I don't know if it shows, but I quite enjoy writing. I write a lot. And I'm aiming to do so professionally. But every time I look into the practices of the publishing business, I get painfully aware of two points of view of mine, that really do not mix well.
On the one hand, I'm a bibliophile if there ever was one. I love the smell of new books, of old books, of my own books and those of others; I love the feeling of paper between my fingers and I buy even empty books, if they're pretty enough.
On the other hand, I'm a Open Source loving technophile. I love remix culture and open access to knowledge and content. I love open tools like GIMP and Blender; and yeah: Ebooks. Awesome. Love them. I don't buy at Amazon because I don't care for their licence-only-purchase, special-format policy and the moment I can handle my ebooks on linux when they are freed of their stupid DRM, I'll get out the party hats.
Just to be clear: Both sides pay for content. Both adore creative people.
But the bibliophile changes into a doe-eyed twine of self-consciousness when faced with a person working in publishing.
The technophile puffs up and sings of the chances of self-publishing and digital distribution.
Both would love their writing to find readers.
The technophile opts for free, easily accessible distribution.
The bibliophile – and this makes her squirmishly paw the ground – would love to pay her rent. That's why she doe-ogles those publishing folks.
It's entirely possible that this conflict is due to being a humanist and hence being used to work without or for very little pay¹, but my technophillic self keeps whispering to me that everybody working in an established field of work is trying to rip me off.
„They just want to take advantage of you,“ she whispers. „They just want well-educated people they don't have to pay. Can't you see the greed in their eyes? You really want to trust those with your books? They will edit everything interesting out of your work and turn your scenario about people in a toxic environment into a second-rate Twilight-knockoff. I can already see the cover ...“
This makes me shudder and I feel upset and rubbed the wrong way. In these moments, I curl up in my safe place: The internet. Wheere Creative Commons, webseries and -comics and novels in the making dwell. Where people spread 140 characters of wit like precious spice.
In the meantime, the bibliophile has subscribed to the Federwelt, a renowned German magazine about writing and publishing. She scans it for call for entries for contests and anthologies, always searching for the one loophole into the glorious² world of publications.
The technophile has set her up with a website, but she's hesitant. The bibliophile wants to appear uncomplicated and professional, wants to please the tastes of publishers and readers and not generate any negative attention by something unneccessary like love of new media and general activity in This Internet. She wants to be traditional. Low-risk. A Writer cast from the deepest wishes of publishers.
Meanwhile, the technophile ponders the possibility of a higher advance in case she did the ebook layout, cursed witchcraft, herself. And by the way: Why rely on a publisher at all? She's not too bad a layouter and with social media and her connections to able lectors and artists, she would definitely be more that able to provide a polished product. Better than some things she has payed them money for, for sure.
„But wait,“ the bibliophile squirms, „what about the Dragon Huntresses and Names of the Wind? Those were good. Those were fantastic. You'll never achieve that kind of quality without a professional editor.“
The technophile raises an eyebrow and quotes Ze Frank:
Perfectionsim may look good in his shiny shoes but he's a bit of an asshole and no one invites him to their pool parties.
So they stare at each other. Tenaciously and irreconsilably.
And I sit inbetween and cradle my sorry soul in the comfort of being positively sure that I don't know what to do.
¹ „Job? You want a Job? Hoho, aren't you quaint. Cheeky! But I like it, I really do. Listen, how about you take the offer of an unpaid internship with the option of a € 400 salary after six months, and in case you keep up the good work, you get a two year traineeship you can't possibly live off. Don't look at me like that. You're young and passionate about work, aren't you?“
² The bibliophile is the one comforting herself after a futile search by telling herself that it's all an illusion and there are only very few writers who can pay their bills with their writing and even then it's just that and not a penny more and a publication does not equal success and anyway: Where is my strawberry-cheesecake-icecream?