Frequently Asked Questions
You could distribute your work on the internet, sure --- but then there's the ecological cost of making a MacBook, and the fact that no one will read you.
-- Chad Harbach, n+1 #6, Winter 2008
When will your books be published?
Some time ago, I "finished" writing another novel. I had been working on that novel for six years (not every day, but I was working on it). So a few days later I was in the pub with a few friends and I said, "Oh, by the way, I finished writing another novel." I told them the title was The Weighting Game. My friends said, "Hey! Wow! That's great. Is it going to be published?" I wish I could say, "Yes! Of course, it'll be coming out this fall." Unfortunately, since I have not bothered to look for an agent or a publisher (yet), when I "finish" a book it goes on the shelf with all the other books I've written.
Why not get an agent or a publisher?
Good question. In principle, I'm not opposed to doing either of those things. I write, so naturally I wouldn't mind it if people actually had an opportunity to read what I wrote. In the publishing world (a world I don't know much about yet) it's customary to submit one's books to publishers, or to let one's agent do the submitting for one for a cut of what ever money is made off the publication of the book.
I'm pretty optimistic about the publishing world. Things aren't so bad. Writers are still writing good books and publishers are still publishing them. I started writing books because I love to read and I decided I wanted to know more about how making a novel works. What's the process? What's invovled? Just how hard is it?
Self publishing? Why not just put my books on the web?
Like Chad Harbach said (the quote above) no one will read me if I just post my stuff on the web. Bypassing the gatekeepers is like putting your finger in the pie before it's served.
Self publishing (novels, at least) is looked down upon. Probably because there are a lot of folks out there that don't write so well, but yet feel they have something they want to say and so write it down and then have an uncontrolable urge to inflict their work on the world. I've read my share of bad novels in my life time. Not all of them were self-published. Getting your book published is no guarantee that it isn't crap.
Writing a book is slow, hard work. The easy part is sitting down and banging out a rough draft. Actually, that the best part of the process. Sitting down each morning and typing whatever comes into your head. Hey, I've done NaNoWriMo a few times; I know how to crank out the words. But cranking out words is just the beginning. The first step in a process that will take months, sometimes years to complete.
Working with a publisher actually helps improve a book. The editor that takes charge of your novel will have excellent critical feedback that will make your book better. Proofreaders are golden. I've spent so much time, painstakingly going through each of my manuscripts looking for typos and no matter how many times I read through the typescript, I find more mistakes. It's uncanny!
Self publishing skips an important part of the process. The part where people who have some expertise with fiction, read your work and critique it and help make it better. That's why I'm not eager to self publish.
That being said, I am interested in the Internet and using the new technology for reading. As someone who reads (and thinks reading is way more important than writing) I like having ready access to quality literature at the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. So I've got one project that I'm putting on my web site: Into the Labyrinth. It's a choose-your-own-adventure-style book that I am always adding chapters to. I'll also be self publishing a paperback version of that book for people that still like paper (and I still prefer a real paper book to reading on a screen, though reading on a screen, now that I have an iPod is not half-bad).
Why haven't I submitted anything yet?
Superstition, mainly. I'm primarily interested in writing and learning and getting better at what I do. I'm afraid that if I submit something that it just might get accepted and that would ruin me. Here's something from a Paris Review interview with J.P. Donleavy:
Yes. I used to declare it openly to everybody when I was totally unpublished. The first thing anyone asks you in America is: What have you published? I'd published nothing (laughs) but I used to declare quite openly who I was, what I was. I had incredible nerve. What happens, I think, with a heavy, feverish desire is that the imagination will supply for that desire an impetus so that it can be carried out. Your imagination drives you with this burning fever. You're looking for some one person out there somewhere who will one day hear your voice and suddenly write back. After you're a published and accepted author, you don't have this as an energy anymore.
I don't want to lose the energy.