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April 10, 2015

the other day, i finally met my first neighbour. i’ve been living here for about a year, but my work schedule means that it’s rare that i bump into people coming and going, and so far i haven’t been able to talk much with anyone. which bums me out a little because in vancouver i knew everyone in my little building and it felt like a dorm – not least because our floor smoked pot all the time.

anyway, i ran into james in the laundry room, which was a surprise. and we got to chatting while folding socks, and we talked about what we did. he mentioned that he’s trying a new venture – writing science-fiction-erotica-love-story novellas and self-publishing them as ebooks on amazon. and i was like… oh. wow. that’s brave to say that out loud. that was my first reaction, which is ridiculous, now that i think of it. (as bombastic as i seem, i’m actually really tied up in social anxiety, and as tempted as i have been to write erotica [and tbh, who says i haven’t? i was totally part of a fandom back when fanfic was a burgeoning thing… i’m just saying …], i don’t know if i’d have the moxie to say it out loud. and the same with self-publishing. and those initial thoughts revealed my bias re: the canadian publishing scene, and maybe just the publishing scene in general.


i’m not sure if i’ve talked about this before, but the topic is coming up more and more and so maybe now is a good time to broach it. self publishing. is it a good idea?

my stance: i don’t like the idea of it, on many levels. first: i’m either lazy or busy, or sometimes both, and so i like the idea of having a publishing house taking care of my ins and outs. rights and copyright and marketing and media and self-promotion seem exhausting, and to have an over-arching authority taking care of that seems to me to be a relief.

also, my bias – that has been drummed into me by mfa schooling and interacting with writers (who, let’s be honest, can be super judgmental and snobby sometimes, just like everyone else in the world!) – is that self-publishing is lower on the rung of publishing, because it means that anybody who wants to write something and put it out there actually can. and it’s true – there’s a lot of shit that people self-publish. really, really poorly written crap. everybody wants to be a writer, and everyone wants to publish their memoir or book of essays or romance novel or what have you.


that being said… there’s some rad shit out there. there’s evidence everywhere of self-published authors getting success. and that’s totally because the publishing scene is tough and can squeeze the life and verve out of you and you can get turned down a jillion times – look at kathryn stockett’s the help, which was turned down 45 times before it got picked up. this field can be nasty, it can be exhausting, it can run roughshod over you and your hopes. and sometimes the audience for self-publishing can be larger: russell smith just wrote in the globe and mail about the range of readers someone can garner on wattpad (which is a whole other beast.) (granted, he’s writing about one direction fanfiction and i read that story out loud to my coworkers in the office and it’s decidedly NOT good, but the point is, the point he makes, is that most published writers would kill for an audience like that.)

also, i just finished copy-editing a rad fucking manuscript that my friend is going to self-publish, about her experiences as a stripper –, totally check it out, you’ll laugh your butt off – and her writing is so good. it was so engaging. and she just didn’t have the patience to muddle around and format query letters and wait for an agent to get back to her.

so i get it, a little bit. does that mean i really love chapbooks? sorry, no. i don’t. does that mean that i’ll self-publish? i’m leaning toward no. i’m still traditional enough that i believe in the old-guard bastion of publishing houses. but does it mean my point of view has opened up recently? hell yeah.


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