We live in a time when anyone who has a blog or a YouTube channel can be a publisher. If you have an idea and the urge to create, your concept can be in front of anyone with an internet connection in seconds. To paraphrase (sometimes self-published) author Charles Dickens, this is the best of times and the worst of times.
It’s the best of times because it’s beautiful that we’re able to speak to the world without the traditional gatekeepers saying it’s okay. Removing barriers for writers, musicians, filmmakers and other artists to be able to find an audience creates the opportunity for more diversity and a broader variety of public discourse. This is exciting and amazing.
On the other hand, opening the floodgates also lets in, frankly, a lot of crap. Traditional publishers and producers have sometimes had unfair standards, but at least they had standards. Now anyone with a phone can stream on Facebook. Anyone who sings karaoke can publish on iTunes. And anyone who has enough expertise to copy-and-paste can upload to Amazon and call themselves an author. It’s because quality is often not part of the equation anymore that most traditional publishers — and traditional book publishers in particular — are firmly opposed to it.
I worked in the book industry for a long time (as a copyeditor and as the owner as a bookstore), so I know about the negative attitude toward self-publishers. I’ve had that attitude myself, and I think there are good reasons for it.
But attempting to repress technology is almost never a good answer. The technologies that make self-publishing easy are here to stay, and ignoring them or acting snarky about them isn’t going to change that. I think the answer is not to silence self-publishers, but to try to do a better job of helping them create quality products. Attempting to find that better way is one reason I self-published my book, The Localist, instead of trying to get a traditional publisher. I’m extremely proud of the result, and apparently, other people like it, too — I get a handful of emails every week from potential self-published authors who want to know how I did it.
But I can’t tell them how I did it by myself because I didn’t do it by myself. The reason for my success as a self-published author is that I had a team of experts and friends who helped me. These are people like Bobby, my editor, who helped me shape the book. Like Andrew, my graphic designer, who created a cover that holds its own on bookshelves across the country. People like Kelly and Seth, who helped me design a marketing plan, and like Jonathan, who developed my author website and coded my ebook. And my team includes dozens of Kickstarter backers who financed the project.
Obviously, I can’t bring Bobby and Seth and Kelly and the rest of the team to every coffee date with an aspiring author, and without their perspectives, my advice about self-publishing is incomplete. So today, I’m announcing my attempt at another form of self-publishing: the podcast. Everybody Hates Self-Publishing will chronicle my journey of publishing The Localist, and I’ll invite a new guest from my team on every week.
I’m hoping you’ll be able to find Everybody Hates Self-Publishing on your favorite podcast service soon, and until then you can listen to this introduction that includes a bit more about the project.
As always, I’m terrified of putting myself out there and starting something new. I’m not good at editing a podcast yet, so the sound quality isn’t where I want it, and I’ve edited a few recordings together, so it’s rather patchwork. But if I waited to get it perfect, I’d never put it out into the world, and I think my team has some amazing information to share. I hope you enjoy learning from them and getting to know them a bit — I think they’re pretty great.
I’m submitting the podcast to iTunes and Stitcher soon, and I’ll be having a launch party this coming Tuesday (May 30) in the arcade at Paramount from 6-8 p.m. I’d love it if you could stop by — I’ll have free appetizers and free pinball, and I’ll be hanging out and answering questions about the book and the podcast. It’ll be a good time to let me know what you want to hear on the podcast, who you think I should interview, and whether or not you like what you hear so far.
Thank you to everyone who helped make The Localist a success. I hope you enjoy the behind-the-scenes details and that Everybody Hates Self-Publishing inspires you to create something great — whether it’s a book, movie, song, podcast, or something totally new that’s unique to you.