That manuscript I had kicking around for years made me feel like a failure. It took me a long time, and an enthusiastic leap into the self-publishing world, to understand that it wasn’t the rejection of traditional publishers that made me feel that way. I’d been seeking something much more elemental than approval. I wanted my manuscript finished. I mean really finished. I wanted it to be a book.
Traditionally published writers gain something that, until recently, was not accessible to other writers. I’m not talking about professional credibility, or money, or notoriety. I mean simply that their work gets turned into a book. You know, the thing that people hold in their hands and read.
Imagine if painters had to submit a crayon sketch of their proposed work on cheap paper to a third party who may or may not give it the green light to become a finished work of art with real paints on canvass. The materials needed to produce a painting are affordable and available in art stores, and painters have the training to use them to create the final version of their work. All painters are “self-published,” in that the finished work is independently created, without the approval or material support of a third party (this would be the publisher for writers).
Writers not backed by a publisher have been in the unhappy position of not having the financial means to see a written work to its completed physical form: the book. A finished manuscript is something to take pride int, but it is simply not the same thing as a book, and never will be. A stack of flimsy pages, or a word file that can only be viewed on a desktop computer, can’t be shared in any satisfying way with others. In my experience, overlooking this fact can give a writer an overall sense of artistic failure and a constant feeling that their manuscript is never fully done, even when it might be.
With the increased affordability and accessibility of electronic and print self-publishing, writers can now do what painters have always been able to do: produce a finished work. Writers can produce their own ebooks as EPUB or MOBI files, or use a print-on-demand service to produce a print book. Print on demand has come a long way, and the technology produces a surprisingly high-quality product. A writer can have a single copy of her book printed, if that’s all she wants, or she can do a short print run. She can even, with some research into the technical side of electronic and print publishing, and some dedication and perseverance, do her own book design.
Selling that book is no easier than it has ever been. Writers, just as painters, have to work hard to promote their finished work and make money from it. It is common and accepted for painters to sell their work directly to the public. No one seems to mind the independent, “self-published” status of local painters. There’s no reason self-published writers shouldn’t be seen in a similar light, as dedicated artists who have independently produced finished works.
Thankfully, the perception of self-published writers is changing and will hopefully will continue to do so as it becomes clear that self-publishing is one way that writers show they love what they do.
About the Author:
David Anderson wrote, illustrated, and self-published Charlie Sparrow and the Secret of Flight, a chapter book for kids ages 6-9. He grew up in Stratford, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of British Columbia. He lives in Ottawa.