Publishing has changed a bit since the introduction of old Jo's moveable-type printing press. Imagine what he'd think about it all: the trade paperbacks published by the millions, the glossy full-colour magazines, instant publishing via blogs, Twitter and Facebook, the project named after him. (And don't you think he'd look pretty hip with an e-reader tucked under his arm, instead of that old green scroll?) There are so many ways to get ideas out in the world now. There’s still a hierarchy--traditionally published books and newspapers or traditionally-affiliated (nytimes.com) blogs and e-books continue to carry more authority--but if you can’t quite crack into the upper echelons, it’s great to have alternatives.
Take my book, as an example.
I wrote my first draft of Fathom Lines in 2005. It was terrible. There were good ideas in there, and some nice passages, but it was pretty awful. My early readers were saints, finding ways to critique that didn’t make me cry (too much!). I wrote and rewrote, I attended the Humber School for Writers and worked with author Kim Moritsugu who helped me tighten up characters and settings and dialogue. She taught me how to interrogate my own work. By 2007, I had an award of distinction from the school and an introduction to the school’s dedicated literary agency. After a long, three-year process with the understaffed agency, much of that time spent waiting for my work to be read and reviewed, I decided I had to be my book’s best advocate.
I submitted to publishers far and wide. It was a bad time for the book industry, my rejection letters always made sure to tell me so. I wrote and rewrote. I killed my darlings. By 2012, I needed to know there would be an end to the seemingly endless revisions. Of course, I always dreamed of opening a box from my publisher and lifting out a just-off-the-press copy of a book I’d written. But this time, it was not to be.
I decided to self-publish. No one would ever read my book if it sat in My Documents, or in a stack of loose leaf filed away under my bed. So, I put it out there. I pressed PUBLISH. I hit the button.
And I have to say, even if I make nothing on this book, not a single sale, it's nice to know that there’s at least the possibility it might be read. My ideas are out there, somewhere. Which means I have room in my head now, for new ones.
statue of Johannes Gutenberg, taken by me in Strasbourg, 2004.