We first met in Okinawa, last November. After a brief discussion, we learnt we were both writers. He was working on a non-fiction piece, and I, fiction.
It's always good to see how other writers work. I would often see him when he got back to the hostel, laptop under his arm, with a look of achievement on his face.
I would ask him how many words he had done and his reply would be anything from 3000 up.
Until very recently, I had always harboured the feeling that the term 'self-published' carried a sense of failure with it. I don't think I was aware of this, mind. It only occurred to me after the aforementioned coffee.
Publishing your own work was the road you went down if you couldn't get the attention of a publisher and/or agent. Therefore your work wasn't good enough to sell. I'm sure I'm not alone with this view. Chances are, the majority of people still hold this view when they see or hear self-published author.
But the difference being is, I am a self-published author and I still held this view.
(Get the start gun and shoot yourself in the foot, Gav, why don't you.)
I remember when I was making music and I refused to download albums, because, well, it was a sin.
It my mind it was disgusting - yes, that's right, disgusting.
Why on earth would you want to download a dirty FILE when you can have a CD and an album sleeve and all that?
I just couldn't/wouldn't adapt.
Now I don't think twice about downloading an album from iTunes.
Look how much I've grown!
(I still don't download music illegally... for one; I don't know how, and two; expressing yourself is hard, whatever your medium is. By paying for the artist's work, I feel like it's giving something back to them; a little bit of gratitude for their dedication to their craft.)
And here's the thing... people still buy CDs! There are some who are adamant that vinyl is still the best sound source available!
And I don't doubt them... get a great needle and all the rest and I bet the sound quality is amazing. My point is, even though it's legal to download music, and the majority of people nowadays are doing just that, CDs and vinyl are still living and breathing amongst us.
With that in mind, let's get back to meeting my friend for a coffee... (whose website is moritzdressel.com) I told him I had just finished my new novel and I was in the process of sending it out to agents. It had already been rejected by one agent... so naturally I had instantly sent it off to another. I won't forget the look he gave me (the exact same look I would've received if I had turned up wearing a tank top that said I Love Taiwan on it), which was then followed up by a deep, 'Why?'
'Why what?' I said.
'Why are you sending it off to an agent?'
'You know, I just thought I'd go down the 'proper road' (I actually said "proper road"), and try and get an agent, and then for them to get me a publisher, and then for my book to be given a chance in the world.'
'But why?' he persisted.
'You don't need a publisher,' he said. 'You can do it yourself.'
He had mentioned this to me the first time we had met. He went on to tell me the title of a book to buy that he was sure would sell the self-published way to me. The book was APE by Kawasaki & Welch.
But I didn't listen. Or I should say: I put the title on the high shelf of my mind, forgot about it, and continued to work on my novel, and then went looking for a publisher and agent once I was happy with it (a creature of stubbornness and habit, I admit).
Baring in mind that I was already a self-published author, I lacked all faith in it. Three of my books were (are) sat there doing nothing - gathering metaphysical dust. What a shame! Not only did I lack faith in The Way of the eBook, but my attitude towards it showed lack of respect and faith in my own, already published books. What a bigger shame!!
Now here's my mate, telling me once again, 'You don't need a publisher, do it yourself.'
This time I listened.
And I feel driven, to say the least.
I've just finished reading a book called Be the Monkey by authors Barry Eisler & Joe Konrath (that actually inspired the book APE that I mentioned above). I highly recommend it if you're thinking of going down the self-published route.
My attitude towards downloading music was the same regarding downloading books. I love paperbacks. One of the very joys of reading a book comes from holding it (or is that just me?). You just don't get that same comfort from an eReader (plus, they don't smell the same as a book. Wait, you mean you've never smelt a page before? No? Well... this is a tad awkward).
But I love my Kindle! Having come to Taiwan, it has been a huge blessing. I now have nearly 200 books on that little bad boy and they all fit in my hand.
I've adapted now. Buying books on the Kindle is so convenient. So quick. So easy. And surprisingly it hasn't taken any of the joys out of reading. To be fair, if I prefer the physical aspects of reading a paperback more than I do the book (the book being the story), then chances are it's not a good book.
Eisler and Konrath point out that eBooks will not kill paperbacks. That chances are, like vinyl, paperbacks will become a niche and people will still be saying, "You can't beat a good paperback," yet they'll have hundreds of eBooks waiting on their eReader to be read (because it's so damn easy to click Buy!).
My approach to being a self-published author is going through a revolution. I can feel it.
It's time to take things to the next step, and that requires me to get a little bit more serious about what I want and expect as a writer.