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.