It has been said that nobody reads anymore. Of course, each successive generation since the time of Plato and Aristotle has been branded lazy and unintelligent by the one that preceded it. But if you look at the reality of the situation, perhaps things are not as dire as they seem. According to a study reported by The Atlantic, “[s]ome 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79 percent of those older than 30” and “high school and college-aged people reported reading more than survey respondents in their late twenties.” This is encouraging, isn’t it? The idea that literacy is not dying and that in truth casual readership is on the rise? It certainly seems so.
One of the biggest questions I get asked when I’m promoting a book or talking about my experiences as a writer in general is why I self-publish. Have I tried to submit to a major publisher? If it isn’t good enough for a major publisher, why would anyone want to read it? All manner of questions that, while frustrating, are valid.
As an author, I have submitted far more pieces for publication than have seen the light of day. The world of publishing is, honestly, a relentless thunderstorm of noise and confusion. Something that I feel has value may not fit the vision of a particular publisher. A publication house has to think about their audience and their finances and the truth is even if reading as a common pass-time did drop to an all-time low, there would be no shortage of hungry, eager writers looking to see their work published.
As of late, I have adopted a DIY attitude toward publication because as the cultural landscape changes and we see an increase in younger people reading, the importance of big publishers does seem diminished. Big publishers care about their bottom line. That means telling and selling stories that will find the broadest audience so that no money is lost. But, and I know I’m getting older and I can’t claim to be part of the “younger generation” much anymore, young readers want to read stories that are unconventional. Stories that big publishers might not want to take a risk on.
That’s why I wrote Madeline McCallister. That’s why I wrote a series about a bi-sexual female protagonist whose main ally is a black British agent who rejected his affluent upbringing to forge his own identity. That may not seem bold or groundbreaking, but it is a turnoff for some publishers. And the fact that it is even part of the conversation is why I put the work out into the world on my own, unfiltered by any mandate other than my own.
In the past, writers had to trade their vision and their control of their work in exchange for an audience. That was the power publication houses dealt in. Now, that isn’t precisely the case any longer.
For example, I have a few friends who work in the comic book industry. That world is so much bigger than Marvel and DC in terms of where stories are being told and what type of books are being produced. I look at what people like Isaiah Broussard and Jessi Jordan are doing and wonder why that same determined, boots-on-the-ground approach cannot work in the realm of literature the way that it does in comics. I understand that they are two different monsters, but in the age of social media and digital content, perhaps the differences aren’t as vast as they may once have seemed. Unfettered creative control that leads to genuine, interesting media in turn will find an audience. At least in theory.
So, in the interest of being clear, I want to assure people that I stand by the quality of my work. In fact, I would say that the DIY approach that births the projects published under my own banner allows me to take full responsibility for what I produce. That allows me to engage with my readers in a way some other writers are simply not able to. Maybe it is my affinity for the old punk rock mindset, but I take pride in my process. Does that mean I do not have designs on seeing my work distributed by a major publisher? No. I’m not against major publishers. I just want to combat the preconceived notion that self-publication should be dismissed as amateur hour.
As I gear up to begin promotional work on Too Close To Kill, part of that mission is also to educate people on the wonderful work being produced by other skilled writers like myself who are consistently producing excellent work that finds itself overlooked in the marketplace. Small and independent press are where some of the strongest and freshest literature in the modern world is being produced.
At this point, I simply want to raise enough money to convince Jeff Goldblum to record himself saying “literature finds a way.”
That would make it all worth it, don’t you think?