The Journey Begins – In Earnest

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Writing for publication has always been a beauty contest.  Whether you aspire to be a newspaper columnist or magazine features author, you’re going to have to submit your work to editors and publishers who will ultimately decide if your work is good enough.  You can spend weeks researching and writing the most fantastic article on endangered salamanders or weekend travel destinations in Yuma, Arizona, and have to suffer rejection at the hands of the industry’s gatekeepers when it’s all said and done.  Your hard work never sees the light of day, and, worse, you never see a dime for your effort.

I know, because I’ve done it, and been rejected over the stupidest of reasons.  Years ago, I had pursued a reasonably successful second career as a journalist.  I had regular columns in two local papers, and routinely produced features for local and national magazines.  The pay was modest, but I wasn’t in it for the money – I enjoyed writing, and took no small amount of pride from seeing my name in print.  But I also struggled with the rejections that I had no control over; especially the ones that had nothing to do with the quality of my work. 

In 1998, I had written a feature for a local industrialist who had the contract for a very large, very expensive, and very visible public construction project.  It was a fascinating, insightful, and informative piece on a powerful and influential personality that few people even knew about.  And it never got printed, because the subject would not consent to be photographed by the magazine’s photographer, and the magazine refused to print anything without their own stylistic illustrations attached to it. 

I could have sold an abbreviated version of the piece to a local paper or tried to find another interested magazine, but it was a timely article that was rapidly creeping towards its expiration date.  It was never published.

This isn’t an uncommon occurrence.  I knew it, and I accepted it as part of the job. 

But I was not ready to accept it as a novelist.  Because I knew that writing a novel required substantially more work, and had a substantially smaller chance of ever getting published.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I knew the math.  My odds were small, and I wasn’t going to commit the time, even for something I loved, only to deal with the high likelihood of repeated rejection and lack of publication. 

So, over the years, I kept journals, wrote small blurbs, came up with character ideas, world ideas, themes, and plot twists (my actual notes are pictured at the top of this entry), and figured I’d wait.  I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for.  Maybe until I was struck with inspiration, or motivation, or early retirement, and had a ton of time on my hands. 

I’m done waiting.

I haven’t retired from my day job.  I haven’t been given any supernatural inspiration.  I haven’t read any self-help books that suddenly kicked me into gear.  I have made a discovery.

Digital publishing has killed the beauty pageant.

Authors are making good money writing novels exclusively for electronic distribution.  They write their own books, hire their own editors and cover designers for a reasonable rate, and then sell them online direct to the public via numerous popular outlets. 

This doesn’t mean you can build an audience writing garbage.  You still have to produce a good novel.  But it’s up to your readers to embrace or reject it – not an agent or publisher. 

I’ve spent most of my spare time over the last week reading two (digital) books on the subject and reading numerous articles, blog posts, and forum threads on what I believe is the most significant paradigm shift in publishing since the invention of the printing press. 

I don’t think this is an exaggeration – for the first time in history, an author can publish full-length books to an audience of millions without having to genuflect before the altar of a major publishing house.  You don’t need to own the press, or invest in ink and paper, or have a global distribution network.  You just need a computer and an Internet connection.  And a decent book. 

I’m going to walk through the process.  Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll share the resources I’ve found and track the progress I’ve made here on this blog.  And if I pull it off, you’ll have no excuse not to try for yourself, because if I can get it done, anyone can.

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