November 10, 2011


I confess I am on the cusp of a question: whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of working with Independent publishers or to take arms against them and become an entrepreneur of my work. It’s a question that sometimes carries a lot of baggage. I have a friend, for example, who behaves as if I’ve uncorked a bottle of fire ants and poured them over her head when I mention self-publishing. She is a bright woman with a PhD in literature who believes passionately in a novel she has written. Unfortunately, it has suffered numerous rejections by publishers large and small. Still, she is fixed upon the idea that a book is not a book until it arises from the womb of a publishing house. To self-publish would be a humiliation, tantamount to being placed in the stocks in a public square and charged with the crime of picking her nose.

To some extent, I can sympathize. The faint stench of self-publishing still hangs in the air because with the advent of laser printing even a kid with a paper route can afford to self-publish. There is no gatekeeper to determine whether or not the book is worth putting money behind. 

For me, however, the question is not the manner of breaking into print but how to find an audience. Herman Melville’s, “Moby Dick “ barely found an audience in his lifetime. It had sold a scant 4,000 copies by the time he died. Only after the horrors of World War I, did Melville’s themes and images begin to resonate with a demoralized world. 

Unlike my friend who abhors the idea of self-publishing, only one truth drives me. If a book isn’t in print, it isn’t going to be read. Whether it becomes a classic or withers on the vine is beyond my control. Like Ishmael, the central character in Melville’s masterpiece, I take a philosophical view.

      “There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”

(“Moby Dick” quote found in “Vanity Fair,” 11/11)