By my twenties, I knew, like knowing rain is wet, that being a writer is defined by the act of writing, in my case incessantly, no matter how persistently other people might confuse being a published author with being a writer. I’ve thought of publication as some shadowy possibility, and occasionally as a goal. But I don’t care all that much about it, in the traditional sense, anymore, if I ever did. I’ve tooted this horn in these blogs before.
Blogging is publishing without submission guidelines, queries, or pitching. I could publish longer stories on this website, or parts of my novels. Whole novels. Would putting my writing out –now, here! –count as publication? This brings us to numbers, the money piece of this puzzle. Professional writers, aka “authors,” are traditionally paid by publishing companies, through book sellers, and ultimately readers. There have been times when selling some writing certainly would have eased my wage-labor life. There have been more times when no price could have compensated for the time, energy, and pure heart of self that I put into this work.
The deeper not-dollars part of publication is getting the work into the public realm, where it can be found by more readers– people who will “love” my stories, but, alas! also others perhaps less kind, more truthful, or nuisances in some other way. This seems a risk to be carefully weighed. A risk for which compensation might be in order! It is, to me, one of the more compelling justifications for the publishing industry (agents, editors, publishers, book sellers) that the industry stands as a buffer between the writer, offering up a heart all typeset, and any readers who might be mean, or too judgmental. The publishers also claim to protect you, dear readers, from junk.
Lately I wonder, if I dared to build, one by one, my readership, and offered to You, dish by dish, my banquet of stories, what’s in it for any of us? The investment of reading time, for these blogs, is not much; the writing takes an hour or so. How many people are reading? Why would anyone pay anything for it? Should I turn my musings into yet another fundraising letter, however crafty? If I posted longer stories, or the novels, could I somehow charge for them? There’s always the Amazon-create route, but jumping into that mainstream monopoly sounds like whitewater rafting. I’m more of a gentle pond floater.
What matters to me, about “publishing” is that it’s an avenue to readers. I’m getting used to having readers, and responses. Some readers say: The story was delicious. The writing was clever. Thank you. Others have criticisms, large and small. So far, so good; thanks, truly. I also have “unrequited” readers, whose response is no response. So far, that’s most painful. Wouldn’t old-fashioned publication multiply the silent readers? For now, I feel safest on this lifeboat with you, my dear, best, requited readers. We’re a team; writing, reading, afloat. Thank you.