A Meditation on Writing and Publishing

So far I’ve written seven novels and published one—soon to be two. I have no agent and no publisher, not least because I’ve rarely sought either one and even then with little real determination.

Which raises a couple of questions: Why am I writing? Why have I made so little effort to publish in the conventional manner?

It is such an incredible cliche to say that I write because I have to. I don’t guess I HAVE to, but the fact is that I’ve been writing since I had my first poem “published” in my elementary school “newspaper” in second grade. I still remember what a thrill that was and maybe from then on I associated writing with the thrill. I don’t really know. I just know that on some level, from that time on, regardless of what my formal employment might have been, I thought of myself as a writer. I am, after all, still at it sixty years later.

And now, finally, I’m even publishing as well as writing. I have one book available for Kindle and Nook owners, as anyone reading this blog entry must know since the fact is pretty prominently featured on this same website, and I’m about to finish a second book that will be similarly available.

Assuming I continue to live a long and healthy life, I have definite plans to publish at least four more books in the series (which is to say they’re already outlined and partially drafted). With luck and continued health, there will be even more after that. Will they all be “just” e-books for the Kindle and Nook? Probably. If an agent or a publisher comes knocking I’ll certainly answer the door, but I have no plans to go looking for either one.

Which brings us to that second question. Why the hell not?

I got no cliches for that one. No clever or original answers either. I sent off a couple of science fiction short stories to magazines when I was still a teen and got pro forma rejections. (They were really crappy stories, believe me.) I sent my first novel, which was also science fiction, to a New York agent through an acquaintance of mine who was a client of hers and actually got back a personal “we almost liked this enough but not quite” response.

And that’s it. I don’t know why. Some combination of scared, lazy, preoccupied, indifferent…. I really don’t know. I just got on with my life and kept writing anyway.

And then finally came Amazon and the Kindle (and the Nook) and that at long last felt right. I didn’t have to sell myself to some stranger I’d never met somewhere I might never be. I didn’t have to worry about some people telling me my books needed to be revised to their taste before they could be published. For that matter, I didn’t need to fret about having to “take meetings” or do book signings or any of the social stuff that I would have hated. (I’m a pretty serious introvert. I is what I is.)

Does all that make me a coward or an incompetent? Does it mean my books are less worthy, not as good, as those of writers who indeed have agents and regular publishers, whose books can be signed and held in your hand?

Maybe. Maybe not. That’s for the people who buy my books to say.

Meanwhile, I gotta finish this next one and get it out in the world. It’s what I do.

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