Derek Parker, for many years the editor of The Author told me years ago that there was one subject on which he got more submissions than any other: how it feels to be accepted by a publisher and finally see your work in print. Given how profoundly most authors feel about the validation that comes from being published, it is likely that the inbox of the current editor receives just as much material on the same theme.
So please forgive me for adding to a much over-written about subject. My reasoning is this. Today is the publication date for The Naked Author, a guide to self-publishing (Bloomsbury) in the US.
OK the date is largely arbitrary. It was published in the UK last October, and I have meanwhile been communicating via Twitter (@alisonbav) with a growing number of writers, and writing support groups, in the US. The foreword to my book was written by Mark Coker – founder of smashwords.com – whom I visited in California last year, and who is increasingly hard to pin down as he tours North America giving seminars and taking part in conferences on self-publishing – indeed we are next getting together at uPublishU in New York next month. But from today, my book becomes officially discoverable in its own right in the US; has its own place in the catalogue of books available from US publishers, and can be ordered and commented upon in bookstores (and associated fora) of all types.And yes, this is exciting.
Writing a book is often compared to the process of pregnancy and childbirth – you deliver, snuggle the output and after a suitable period hand it over to others who will help it make its own way in the world. Initial separation anxiety can be enormous – Truman Capote said ‘finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it’. But even though today the author can influence its reception in new ways, for example by blogging, tweeting and using other social media, what you offer still stands (or falls) largely on its own. You deliver up the best you can do – how it will be received is beyond your control. And if those who read it don’t like it they have all the same channels available to them to let the world know.
The US is an enormous market and a country I have visited at least a couple of times a year since 1980 (we have family in New Jersey and Washington). And just as my husband and I now go out to see our eldest son living in Madrid, and love being shown around a city we barely know by our offspring who is entirely at home there, I now have a mental image of my book, Dick Whittington-like, gazing at road signs and wondering where it will go next. Until I catch up with it in New York and Washington in June, I hope it behaves itself.
In the longer term, my hope for the book is that it becomes both established – and used. A lot of research time went into its compilation and so it would be a huge pity if all that effort went to waste. I am delighted to say that so far it has been consistently well reviewed, but perhaps I should hope that it becomes respected – rather than a classic. After all, as Mark Twain (who incidentally also experimented with self-publishing) said ‘a classic is a book which people praise and don’t read.’