Another Next Step: Publishing

After publishing three books of poetry with fine, generous small publishers, I’ve decided to start an imprint (Pski’s Porch Publishing–website coming soon) and publish my own writing. Why would I decide to destroy my literary career this way? Well, because “the publishing world is changing,” as they say. And they’re right, but what kinds of changes does this godawful cliché refer to? The rapid spread and corresponding low cost of on-demand printing? The proliferation of eBooks and eReaders? The explosion of internet-based distribution networks? Or the acquisition of big publishing houses by even bigger international conglomerates? The right answer—yes, all of these—begs a further question: are these changes good for us? If “us” means authors who prefer to maintain control of their work, and of everything involved in getting that work to readers, then again, the answer is clearly “yes,” as long as their eyes are clear and their ambitions aligned with what self-publishing can offer. Even the bit about the traditional high cotton publishers getting eaten by media conglomerates affords an opportunity, since they will likely, in pursuit of profit rather than quality, continue alienating readers who want something more, thereby helping increase the audience for more challenging work.

So, to return to the destruction of my career, I’ve decided to start publishing my own writing—beginning with my first novel, Music Box Dancer—because I recognized the changes outlined above afforded me an opportunity to:

  • print books with a much smaller initial capital investment than traditional printing, with little, if any, degradation of print quality;

  • write the kinds of books I wanted to write, without the need to sculpt my work for a mass market—or even small market—audience;

  • take advantage of the burgeoning digital book market, as well as internet-based national and international distribution networks;

  • stop pretending I think of my artistic endeavors as a career, when really they are a means to living, an avocation that keeps me alive.

In other words, I saw that I could Do It Myself. As someone who came of age during the punk rock/DIY scene of the 1980’s and 90’s, Doing It Yourself is an expression of the link between artistic control and artistic freedom. That said, I am not able to Do It All Myself, so I chose to form an imprint through the printing and distribution company that offered the best return for my initial investment. That investment is a waste, of course, if no one l wants to read what I have written, but luckily I am exactly arrogant enough to think my words have some value to others, that someone I’ve never met might benefit—by laughing, cringing, or feeling that compulsion to turn the page—after reading my work. That is also where my arrogance stops, however: at a few appreciative readers, which is all I can hope for, which is all any writer can really hope for.

Music Box Dancer is presently available on Amazon.com, and should be available through several other online and brick-and-mortar stores in a few months. The “official” book launch will take place then, in September or early October. The next book Pski’s Porch will publish is a collaboration between myself and visual artist Mary Leary, sometime in November.