Thursday, July 16, 2009

True artistic freedom

I published my novel «ShadowWalk» in March 2003 on my own label, my own publishing company after a desert walk lasting two decades between various established publishers. That was my second. The first was the Norwegian edition of «Dreams belong to the Night».

No established publisher would or will ever want to touch my work, at least not without major rearranging, censorship, so I decided to do it myself. I took the advantage of current technology, and did everything, except the actual printing myself. In hindsight I feel almost grateful towards all those greedy and stuck-up publishers…

There are basically two major faults with them. They publish either only work they, personally deem to be of artistic merit, or they just want lots and lots of cash. Either approach equally despicable in my eyes.

I remember sitting there, with the book in my hands, with both of them, for hours, feeling something very close to awe. I sat there with a real book in my hands, a novel, 300 000 words I had written.

Many people frown at self-publishing novels. Many bookstores won’t touch them and they even brag about it. They even call them «Vanity projects», «suggesting» that there are basically people with an overblown ego and a lot of money that’s doing it. To me that is clearly yet another tactic put out there by the establishment, including the established publishers.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to both self-publishing and doing so through established publishers. One major disadvantage of doing it yourself is that you lack the advantages of a big operation. You need to «waste» a lot of time doing everything the big bucks publishers pay others to do, for one thing. And then there is the obvious thing about distribution, which is or was crucial. If you didn’t get your book into the stores you wouldn’t sell much. But to me, what everything comes down to is this:

When you do it yourself, on your own, you do everything, and can do everything, exactly like you want. You don’t need to do things you don’t want to do. You accept aid, of course, and advise from people you trust, but ultimately you are making the decisions. I have (briefly) experienced the process the authors go through suffering the meat grinder the established publishers demand you go through. They wanted me, like they want everyone to change three fourths (or rather everything) of the book. And we’re not talking about grammar here, or even wording. We’re talking about the story. They wanted the book, want all books to become their story, their neutered child, not the authors free-spirited wild creature. They are part of the worldwide censorship process, and many self-publishers aren’t. I get very angry when I see the smirk on the big guns’ faces when they state how proud they are to give voice to previously censored work. They do, and they don’t, if you get my drift…

So I will dare this outrageous claim: Generally speaking (there are exceptions to any rule) self-published books and art in general beat those being published by a major operation by a vast majority.

So I published them on my own, using my own hard-won money, and I just about got even, money wise, but I would have done it again in an instant. I sold several thousand books worldwide, mostly on the Internet and in the city of London, and as an added bonus of having fairly low sales I was contacted and could respond personally to my readers, and I learned a lot in the bargain. Big time writers can never have such a personal rapport with their readers.

And now, now it’s finally the time to take the next step. The poor artist’s publishing method is finally here in earnest.

The Print-On-Demand, the dream of the self-publisher is here, and I’m here, and I’m ready.

The time, the dominion (at least) of the major publishers, books, music, movies and art in general is done. Good riddance!

  True artistic freedom (II)


Unknown said...

Nice job. It's good to see artist strive for what they want. This is a big accomplishment and I congratulate you.

Amos Keppler said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post. It's ironic you likened your original publishing search to a "desert walk". Last night I dreamt of a beautiful blue oasis in the middle of a desert like one I had never seen before. Perhaps self-publishing is the water to quench the thirst of artists, writers who have poured blood sweat and tears into pages to give birth to their babies.

I submitted one query letter, my first, to a traditional publisher this summer with the expectation of rejection that I have to wait four to six months for. I wanted to experience the process but all the while I think my heart was leaning toward self-publishing. Maybe I am a control freak, but I like the idea of being the one to have the final say so before my baby is released into the world. I want to know my story is being told as I intended.

I do think POD is changing the nature of publishing and as with any change, being met with a lot of criticism and resistance because the traditional publishers to which you refer fear the loss of income and industry control. I thank you for writing this post. It is good to know that others share the commitment to self-publishing, the ray of hope to spark change in the world of writing.

Amos Keppler said...

Writers/artist have been denied the quenching of our thirst forever, fucked and fucked up by the established publishers. It's about time we have a chance to sate it.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to read about how you became such a resounding success!

Amos Keppler said...

Both "personally" and "professionally" you mean? I don't think I have written that down anywhere, except in pieces here and there. You'll find a lot of my personal philosophy on the Midnight Fire Arena website and on the MF blog, though.

It started off with self-empowerment, though. The rest follows pretty much from that. I just had to realize that everything was within me.

Owl said...

Always refreshing to read your posts Amos. I have encountered similar things when trying to sell artwork or get galleries to display it. They seem to have an idea of what they can sell and wont move outside of those boundaries.

A couple of years back I designed my own small office/studio. Because it was not "standard" any quotes I had for work were inflated or the builders simply said they wouldn't do it. Eventually I set about building it myself with an occasional bit of help from a friend who didn't mind pitching in.

In both cases I was very glad I did not give in and go for what was expected or "normal". Its good to see the same spirit in the world of novels and publishing. When I have chance and time to read read your work, I will gladly do so.

Amos Keppler said...

That's great, Owl, and it's always a good thing to me when I hear from other independent artists. I know there are a lot of us, but we're still too few.

We are growing in number, though, with the new age of self-publishing, and are increasingly able to challenge what was the established industry's information monopoly.