedom that creators like Shane Carruth have found by taking the DIY route.”
I like what Bastable was saying about having total (anxiety inducing) control over your book and it’s presentation, but what about the artistic space that emerges without the confines of the publishing industry? That’s what I’m looking forward seeing discussed. So, hat tip to Jason Boog and Simon Carruth for getting us going.
Max Rivlin-Nadler writes for the Lulu Blog – Archived