This week, I self-published four books: Songs from the Underground; Ever Unknown, Ever Misunderstood; Uneven Lanes; and Wabi-Sabi World: An Artist’s Search.
But that’s not what this post is about (really).
I hadn’t intended to self publish. I admit to being one of those people who turned up their nose at such an endeavor — not because I knock the process, exactly, but because I’ve seen too many self-published books that weren’t really ready for publication. They needed more editing or a better cover artist or just a lot more time to stew in their juices, as it were, to become the best they could be.
I almost went that route once before, with my first novel. I was riding that NaNoWriMo high of achievement, and I thought I was ready. Halfway through — after I’d spent about $30 and was about to spend $300 more — I realized I was wrong. I wasn’t ready. God Only Knows wasn’t ready. The Blame Game wasn’t ready. And I wasn’t about to “blow my career” on a “bad” first novel.
Now, maybe this is somewhat errant thinking. Maybe you can come back from a poor debut. I don’t know. But you can guess what I think based on the fact that I haven’t actually published a novel yet…
My philosophy on self-published poetry, however, is different. To me, poetry doesn’t need much sitting time. You write it in the moment, and usually it’s done (there’s a famous poet who agrees with me, but I can’t recall who…very inconvenient, I know). This makes the most sense when you’re writing in free verse, I think; for form poetry you might want to do some actual revision, unless you’re super familiar with the form, to the point where it comes naturally. I am not that kind of poet.
That said, Songs from the Underground DOES include some form poetry, since I wrote most of the poems for my undergraduate poetry class (under former Poet Laureate of Minnesota Joyce Sutphen — she’s amazing). I’m proud of those poems, and many of them did see much more editing than I usually engage in — but I still prefer to write poems when inspiration strikes, and leave them preserved.
So it’s not that I care about my poetry less (although for some reason I do feel more pressure to produce a great novel than a perfect book of poetry), but that I’m more confident — or at least comfortable — in letting it simply “be.” I also like to keep covers simple, using my own photography and a simple text overlay. I think that’s all a collection of personal poetry needs.
I harbor similar sentiments about nonfiction writing, possibly because I wrote and photographed so many news stories on such a short timeline that I simply had to write, proofread, publish and move on. Wabi-Sabi, like Songs from the Underground, was composed for a college class, and I’d really been meaning to publish it for years now, so its venture into the world this week doesn’t seem sudden.
I should also note that, technically, I’d already published each of the abovementioned books through Photobook America — I just only printed one copy, and didn’t have an ISBN for any of them. So I guess you could call that a kind of revision.
In any case, I can now call myself a published author in a way that people can see and (hopefully) understand. And that doesn’t suck 🙂
What do you think? To self publish, or not to self publish? What are your conditions?