Publishing “as if”
Publishing “as if”—meaning, for an independent writer like me, to bring out a book AS IF it were from Random House, as if it were from Simon & Schuster—is a dream and a philosophy that my partner Diana and I have been trying to put into practice for the past two years.
We published PUT YOUR ASS WHERE YOUR HEART WANTS TO BE that way, and we did the same with GOVT CHEESE: A MEMOIR. The idea is to bring out a book that, on every level—literary merit, originality, creativity… and the quality of the actual physical production—is as good or better than anything from a Big Five publisher.
Further, the aim is to promote the work and get it into readers’ hands with the same or better reach and presence as a Big Five publisher. (If you’re a writer who has relied on a mainstream publisher for such support, you know that, as Stevie Nicks once sang, “It all comes down to you.”)
Beyond that, publishing “as if” aims to follow Seth Godin’s concept of the Smallest Viable Audience, i.e. know who reads you and give them what they want… even if (especially if) they don’t know what that is until you put it before them.
Does this work? Is it fun? Is it a business model that can succeed for a broad span of writers and other artists?
One thing I can testify to: it ain’t for the faint of heart. The learning curve is ferocious. The tech tools have definitely not been perfected. (Try making WordPress work with ShipStation.) And, if you’re an introvert (like me), you’d better get over it fast.
But it can be done and the payoff is not just in dollars, which are hard to come by in any universe, or creative freedom (which can be pretty hollow if your stuff can’t find an audience), but in independence and the sense of betting on yourself and your own Muse—win or lose.
Let me recommend a blog and podcast to any who might be thinking of venturing into this uncharted wilderness. Do you know Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn? Her books, blogs, and podcasts are the cutting edge of this new indie world. Most of what she and her colleagues across the pond (she’s English and a lot of her mates are too) are beyond my ken or capability. That’s why I love it and her … and why I’m so impressed by it.
Log onto Joanna’s stuff and see what you think. Meanwhile, Diana and I will continue reporting from our own rarefied cosmos of publishing “as if.”
P.S. We’ve got a new book, THE DAILY PRESSFIELD, coming in a week or so. We’re pushing the envelope a little on this one, too. Full reports to follow!