Print Books are just Superior

Through a combination of daily Bookbub emails and the android kindle app, I’ve started reading some books in ebook form. I haven’t read many yet, because even shorter ones can take me months to finish. I read several books at once and, generally, I’m more likely to reach for physical copies than the kindle app. It doesn’t inspire me to open it.

It might be partially because of my device. Maybe when I inevitably get a true ereader (or a tablet, more likely), with a screen that displays something more like a real book’s full page, it will improve the e-reading experience. That said, I still think I will forever prefer turning a page to swiping a screen.

Ebooks might be more practical at times, certainly. In the sense of the paper it saves, more environmentally friendly. On a long trip, you could bring a large collection of books without taking up much space in your luggage. And the content is the same–but the reading experience simply is not.

I feel like print books welcome me into the story. They draw me in and ask me to stay a little longer. Having something to hold on to allows me to believe that in some way or another, the story is more real. The tactile connection is important. Ebooks are cold, distant. They don’t care about me reading them.

Perhaps it is the very fact that physical books take up space–owning them is more of a commitment. Maybe it’s a generational thing. When I was a child, computers were much less a part of daily life and e-books were not yet a product. I grew up on print. I can’t help wondering if this convenient but impersonal form of books is going to create a generation (or many) that do not understand the importance and magic of reading. That makes me sad.

I don’t really care that much what kind of paper print books are made of. If they find a better, more environmentally-conscious material for physical volumes, that would be fantastic, and I would fully endorse making books in the greenest possible way. I also believe that good books cannot be a waste of paper.

However the process changes in the future, I ask everyone–publishers, consumers, printers, etc.–to consider the wonder of print books.

Advertisements

Why I Want a Traditional Publisher and Presentation on Bookstore Shelves

It’s no secret: these days a lot of writers are self-publishing, or going completely digital. We live in an age when anyone can publish anything, if they have the money or right online venue. I “publish” my writing on wordpress, although most of it is informal, stream-of-consciousness writing reminiscent of the incessant journaling I used to do. There are also sites like fictionpress.net, Fanfiction.net’s counterpart for original work. I considered once posting there, but I hesitated because of many literary magazines’ requirement that work cannot have been previously published, including online.

With the plethora of options available, and the reported increasing difficulty for new authors to be picked up by traditional publishers, it might make most sense for me to self-publish with one of these online companies. At some point in the future, it is highly likely that I will end up self-publishing some of my work. But for now, I continue to hold the dream of having physical printed copies of my work on a shelf in a real bookstore.

Why? There are a few points here.

These days, printing services for self-published works are actually getting much better, and although you can still generally tell the difference, the quality can be on par with traditionally published copies. You, the author, might have to work a little harder to make that happen, but it’s possible, and that’s great. That means that the packaging itself is not the problem.

One of the big considerations is marketing. From what I’ve heard and read, even if you’re working with a traditional publishing house, you will have to do at least some self-promotion if you want to get anywhere. However, they have a marketing department for a reason, and that reason is to promote the books they print. Self-marketing is not my strong point, mostly due to constantly fluctuating but ever-present levels of insecurity. It’s also partly because we’re constantly told that bragging is uncouth, and self-promotion feels very much like bragging. Being polite and “oh, if you feel like it…” about the whole thing gets you nowhere, but being loud and out there can make you seem either arrogant or deluded. It can be difficult to strike the balance and put out just the right level of confidence.

Author royalties are often much higher with self-publishing platforms, but of course the total made depends on the total sold, for which marketing can be a big help. That is most true in the beginning, I think. If you’ve written something really good, entertaining, useful, etc., then once a good number of people have read it, word of mouth can start to gain a wider audience. That means that getting the first 10, 100, 1,000 people to read it can be the hardest. I’d be crossing my fingers and hoping that I would sell enough copies to at least return to me the cost of hiring an editor. Putting out a non-edited work is just a bad idea, and it’s very difficult for a writer to be their own editor. You really do need external eyes sometimes to spot those things that might be bringing your writing down. A publisher would provide that, all bundled into the services they give their authors. Hiring a freelance editor for self-published work means that you get to choose your editor, which could be either a good or a bad thing.

