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Your Own Thing

On my return from Darwin, I sat in the airport and talked to another musician. He didn't currently have a band, having returned from Japan a few months ago, where he was teaching, but he had a plan to produce his own EP and do something with it. Nothing big, you understand, just a way to get back into things.

It got me thinking, once again, how much the publishing industry has created a language that pushes people away from self publishing. It is, when I think about it, somewhat impressive that an industry that has built itself upon words has developed a set of codes that continue a certain kind of publishing scheme to remain in dominance. You can see, in comics, and in music, how that language isn't there, though both industries have enough self published, badly produced, and just plain awful material to warrant the same language, but it seems to me that it is only in the publishing industry that it's so potent.

Still, that said, it's not as if there aren't people doing there thing, and avoiding that language. An example of it is Catherynne Valente (catvalente), who just released This is My Letter to the World: The Omikuji Project Cycle One, using Lulu. In her release for it, she said, "I've chosen to publish this through Lulu, because this has always been a DIY project, and I was curious as to how the system would work for me. (I'll be posting about the process soon.) Though the anthology will be available on Amazon soon, it is currently only available through Lulu. Since there is no publisher per se, all the publicity will be through my blog and Twitter, so please do feel free to spread the link around. I have no idea if this will be a success or a failure--all I know is that it is done and I am terribly proud."



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May. 7th, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)
If you haven't seen it, there's a recent article in the NYT on the rise of self-publishing. Maybe it will become sexy.
May. 8th, 2010 07:07 am (UTC)
snap! I was just gonna post that link!
May. 10th, 2010 01:08 am (UTC)
hmm. but he also makes the point of saying that he includes micropress stuff too, which, y'know, is probably the majority of the small press...
May. 7th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
What's interesting about the contrast (music vs. publishing industry) is that not only is it a largely accepted practice, it is sometimes outright lauded. In fact, there are musicians and singer-songwriters who are practically heralded because they've done everything themselves without any assistance, from the recording process to the mixing, etc..

Speaking as someone who's in contact with a lot of local musicians, some of which self release their material and others who have small label contracts, the actual fanbase really doesn't seem to care one way or another. No one wrinkles their nose at the latest CD from the hip hop group out of their neighborhood and says, "Wait, this was self published?" Instead they say, "He's get his CD in here! That's awesome!"

It seems to be only the musicians themselves who get excited when that label deal is struck. I also have not encountered any of the intra-business black painting, like one musician saying about another, "Yeah, it's cool his CD's out, but -- he did it all himself. How good could it be?"
May. 10th, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)
yeah, and the thing about self publishing your own work as a writer, is just how hard it is to get it into stores, and out to people, and into any kind of fanbase. it's like there are a whole lot of blocks in it, purposefully put there.

i must admit, i have said the 'how good could it be' thing myself more than once. sometimes, within reason. maybe i ought to start looking round at others.
May. 8th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
I am not against self publishing, but I the few things I have seen come out of Lulu are not bound that well.

But that is cool that Valente self-published it.

The biggest drawback that I can see with self publishing something is that the vast majority of reviewers don't review self published material, and reviews are what generally sells books. Valente does have her own network though, so she might be able to overcome that.

I think self-publishing might work well if you have a book that you don't really care if it sells or not, but just want to do it your own way.
May. 8th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
One thing that is very different for musicians, by the bye, is that they have concerts, and are able to build a fanbase through live performances. Writer's really don't have that opportunity to build excitement and stick their chests out in public. We have the internet, which is not a terribly exciting venue, even at the best of times.
(no subject) - brendanconnell.wordpress.com - May. 8th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 10th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)

i always know its you when there's an anonymous comment quickly followed by a reply.

i do agree that a lot of the self publishing stuff doesn't look too great (no idea how valente's book looks, though, and i was in a lulu book once that was decent enough). but you're right about the networking being down and out for writers in comparison to musicians.
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