A Volcano, Lightning And A Big Change
Mount Vesuvius cuts an omnipotent black profile in the darkening sky. Forked lightning flashes on either side of it.
I am watching it all and hoping a bolt will strike the edge of the volcano’s crater, near the pinnacle of the mountain.
That would be asking too much.
It’s the end of week-long holiday in a rundown hotel, masquerading as a four-star resort, on the sunny side of the bay of Naples. I came to get away from it all before the Big Change hits.
The Big Change will have actually already hit at the time of this posting.
As I write this I am a day away from finally setting up a publishing company and diving quill-first into the world of indie publishing.
I have studied hard and think I’m ready, but putting it all into practice will be the real test.
Studying only gets you so far.
A little under a year ago I was in a different place (in my previous post I delved into this in more detail).
I was struggling to finish my first book and at the same time trying to decide what the best approach would be to send it out into the world.
Deciding between avenues of publishing was almost like participating in a television game show. There were several paths, or doors, to choose from.
Hiding behind each one was the same thing, the unknown.
If I chose door number one, what faced me was potentially an uphill battle to find a publisher.
It seemed it didn’t matter how high the quality of the work was, when it came to finding a traditional publisher the playing field was pretty even. At least from a debutante authors perspective.
It was irrelevant how good you were as a writer.
The odds of securing a publisher and getting rewarded for your efforts would be difficult, no matter who you were.
Not only that, the exercise would be incredibly time-consuming and ultimately very frustrating, even if the end result was positive.
At the beginning of my writers journey I joined a couple of writing groups. I still religiously go to them as a way to communicate with like-minded souls.
It also gets me out of the house.
There I write in silence with a mixture of published and unpublished authors. It’s not all about silence, we take breaks where talking also occurs.
The written word is not the only form communication.
All of them tell the same woeful tale: making a living from writing is nigh on impossible.
This killjoy attitude in one group is relentless and pretty depressing.
Yet, even though there seems to be no reward for their work, they all persist with their writing. That is one struggle which can be overcome.
At the very least, a writer holds that part of fates puzzle in their own hands.
For most, the drive to finish their work is more important than any eventual reward at the end. The real reward lies in completing their tale.
Whatever happens after that is in the hand of the gods.
It got me thinking.
Was it possible to tip the scales in my favour? Could there be another way?
If I was putting in all this effort to sell my work to an organisation, who would in turn sell it on to a bunch of readers, then what was the advantage in that?
What was stopping me from putting that effort into selling the work directly to readers myself? Why did I need the middle man?
This became even clearer when I was told that even if a publisher accepted me, I would still have to do most of my own marketing.
The whole system seemed flawed and counter-productive. Why would I want to go and double my workload, or add a very time-consuming extra step into the process?
Somehow, it all seemed to smack of procrastination.
Incidentally, are publishers playing into this most evil of writer’s curses?
It’s hard enough convincing yourself that your work is worthwhile being viewed by the outside world, without having to overcome even more barriers.
Obviously a big publisher has some clout.
They have mailing lists and contact with lots of bookshops and other networks which I don’t have. But, are they really in an advantageous position?
Isn’t the relationship of a story between the writer and the reader? It struck me that readers buy books from writers and not from publishers.
I have a background as a musician.
In the music industry certain record labels have their own fan clubs. The artists they release cater to a select set of tastes. If a music consumer trusts the quality of the artists already associated with a particular label, they will be more likely to try a new artist from that label.
I don’t think book publishers are the same. The connection between a writer and a reader is more intimate, more personal.
I’m not saying this doesn’t occur with musicians and listeners.
Songs move people emotionally. Everybody has memories of songs which connect them to certain events in their lives, or feelings they have experienced. But then we are talking about songs and not artists. Different versions of the same song by different artists can still provoke the same response.
So, deep down, I suppose listeners are really connecting to a song and therefore with a songwriter.
Not every performer is also a songwriter.
Different writers cannot rehash the same story like a song, and make it successful. A story is a one-off, you don’t have cover versions of stories. That is if you discount the current phenomenon of zombies and classical literature.
Reading a book also requires a greater investment in time than listening to a song. But if a book is good, it will leave a long-lasting impression.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Didn’t I start with writing about lightning and volcanoes? Where is the connection?
Perhaps the connection lies in that there is no science to predict whether a lightening bolt will hit the top of a mountain.
In just the same way, publishers cannot predict whether readers will connect with a particular writer. It’s out of their hands.
In the first place readers are actually connecting with a story anyway. If they like it they will usually come back for more stories from the same writer.
Then it’s far better to have a direct line between writer and reader. And the best way to do that is to self-publish.
Tomorrow, that’s what I will start doing.
Wish me luck with my Big Change.
Are you ready for a Big Change?
Leave a comment below or join the mailing list and let me know.