Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Slushpile by Jan Rider Newman

At one time I’d never have considered self-publishing. I wanted, and I still want, the legitimacy of a big publisher who accepts, edits, and releases my novel, that official industry "A" for my efforts. Any writer worth a book deal knows how to deliver a well-written, well-edited manuscript. But that last mile to the hard-copy book in your hand, I still believe, needs a professional escort. And yet, according to Katherine Rosman and her January 2010 Wall Street Journal article, "The Death of the Slush Pile," the dream has a less than 1% chance of coming true.

Since reading the article, I've begun to look at self-publishing as an avenue worth examining. If you're unknown and end up with a publisher who won't finance much promotion, how much more expensive and troublesome can it be to do all of it on your own?

The self-publishing I reacted violently against isn't today's model, though it can be—one must be careful. But the same technology that stole readers' attention from printed pages has proved to have legitimate uses. After some gnashing of teeth, writers took another look at that LED screen and saw a new world of options—POD, e-zines, Kindle, iPad. Many e-pub options don't cost a great deal. All writers now take advantage of ways to publish and market their work that didn't exist five years ago, or existed only as fringe possibilities.

We’re in an exciting phase. The slush pile is dead; more and more writers are driven to seek publication; the agency model is in flux; and the need to publish is almost as great as the need to write. Technology, once seen as part of the problem, has made the process easier and less expensive. More importantly, it's helped self-publishing gain respectability. Look at the horizon. As you read this, writers are inventing new ways to get readers, promote themselves, and pocket more earnings. I look forward to seeing what will turn up next and to being part of it.

Jan Rider Newman is a published, prize-winning writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, currently writing a fantasy novel. She co-edits and publishes Swamp Lily Review, An Online Journal of Louisiana Literature & Arts (http://swamplily.com); contributes articles and book reviews to LitStack (http://litstack.com); edits the Gator Talk newsletter for the Bayou Writers' Group; and is the group's current webmaster.