These are good points, the things that I would imagine most writers consider when thinking about self-publishing. But now we’ve come to that one thing, the main reason I really want a traditional publisher, and it has to do with bookstores. (I think this merits a good “why we need brick-and-mortar bookstores” post, but I’m sure I’ve made at least one in the past, and there are many good posts on this out there…)

One of the biggest struggles for self-published authors can be trying to get their books into stores. Most larger stores (which, aside from Barnes and Noble, are all gone, right?) won’t consider anything that they can’t get right from their distributors, and even many independent stores won’t take the risk. From what I can tell, most self-published authors just sell online, and of the ones that do get books in stores as well (I couldn’t name one), internet and most likely ebook sales are where they make the most money.

I don’t want to imply that this is actually a bad thing. Maybe as time goes by I’ll be more accepting of the large-scale changes in how people read, and I won’t care that paper books are more or less a novelty as long as my content gets out into the world, to readers, in any form. …Maybe.

With a traditional publisher, it is much more likely that I’ll be able to see a copy of a book I wrote on a shelf in a real live bookstore. I want this to happen mainly, I think, because of how I experienced bookstores when I was younger. I loved reading as a child, and spending time in bookstores was something I did fairly often. Call me old fashioned if you will, but I find it’s so much harder to connect with a book when the pages are contained in a screen. Picking up a volume, actively turning pages, the texture of the cover, can be a very meaningful part of reading. As the technology develops, that privilege is taken away from both children and adults, and I think it’s unfair. Someday, when I have a book published, knowing that someone can find my book by taking it off the shelf and actually holding it in their hands will be reassuring. That is how I discovered many books. It’s how I hope to discover many more. And even though the convenience of e-readers is taking us farther from that, I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

 

Response to Rolling Stone’s Cover Choice

As it has come ¬†up and generated a lot of strong feelings from many, many people, I feel that I want to say a few words about the Rolling Stone cover. I joined this facebook group concerning boycotting them. I mean, I don’t subscribe to them and I’ve barely ever read the magazine anyway, so it’s really just a gesture for me, but I felt it needed to be made.

As a Boston resident, I will be very confused if I actually see this magazine (that is, with this cover) sold anywhere in the area. Boston did a great job and recovered really well from the tragedy on Marathon Day, but that does not mean we’re not still affected by it and it DEFINITELY does not mean any of us can sit quietly with this guy’s face staring at us. I, in fact, refuse to even type his name, because as far as I’m concerned, he can exist as a person, just as long as it’s far away from me. For clarification’s sake, I was not personally affected by what happened–I was not at or near the finish line, and I did not know anyone who was hurt or killed–but I was strongly affected emotionally, as was pretty much anyone with any capacity for feeling.

Without knowing any details, one can assume that there is an article of some kind about the bomber in this issue of Rolling Stone. So the connection is obvious. I don’t have any objections to people writing articles about what happened. However, putting his picture on the cover is a step too far. ¬†Whether the piece is complimentary, sympathetic, damning, or completely objective, featuring his face on the magazine cover glorifies him (if not his actions). This is utterly unacceptable and it was a conscious choice made by the magazine. I refuse to believe that a publication that’s been around as long as Rolling Stone could make a decision like that and not be aware of the repercussions they are incurring.

I want to make one thing clear: my objections to glorifying the bomber (the live one, the dead one, or anyone else who might have been involved) has nothing to do with the possibility of it encouraging other people to seek infamy through horrific acts. It is simply because he intentionally did something awful, deplorable, that resulted in death and destruction, and he does not deserve personal recognition for such a thing. Trying to “understand” why these actions were taken is one thing. Putting him on the cover of the magazine is disrespectful to all the people who were affected by the bombing.

 

In conclusion, Rolling Stone editors and etc., stop trying to sell through sensationalism and think for a second about having a little human decency.

