When I think of how many amazing books there are out there that have never been published and probably never will be because the subject matter is thought to be too obscure or the story (or author) too unmarketable, it breaks my heart a little.
I love to read and I love to support other people who write. I don’t want to only support writers who have written something with an appropriate level of mass appeal to be published traditionally. I also want to support writers who are creating something incredible that doesn’t appeal to the publishers’ most lucrative demographic. I want to support writers who are creating bizarre and wonderful things that only a hundred people will ever read but it will change those hundred people’s lives. I want to support the self-publishing writer who is in it as a serious business and the self-publishing writer who just wants to give it a shot and see what happens.
Some of the most stunningly talented musicians I’m aware of are people I know personally or have seen perform in tiny venues or at festivals or in the street. A few of them have built up a bit of a cult following but none are famous, mainstream, please-all-the-people, make-lots-of-money, well known. If I was waiting for mainstream music publishing to bring me a full range of epic music and astounding musicians, I’d be in for a long wait.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of widely known music around that I absolutely adore, but I don’t want to live in a world without the thunderous drum crew shaking the floor of a club with sweat dripping off the walls as five hundred people dance together in a homogenous mass of rapturous joy. I want Bach and Aerosmith and Nine Inch Nails and the woman playing a bodhran in the basement of the arts centre and my friend who shoots fireworks from his guitar as he sings. I want the busker in Paris who sang Everybody Hurts so beautifully in broken English that it made me cry and I want the man next to Edinburgh castle who serenaded tourists in the rain with Lady Gaga songs played on an accordion. I want all of it.
I see literature in the same way. I absolutely one hundred percent want Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho and Brave New World in my life. I want the Virgin Suicides and the Bell Jar and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. And I also really, really want the collection of poetry by the writer who I met in a Facebook group and the book by the writer who sent me a twisted, hilarious and deeply engaging message on Twitter. I definitely want the feminist fantasy novel that I discovered on the blog of a writer who decided, in her sixties, that she was going to write a book and wasn’t prepared to wait around for someone else to approve of it before she could share it with the world.
And I want to pay for their writing. I don’t have much money to spend on books but when I buy a self-published ebook, the vast majority of what I pay is going straight to the author. As someone who works for themselves, I appreciate the value of not only earning money but of someone saying, through their words or actions or both, “I love what you do so much I’m going to pay you to do it. Your work is worth something to me. Your time, effort, experience, creativity, drive and determination are worth something”.
I would love to self-publish a book one day, even though everything I’ve heard about self-publishing suggests it’s a tough road to travel. Your work doesn’t stop when the writing is finished. You are responsible for everything it usually takes teams of people and not-inconsiderable funds to achieve. I know some self-publishing writers pay for services like proof-reading, editing and formatting, but even these services are often provided by other independent contractors rather than by big companies. Self-publishing may be a difficult process and maybe there are fewer people earning a comfortable living from it right now than there are people not reaching that level of income.
When you discover a writer through their blog or social media, you have the opportunity to really hear their voice. You get to know the unedited, or at least only self-edited, reality of who they are. And when that writer whose blog posts you look forward to or whose Tweets brighten your day self-publishes a book, you can be pretty sure you’re going to love reading it.