Guest author and blogger William Kowalski is a bestselling, traditionally published author. He’s shared with us here why he’s chosen to self-publish.
This is a tale of two worlds, two centuries, two distinct epochs in the history of publishing, and one author – that’s me – who stands with a foot planted firmly in each age, a devil-may-care grin on his slightly-exhausted-but-still-boyishly-optimistic features, doing his best to appear as if he knows what he’s doing and hoping like hell no one figures out he hasn’t a clue.
And it contains, at the end, an Amazing Discovery, certainly the most amazing discovery of my authorial career.
Our brave author (that’s me again) is heading out of the familiar and comforting land of Traditional Publishing, wistful for the old days but mature enough to realize that they are gone forever. He is striking out into the frightening wilderness of Self-Publishing, which is not only scary in and of itself but also seems to involve a neverending foray into the even more frightening world of The Internet, that vast space filled with pictures of cute kittens, videos of baby monkeys riding backwards upon pigs, and approximately 1.9 squillion other self-published books.
How did all this happen? How did this come to be?
Our intrepid author (hi!) remembers all too well the luminous glow that surrounded him during what he realizes now were the last days of a glorious age, in the final moments of the twentieth century. When he was just a stripling of twenty-eight, you see, he wrote a book, and some Important Publishing People said to him, “What’s that? You’re completely unknown, have no platform from which to promote yourself, might not ever produce a second book, and aren’t even thirty years old? Well, in that case, we’d like to dump this large bucket of money on your head.”
Well, said our author modestly, you may certainly go right ahead and do that.
He rather thought, in his youthful optimism, that things were always going to be that way. They say the worst thing that can happen to a man is to win a lot of money on a horse race at an early age. A similar statement might be made about young writers who publish the first novel they attempt to write. Our young author moved to New York and took up the business of living just like a Real Writer. It was great fun: cigarettes and smoky bars (you could smoke places then), cool artists, trendy openings, literary cocktail parties. Then came big box bookstores and the home entertainment revolution; then 9/11, George W. and his wars; and then the crash of 2008. All of it was reminiscent of a long, long water slide with no end in sight, and quite possibly no pool of water at the bottom, either. The publishing world, like so many other worlds, was essentially turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe.
Fast forward to the present day. Our author is no longer quite so young, but is still incredibly good-looking, and his talent has only matured in the manner of a very expensive French cheese. (Or at least that’s what he tells himself.)
“What’s that?” say the Important Publishing People to him now. “You’ve published nine books, including one international best-seller, you have a global readership, and you’ve just finished a new book that critics and readers alike are hailing as not just Really Sorta Good, but also relevant to the pickle our modern society finds itself in? Welp, sorry, chum. We might be able to cough up a few bucks to print twelve copies of it, if you give us a year or two to think about it first. Then again, we might not. You’ll just have to wait and see.”
That’s the situation in a nutshell.
My latest book, The Hundred Hearts, which is my ninth published title and my fifth work of what I refer to with eternal optimism as literary fiction, was published in Canada in 2013 by Thomas Allen Publishers. Just after it came out, Thomas Allen was promptly gobbled up by another house, whose job it then became to do all the things Thomas Allen was supposed to do–all the things publishers have historically done, such as, oh, I don’t know, sell books.