LAKE MACBRIDE— A friend forwarded a link to an article titled, “The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing,” that reported more than three million books were published in 2010 yet sales were down. Stephen Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler Publishers wrote, “there is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one’s communities.” In other words, unless you have kismet, keep writing, and building relationships to develop your own market for your writing. I came to a similar conclusion, and a number of area authors seem to be pursuing this approach as well. What gives?
Part of my writing efforts have been figuring out what role words on a page or screen would play in life. Where it ended was “as a self-employed writer, the challenges are to find venues for writing, and to improve one’s skills. For most of us, writing is seldom paid work in the era of social media. My current writing can be viewed on my website pauldeaton.com.” This statement, posted on my LinkedIn profile, has been a sanity keeper and set my expectations about publishing low, while maintaining a reason to write. Sure, I would like to make a living from writing, but the simple truth is not many people do, and the number who sell more than 250 copies of their book once published is miniscule. The endgame is if a viable book idea was forthcoming, the work will be self-published and marketed.
There is a lesson to be learned from the prairie troubadour, Vachel Lindsay. Lindsay was one of the best known poets in the United States during his lifetime, but faded into obscurity after his death by suicide. He bartered poetry for food and lodging, and self-published works like, “Rhymes To Be Traded For Bread” toward that end. History has been unkind to Vachel Lindsay, and today his poetry is a difficult read.
The lesson to be learned is that we all live a life of struggle and desire. It is possible to self-publish a book, but the idea of written pieces as currency, or making a living solely from publishing and selling books is not realistic for most of us, and may never have been. It certainly didn’t work out for Vachel Lindsay, who had the fame that would presumably enable sales. Maybe he didn’t understand how to do it, struggling with in person sales negotiations to secure a bed and meal for the night, such bartering consuming a disproportionate amount of his time and energy. He worked hard, but maybe didn’t work smart enough.
The challenge isn’t the writing, it’s finding the reason to write and the opportunity to do so. For now that means sitting in front of a screen most mornings trying to figure out the meaning of a life. Hopefully readers will find some resonance with theirs. This may be as published as one person’s writing gets.