There is one thing above all else that makes me want to be legitimately published. It’s not the money, the fame, or the inevitable barrage of bikini models that will flock towards me everytime I’m in Lidl – no, it’s about not having to suffer the dinner party frown.
‘So, what do you do?’
It’s a question that’s always asked, although it’s rarely done because people are genuinely interested in what we do – it’s mostly so people can see what we earn. At least, that’s my theory. Anyway…when I’m asked ‘what do you do?’ – I pause, wondering what answer to give. Almost all the time I’ll give the job that pays the bills (graphic designer) but a large part of me wants to yell, like that bloke in Life of Brian who’s been silent for years: ‘I write! I bloody love writing! I eat, breathe, sleep, dream stories! I…am a writer!’
But I never say that.
In fact, I try deliberately not to bring the writing thing up, because I know what happens next. The situation usually goes something like this:
Person: What do you do in your spare time?
Me: I like to write, I love books.
Person: (interested) Oh, have you written anything?
Me: Yeah, I’ve got two books that are Amazon at the mo.
Person: (now very interested) Published?
Me: (pause) Erm…no…they are self-published.
(A veritable herd of tumbleweeds)
Person: I’m just going to go get another drink (and pooof…they are gone, never to be seen again)
It doesn’t really matter how much the industry has changed in the last fifteen years, people still look down on self-publishing. I’ve encountered people that believe that if you self-publish you’re not good enough and therefore anything you’ve written can instantly be dismissed.
I would like to agree with these people, but that would make both of us wrong.
Truth is, having a publisher isn’t always a sign of quality. Just like self-publishing isn’t always a sign a novel has less literary merit than the efforts of an elephant charging about in the stationery department of WH Smiths. Just like there’s some great unsigned bands that play your local pub, but Mr Blobby’s spending another week at number in the chart. Don’t write off self-published books just because a business didn’t decide to back it.
It’s strange that writing gets the brunt of this snobbishness, but I suppose it’s the hardest medium to instantly appraise. If you say you paint, you can show someone your work and within seconds they know whether you are any good or not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had your work in the Louvre or at the local scout hut – your skills can instantly be assessed. The same with music and film-making. But books, poor old books, they live by word-of-mouth, peer-recognition, endorsements and there is still no high endorsement than having a well known publisher back your book.
So, I don’t blame people asking me if I’m ‘published’ – as they’ve no other way of measuring what I’m telling them (unless they want me to read aloud to them)