Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why Subject Yourself to the Cruelties of Publishing?

Yesterday came and went without a blog post. Sorry about that. I had a really great idea for a topic, but when I went to write the post, I couldn't remember what the topic was. C'est la vie.

This morning, I read a really great post over at BookEnds about why a writer would seek publication. I loved this line the best: "Why do you feel the need to continue to subject yourself to the cruelties of publishing?"

I commented, of course, but I wanted to expand on the idea here.

Why does a writer go through all the trauma and drama of getting published? Think about it for a second. Personally, I never really thought about NOT publishing my work. When I was fourteen and co-writing a book with my best friend, I know we had many discussion about what it would be like AFTER we got the book published. There was never a question of writing it just for us and our friends. We were going to see the book in print. Of course, we never finished it, so it sits in my storage bins, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. We were writing with the goal of publication.

Thinking about it now, I still don't know the exact answer. I know I want to have my work published. I want to hold my books in my hands--to smell them, to feel their weight, and to see the pretty covers. But that in itself is not a good reason for putting up with everything we writers do. If that was all I wanted, I could self-publish and be done with it. I even looked into getting my first book done over at Lulu (which seems like the best there is in self-publishing, btw). But it wasn't enough.

I want to see my books on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I want to go into any given library and see my books there, too. I want mountains of my books on the tables at every bookseller. It sounds like an ego-trip, I know, but follow me here.

If my books are everywhere, it means everyone has the chance to read them. If everyone has the opportunity to read my books, I have the opportunity to touch the minds of people, to maybe make a little bit of a difference in someone else's life through my writing. Ideally, I'd like to touch a few minds, change a few of them, and make the world a better place. If that doesn't happen, I'd like to at least provide people a good entertaining read--something they might like to share with their friends and family, something they might want to read again and again. Hopefully, other people will think my writing is good enough to do both.

Yesterday, while I was researching agents for query purposes, one of them said they were looking for books that teach something new without being preachy. Aha! That's what I've been trying to do--albeit in a small way--for years. (Needless to say, I queried said agent last night.)

On the other hand, a while back my own darling daughter gave me the following piece of teenage wisdom: "Mom, you're never going to get your books published... They make people think, and people don't want to think." (Don't be all shocked about her bluntness. It's how we are together. She did go on to say how great my books were, but it wasn't the point she was trying to make.) I don't agree with her statement, but it's an interesting thing to think about.

I think people want to think, and I want to be the one to start the ember burning. I think my work does that. I also think people want to be entertained, and I think my work does that, too. Nothing preachy, nothing hammered at you from all sides, but just an underlying thought woven into the story. (Sneaky, I know, but most writers do it even if it isn't a conscious thing. Pick up a book sometimes and look for the author's philosophy behind the words. It's in there somewhere, trust me.)

So, now that I've rambled and gotten off on a couple tangents, it's back to the real question here. Why are we subjecting ourselves to all this work just to get published--especially in a world where posting our work on the internet would achieve a similar goal? I think everyone has a different answer, but I think the underlying cause is the same for all of us. We want to share something of ourselves with the rest of the world, and publication is the only way for that to happen in any meaningful way.

And, of course, there's the money. (What? You mean writers aren't all living like Bill Gates? *sigh*)

What say you? Why are you doing what you do?


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