A few weeks ago, I took part in a rousing e-discussion about independent publishing. In case you are considering joining in one of these, be advised, they are all “rousing.”*
*rousing = violent, bloody.
I’m not going to rehash it. I’ve seen enough of these that I find them boring now. A lot of people say “drek.” A lot of people say “archaic.” If you are interested in where I stand, it’s with the pragmatic and brilliant Chuck Wendig. There is no debate.
But one of the points made that day by someone on the pro-trad-publishing side rankled me. It rankles me still, all these weeks later, because it touched a nerve. It was posed to indie-authors (taking this step without the approval and say-so of the fatherly publishing world). It was: Aren’t you afraid of looking like a fool?
I mean, well, yes. Yes. My whole life, yes. A resounding Yes.
My whole life, I’ve held my tongue, kept my thoughts to myself, made my laugh quiet and my voice small. I’ve done all that so I wouldn’t look like a fool.
Now I’m edging toward my forty-second birthday, and I think of all the experiences I didn’t have, the love I didn’t confess, the adventures I didn’t take, the life I didn’t live because I was afraid of looking like a fool. You know what my reward was? I feel like a goddamned fool. What a waste of time.
Last year, I started writing in earnest, after dreaming of it for years. Aside from having a family, nothing I have ever done has felt so incredible. When the writing is good, it feels like being high and being in love. If feels zingy and buzzy and breathless. It feels like I’m making up for a lot of missed opportunities. When the writing is bad? Same thing.
Knowing I could publish it myself gave me that. I didn’t want to pour 100,000 words of my soul into something that was going to sit in a drawer until I died. I figured I could write it, and see if people liked it. I’d show it to or sell it to people I like, whose opinions I respect. If they liked it, I would be thrilled. If not, at least I’d know. But knowing I didn’t have to navigate an incomprehensible quagmire of publishing industry gate-keeping gave me the courage to finally use my voice.
Maybe it sucks. Maybe people will laugh at it. Who cares. I’d rather look like a fool than be silenced.
Now, go buy my book: Penguin Spies in Space: A Love Story
(J/K My first book: Bright Aster will be published next month on Amazon. Some people I love and respect have read it and loved it. Hearing that was totally worth the risk.)