On Publication: Essays on Life

cover_6×9_front-essays1-a-t.gifI'm pleased to announce that I'm working preparing Essays on Life for publication in a series of books. The first one, featuring the first fifty essays published, is almost ready to go to print. In a week or so, I hope, if all goes well, it'll be available online through Lulu.com, Amazon.com, and other online bookstores. Within the month, again if all goes well, I'm hoping it can be available in local bookstores; check Logos bookstore or COB's Chapter One and to find out. But I'll keep you posted.After plenty of thought (and some trepidation), and after considering things like time and cost and bulk and other stuff, I decided to self-publish, sort of. There were several options: local publishers, who would edit, lay out, set up, and distribute the book for me (Media Enterprises, Guanima Press); local printers, like the Nassau Guardian, who would do basically what Lulu is doing for me, taking the book I give them and printing it as is, or regional publishers, like Ian Randle, who would do what the local ones would do but with a far wider immediate distribution reach, or international vanity presses, which would design the cover and the layout for a price and then provide me with a print run of a size of my choice (sort of).There were two problems with them all. The first one was time; the turn-around time for traditional publishing services is pretty long, and though the result is of good quality, it wasn't what I wanted for a collection of essays that are pretty topical in nature (though with the way in which life goes round and round in circles of ever-tightening circumference, they are showing themselves to be pretty resilient, as relevant to the new government as they were four years ago to the old).The second one was bulk. Traditional print runs require somebody -- the publisher, if you're doing it the old-fashioned way, or the author, if you're going with self-publishing -- to pay for the production of a sizeable bunch of books. These can sit around, getting dusty and (in this climate) growing mould, while you scramble to recoup your costs. If the publisher bears those, you have to wait years to get paid, because the publisher has to work to recoup its costs. All in all, not what I wanted for this book (though for other potential books, that's quite a different story).I decided to try going with Print-on-Demand (POD).I'd first heard of Lulu.com through NaNoWriMo. (For those who don't know, that's an acronym for the little idea that's taking literature by storm and getting people writing long(ish) fiction on an annual basis -- National Novel Writing Month, an idea kicked up by Chris Baty, when individuals challenge themselves to write a novel from scratch, from start to finish, in 30 days.) I checked it out and thought it was interesting, but wasn't sure about the quality of the product, or about its reach. Since then, though, I've seen books produced through Lulu, and have held at least two of them in my hands -- Rik Roots' The RikVerse, which I ordered through Amazon, and Rupert Missick's Dreams and Other Whispers.There are disadvantages to self-publishing; any serious writer will tell you that. The main one is that for anyone who wants to make a career for themselves as a writer, with all the attachments, like advances and royalties and other trappings of the publishing economy, self-publishing, especially through vanity presses, appears to many serious publishers as a mark of inexperience, desperation, mediocrity, or all of the above. For many of them vanity presses are scammers par excellence; and it's true that if you're not careful, you'll pay far more for a print run of so-so product than the thing is worth. Self-publication also suggests that the writer isn't committed enough to face the hurdles that surround the publishing industry, hurdles whose conquest can produce fairy tales like J. K. Rowling. People who are impatient are often careless, sloppy, rushed, and the quality of the work suffers. And they're not unjustified in that concept; a lot of what is self-published isn't all that good.But self-publishing has its place. One of those places is when you live in small countries with small readerships, as we do. It's generally not economically viable for a big publisher to invest in a Bahamian publication; the cost of production can't be recouped. The market is simply too small. For this reason, hundreds of Bahamians and Bahamian residents -- some of them very good writers, some of them not so good, and some of them admittedly pretty bad -- have chosen to go with self-publishing simply to meet the demand that exists for their work. Among them are big-name Bahamian writers, like Gail Saunders and Winston Saunders and Obediah Michael Smith and Keith Russell and Michael Pintard. Not bad company to keep at all.And then there are serious advantages to print-on-demand. The main one is that the desktop revolution, coupled with the new global world of business offered by cyberspace, has created a completely new way of publishing. Print-on-demand is just that; you can write and create a book that exists only in digital form until somebody's ready to buy it. That keeps the cost down, keeps the waste to a minimum, and makes the whole process easier and simpler.And what would I lose anyway? Collecting Essays on Life is more an exercise in convenience than a full-scale launch of myself as a published writer. The complete set are already available on this blog, and are still searchable (presumably) in the archives of the Nassau Guardian, where they were first published, and some of them appear on Bahama Pundit. The trouble is, if people want to walk around with them away from the computer, they still have to go through the hassle of downloading and printing them out on plain paper. Why not make it a whole lot easier by printing through Lulu so that people can order the books themselves, or so that local bookstores can buy them as they need them?So I'm coming to the end of my inordinately long-winded post, and returning to where I started. In my end is my beginning, wrote T. S. Eliot in his own (far more elegant) contemplation about words and writing, East Coker.Essays on Life Vol. I's being prepared for publication.Look for it on this blog and other places shortly.