You’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a reluctant blogger. I miss the days when dirty underwear was aired in private, preferably behind a high wall topped with shards of broken glass. At the very least you’d keep it all in a diary and know that it was safe together with your stash of Health and Efficiency naturist magazines in the fake bottom of your second hand desk. In fact, if the other bloggers on this site weren’t holding my elderly mother: Ethel, hostage in a soundproof basement somewhere in Hove, you wouldn’t catch me blogging here with a nine foot pole. (Poor metaphor? It really doesn’t matter. Why not? Read on.)
I was initially nervous about broaching the subject of this week’s slightly stained but clean pair of Y-fronts: Self-Publishing, because I was afraid word would get back to the people who are supposedly self-publishing me (Contradiction in terms? It doesn’t matter. Why not? Read on.) But I was on my third double shot espresso in Surat Thani airport when an astounding realization hit me like a migraine – or it might have actually been a migraine – that nobody reads any of this. It really doesn’t matter what I write. According the Wikipedia, eighty-four percent of the inhabitants of earth have their own blog. That’s only ten percent fewer than those who have their own Facebook page. Assuming all those people are busy churning out daily nonsense, that only leaves sixteen percent of the world with any time on its hands to read the things. If we consider that most of these are impoverished people living in third world countries and that they can only get to an internet café once a month, that’s very compelling evidence that I’m writing this to me. To legitimize themselves, bloggers make up ridiculous names like “Michael Malone” and send themselves comments about their blogs. It’s all rather sad, really.
But the important point is that I can empty my spleen here without fear of repercussions. And that’s just as well ‘cause my spleen is full to bursting. I was advised strongly against publishing myself. I heard comments such as, “It’ll make people think you’re desperate,” and “It’s below a great writer of your status,” (I didn’t actually hear that one but I’m sure people were thinking it.) and “Only pathetic losers publish themselves.” But I have a collection of short stories and graphics about disgusting old people and I knew it would make a lovely Christmas gift. Mysteriously, I couldn’t find a publisher for it. No publishers actually read them, I hasten to add. “We don’t do short stories unless you’re Dan Brown or Charles Manson,” they said. “Nobody buys them.”
But I liked my stories. I thought they were damned fine. I’d even won a competition with one of them. Who was I to deprive the world? And there was always that subliminal hope that this might just be the short story collection that broke the mold. Eighteen months on NYT. A billion sold in hardback alone. So, I plunged. I contacted a company that indulged desperate losers such as myself, sent them a cheque and sat back in anticipation of my book publishing itself. That was six months ago. Following several months of their finance department urging me to upgrade to this or that ‘package’, numerous attempts at uploading my illustrations on our bush internet connection, a precipitation of emails from me begging the company to give me a production assistant with a name rather than a USB connection, I finally went into production…last Tuesday. I’m anticipating having a book sometime around 2098. I’ve prepared a posthumous author note for the occasion.
I haven’t been this frustrated since the night the Victoria’s Secret bus broke down in front of my place and my Auntie Hilda was sleeping over with her church group. I’d arranged a world exclusive premier for the book at this year’s Bouchercon in October and they were already talking about sales well into the tens. But the thing that irks me most is that I was really looking forward to sampling the publishing business by myself – from the inside – haggling with editors and well-intentioned banter with the art department, back and forth over marketing and cover design. To date, I haven’t had one email that I would consider personal. I have the feeling that when we stepped up to the production level, they just gave the computers interesting names and clicked the ‘use one or two adjectives’ button to fool me that the process was no longer automated. I’ve been telling the computer about my asthma and how the dogs really played up during the full moon, but I can’t get to its soft underbelly. I’m starting to think that without personal relationships, publishing is really crap. But what do you care? You’re not even reading this. You wouldn’t even be interested to look out for “Ageing Disgracefully – Short Stories About Atrocious old People.”