19 April 2010

Cosmic Publishing Truths from the Southern Kentucky Book Fest

This weekend the Grave Distractions team headed up to the Southern Kentucky Festival of Books hosted by Western Kentucky University. We spent two days picking our way through writing classes, panel discussions, and author's tables. Friday was set aside as a writer's conference with volunteer authors discussing everything from making credible settings to social media. Saturday's scheduled events were centered around various author's panels and their works. No matter which type of event our team members attended, two questions were always posed: "What what kind of advice would you give someone who wants to break into writing?"and "Should get my book out there by using on-demand publishing?"

The answers to the first question ran along the lines of: "Never give up" and "Do whatever it takes to follow your dream". While I applaud the authors that gave these words of encouragement to those wishing to publish their works, there was a bit of a duplicity in the answer to on-demand publishing. We heard the following answers: "No literary agent will pick you up if you self publish", "Self publishing is great if you want to sell to your family and friends", and "It's hard to do and is expensive to do. Plus you can't get into bookstores because you need someone else to sell your book to them." There's no real need to attach the names of the authors to these quotes. (Our goal here is to be instructive and not to fling mud at anyone specific...)

It's quite hard for me to believe that someone that would tell you to follow your dream and then turn around and quash a very viable form of self expression. On-demand publishing is neither expensive nor difficult these days. The markets are wide open for anyone to publish their work. So why would these reputable authors attach such a stigma for using a self-publishing avenue?

The answer is simple, the publishing world is rapidly changing and some authors aren't willing to include aspirants into their ranks without going through the same publishing trials they went through. The syndrome is much like your grandfather telling you that, "Back in my day we walked to school in the snow with no shoes." In the answers we heard this weekend from authors there was a twinge of bowing before the high altar of literary agents and large publishing houses to get your story to the public.

I say no more! The only barrier that anyone has to publishing a book now is the will to do so. Your thoughts, your story, and your experiences are just as valid as those who have gone the traditional publishing route. The difference now is that the major publishing community has competition, and that competition is you. They are faced with a flood of thoughts and ideas from the common man. The situation is quite like the Age of Reason. Any person could pen their ideas and have a local printer translate their words in a medium that could be distributed to their neighbors. From that time we have works from of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and John Locke. By the strictest sense of the term, these three men self-published and their words changed the course of history. 

So I thank those authors from this weekend's book festival for reminding me that the ultimate form of the freedom of speech is self-publishing. They were correct in saying the road for those wishing to do so is difficult. It is a hard process to craft a book and then promote it using your wiles. But, never let it be said that it cannot be done.

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