From Linda’s opinion page:

blogthumbl.jpg Author thoughts: You have literary work finally out of your mind and onto paper or anxiously awaiting rescue from your hard drive. Now, how do you share the story you spent months or years tediously toiling over if you have ‘no name?’ Not too long ago, I facilitated my “Bumpy Road Toward the Land of the Published” workshop in my hometown for a writers group who are a little up in age. I shared with them different approaches toward getting published, to include a variety of vanity presses and self-publishing methods that I support as acceptable, suitable trends and realistic paths for first time authors. I overheard one lady tell another “Oh, that’s not for you. Your work is much too good for that.” When I looked at the lady receiving the advice, I felt saddened to think she may never see her story in print. What a shame to miss that joy. I firmly believe that if you have a story to tell, people somewhere want to read it. Finding those people without the traditional publisher backing will be a challenge of course, but marketing is another issue. It’s quite evident from the comment made during the workshop that, for a variety of reasons, the debate rages on between those choosing to self-publish and those who believe traditional publishing is the only venue with any credibility. It’s more a personal choice than a debate, really, but unfortunately the self-published, quite often, end up paying a higher price than the fee recorded on their invoice for the POD package they chose. Those who self-publish also risk being viewed with less respect by those who harshly perceive the unread self-publisher’s work as not “good” enough to be considered by a TPH. Since written work is so subjective; interests and tastes so varied, “good” or even “great” by whose standards? I’ve read many a book, traditionally published and extravagantly hyped, that left me wondering, why (?). And don’t people know and maybe they don’t, that Lewis Carrol, Mark Twain, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, George Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Virginia Wolf and the list goes on, all self-published? Yes, they represent a different time and times are definitely different now, or maybe it’s the people who are truly different now. I’ve spoken with some “writers” who care more about the possibility of a windfall than their art or the message they wish to convey. In the case of the elderly folks in the workshop, I think they were just unfamiliar with the progressive choices. The bottom line is, traditional publishing houses are in the business to make money, not to turn out literary masterpieces. The dollar is their focus and as many dollars as possible their goal. Traditional Publishing houses have no interest in me if I’m not a celebrity or affiliated with those of celebrity status, unless I managed, through some freak incident, to capture fifteen minutes of outrageous media attention. Those anonymous chunks of fifteen minutes happen quite often in the world and afford traditional publishers the convenience to fish out of a fairly congested barrel. Let’s be real. If I were walking alone through a meadow and accidentally fell into an uncovered but brush hidden, wet well, was unable to climb out and had to tread water for fifteen days, subsisting only by catching minnows with my teeth as they swam past my mouth before my rescuer, a seven-year-old Asian boy who’s only been in this country for a week, found me while playing with his dog, Lucky Penny, who he just saved from euthanasia two days ago, some “Traditional” publishing company just might want my story. I would have to be one of those extremely rare fortunates or unfortunates. Every time I watch a talk show and see an author promoting their new book, I always wonder (if I haven’t seen that person in the headlines in the last year or so) what connection they have with the talk show host? It usually comes out during the segment. Oh . . . she’s the wife of the chef of one of Martha’s favorite restaurants. Oh . . . he’s the brother of the lead singer of a band that Ellen is so crazy about right now. Oh . . . she’s the Mother of the guy Oprah is trying to fix Gail up with. Our lives are the stories we share and sharing life through fantasy or reality is what writers and storytellers are compelled to do. Written work becomes something personal between the author and the reader. I don’t know why we should or would allow traditional publishers, solely, to decide for us what is publication worthy. The traditional process is also very time consuming, and time is a commodity most of us don’t like to waste. As a first time author, sending your manuscript to a traditional publisher when you don’t have that “Kevin Bacon” connection, is very much like buying a lottery ticket. I think we all know the odds aren’t in our favor. Since I had my druthers, my choice was to stay out of the barrel and still take the opportunity to tell my story. Self-publishing, especially for the first time author, just might be “Intelligent and Realistic Publishing.”


Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of ‘Save Them All’

One thought on “Pubfishing

  1. Hi Linda,
    I’m a freelance researcher and editor who works with authors looking to self-publish. I agree completely with your philosophy about self-publishing possibly being the only avenue left for quality writing to reach an audience.

    I live on a small island, where it seems everyone is an artist in addition to their day job. The “gallery system” is often shunned by these artists, and nobody bothers to question that. Musicians sell their CD’s while busking, visual artists mount group shows at the local community hall, and spoken word artists have an audience in every coffee shop.

    It used to be that consumers of art often qualified their purchase of a painting or other art object because it was bought from a (so-called) reputable gallery. But many are now seeing the value of dealing directly with the artist: the consumer learns more about the artist and the body of their work, adding more emotional impact to the purchase. The artist keeps more money in their pocket. The consumer has a certain cachet because they are friends with the artist.

    This is self-publishing in the most direct and primitive sense. I see a new wave in book purchases that parallels this refreshing rebellion, and hope that consumers are starting to see the same benefits of seeking out self-published over traditionally-published work.

    -Peggy in Canada

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