Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Publicizing yourself?

Self-publishing? Utter those words in any writers' group and poison pens will launch an assault against errant word-processors. Those rare specimens who have 'successfully' been published by commercial publishing houses will turn up the snootiest noses at plebians with piles of rejection notes. And a brave few will vow to have those very rejection slips bound and ready to sell. So what if they pay for the privilege?

While commercially published writers are most definitely accomplished and successful, it would be wrong to dismiss everyone else with a flair for a well-turned phrase.

The fact is, agents and publishers will actually support a few books which make commercially viable sense. If a work or writer has market potential, then there's a ready to advertise and market product.
Such books will definitely have their literary and technical merits. But for each book actually published, there will be many more talented writers with original and well crafted manuscripts whose writing never makes it to the bookstore shelves.

Struggling against the tsunami of commercial validation, our local writers' workshop, Katha Lok, brought out a collection of short stories by members. 'Many Rooms Many Voices' was a collective effort, with writers contributing an affordable sum per published story. We battled shyness and worked together to host book reading sessions in local bookstores, and to have group photo sessions, interviews and reviews with newspapers and magazines.

We tried our best and got encouraging feedback. Yet as simple individual writers, we could not sustain a long term publicity drive. If we spent all our limited time and resources to warm up the market, when would we write?

I still retain a sizeable portion of my personal copies of our book. I never made a profit from my modest initial investment in the venture. Yet all is not lost. A couple of days ago, several years after its publication, I spotted our book in a stall. I don't know how or why it had been placed there among all the fast moving best sellers. We never became rich or famous. But it's heartening to note that readers are still leafing through and perhaps buying our book.


Atyllah said...

Ah, this business of getting traditionally published can be disheartening and one must wonder how many great storytellers and good writers never make it to the shelves. Still, I suppose we can but heed the advice always given, keep at it, keep writing, keep trying. Perseverance and sheer stubbornness are clearly key!
How lovely to find your book in a stall - must have given you a quiet thrill to see it there!

monideepa said...

Atyllah, I personally know many fine writers who have been extensively published in journals but are still waiting to get books published. Seeing our book in the stall did give me a warm feeling inside. I still remeber how we worked together compiling stories, selecting, editing, a member donating one of her paintings for the cover...Ah!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Moni!

I would be very interested in purchasing a copy of your book. When hubby comes to Bangalore next, is there some way he can get in touch with you or with Katha Lok, in order to procure a copy?

We're looking at either March or April. Thanks and let me know!

Lotus Reads said...

Moni, thank you so much for the information - hub should be in Bangalore around Feb or March. We will contact you then. Again, thank you!

Susan Abraham said...

Moni, take heart because I can't remember where I read was either in Susan Hill's blog, the Guardian or one of the other British publications a few days ago, that the best way to judge how strong a book is or if it actually resonated - no matter how quietly with readers - is to see if its still visible a few years from when it was first published. If it is, then you know somewhere someone is reading. If it isn't, then you know too that any kind of hype beforehand or publicity still failed the test.
So you still seeing your book at a stall after all this while - I think that's super. Keep on, Moni to the next book and the next. :-)

monideepa said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Susan. Your advice is sound. The sanest thing to do is write one more book, and then the next, and do it better each time. I wonder how many struggling writers have it in them, though :-)

BrownEyed said...

Wow. I would have loved to have a read. Sigh. I am far away from the sweetness!


P.S. I tried to subscribe to your place, but couldn't find any option to do so via email :( Do I have a choice, Monideepa?