A Little Levity

Some awesome rhyming/alliterative phrases I’ve come across in the past month or two while editing:

Classic Jurassic (we’re publishing a paleontology book. Why?… we’re still kind of wondering…)

Judicial officials

voluminous oeuvre (my favorite)

 

 

and I wish I had something more to say on this… I really wish I could share some of the typos that result in hilarious sentences, but that seems inappropriate. I’ll just have to enjoy them myself.

Get Ready

I’ve decided that the best way to get people to read my work is to publish it for free.

Of course, I also want to make money as a writer (eventually), so I won’t publish everything for free. But I want to start really getting my writing out there for readers. Today I dug out a copy of a short story with revision comments, to rewrite and polish and then put on self-publishing sites for free. I won’t be posting it here, but I will certainly put links to it several places on this site. It’s called Creme Brulee: A Love Story. Look out for it!

After which I plan to work on September 2042 until I’m happy with it, and that story will also be published on the same sites. (Right now I’m thinking Amazon and Smashwords, but I will have to do research on that.)

I figure that people will be more inclined to “purchase” these things and, hopefully, read them if they’re offered for free. If I create a fan base, however small, with my short stories, then they should be willing to buy my books, or ebooks, when I finally publish one.

In other news, the rapture is about to happen and I got my third tattoo. Interesting day…

Remember That You’re A Writer

To recap: I have started a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which, I have no doubt, is very different from every version you’ve ever heard, seen, or read. I wanted to finish writing my first draft by Tax Day and have it published as an ebook later this year.

I realized a few days ago: I’m doing it wrong.

I don’t mean that I don’t want to publish it as an ebook or have it done by this year. Here is what I mean –

I’ve been obsessing over my plans for the end product (i.e. something that does not yet exist) instead of focusing on the process of writing. Yes, while I’m actually putting words to the page I’m thinking about writing it, but the rest of the time I’m just thinking about publishing. And it’s great to have goals and plans for your work, because otherwise, what’s the point of writing at all? Right?

Wrong. The writing itself is the point for all born writers. We want to have our work published because we want others to read our work, but let’s be honest – we write without the promise of ever being published, even if we expect that one day we will.

I’m going back to the core and just writing the project. I’m not setting deadlines for finishing the whole book or publishing it. I am going to write, a page at a time, and make this story something I can be very proud to publish. I want there to be no question of my talent and effort when I send this thing out into the world. It’s not ready yet, and I may have been putting too much pressure on it by giving it a coming-out date too early. It will be better if I coax it out slowly. I’ll let the story unfold, see what emerges in the first draft, work hard on the first round of revisions, and THEN we’ll talk about publishing the damn thing.

In the meantime, I plan to start doing some research about self-publishing and ebooks, so that when I do start figuring out what to do with Sleeping Beauty, I’m not just launching myself blind into a vast and judgmental world.

Taking Stock

Just for good measure, I want to repost the links to writings published on the web. If you have not seen them yet, I recommend you go have a look. I’m not saying that it’s my best writing ever, but good enough that I’m proud of these pieces and want to share them with as many people as possible.

 

1. Heart Strings – A flash piece about what gets us through very hard times. Published on MicroHorror, link at

http://www.microhorror.com/microhorror/author/deva-jasheway/heart-strings/

 

2. September 2042 – Short story, somewhat environmentally themed, NOT intended to have a moral, but some might read it that way. It’s about the life of a person who is not directly affected by the terrible things happening around them, and how they deal with things. I’ve been told that I should continue the story, but I don’t think you’d need to try that hard to imagine what might happen next. Link at

http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2880644/1/September_2042

 

3. Essays originally completed for lit classes at Bennington, I submitted these to this website in December of 2009 and at long last, page views on How Now, Hecate? have earned me $2! The other, sadly, has not, because, while everyone knows the name of Shakespeare, nobody knows who Marguerite Yourcenar is. They should. She’s fantastic. I would suggest that everyone read her novel Memoirs of Hadrian. Link to essays at

http://www.studentpulse.com/authors/70/deva–jasheway

 

Thanks for reading! And as a quick update for those who are wondering: I am still way behind schedule on Sleeping Beauty and haven’t worked on anything else for months. I hope to fix that in the near future.