Dancing with Capitalism

What do I do when my book is ready? When I finally accept that it is what it is, and prepare to release my first story for public consumption…?

I am willing to sign the right deal with the right publisher (whatever that means — I’m still trying to figure out what either of those things look like), but my default plan is to self-publish. For now, I am focused on creating a story that I hope will resonate with readers, while exploring options for bringing my book to market.

The further I delve into the business of writing, the more disheartened I become about the way our world operates. I understand that everyone needs to get paid for their work. Such is life in a money-based world. What bothers me is the competitive, sales-driven nature of the marketplace — the “money before substance” approach that so many companies (and people) take toward business. Artistic ventures, much like the environment and other “soft” issues, have a difficult time dancing with Capitalism. The big ‘C’ always wants to take the lead, and he tends to step on a lot of toes.

This goes beyond publishing a book. I’ve long struggled with the balance between working within the system and fighting against it. I have learned that being an “entrepreneur (anyone who is self-employed or runs a small business, including artists of many stripes) is not the same as being a “businessperson.” The system is stacked against the little guy. It’s no secret that money funnels to the top, and a relatively small group of people have figured out how to make a lot of little bits of money — little bits that add up to large sums. But I digress… so I’ll save that rant for another post.

Back to the book… Assuming I self-publish, I will face a dilemma regarding distribution and marketing. I can follow the “spend money to make money” approach. There is no shortage of ways to spend money promoting a book, and “vanity publishers” are waiting at every turn to prey on authors, filling optimistic heads with dreams of book signings and movie rights. That said, I do believe that if you invest enough money toward a solid marketing strategy, it is possible (though certainly not guaranteed) to attain some level of success with even an average novel. Conversely, I can do this the organic way: using a lot of elbow grease in place of dollars. Then again, elbow grease can turn into fish oil if you’re not careful. Self-promotion is a slippery (and for some of us, uncomfortable) slope to choose.

Some self-published authors are better at marketing than writing, so they are successful in spite of their work, not because of it. And many great authors don’t know how to navigate the business of publishing, so they relegate writing to hobby status and fade off into writers’ oblivion. I don’t want to fall into either of those categories. I want to write readable books that reach the people who might want to read them. I don’t mind investing some money toward those who provide me with value along the way, and I don’t mind doing some self-promotion. But in the end of the day, I want to be judged on my work… not on the size of my bank account or my ability to sell.

For now, I am standing at the edge of the dance floor, watching how it flows. I’ll jump in with both feet if/when I hear the right song and find the right partner… or I’ll choose to dance alone and see where that leads me.

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