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Do It Yourself?
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Mark Terry has a very interesting blog today, The Artist, pondering why he writes and whether self-publication might satisfy his needs as a writer. Like Mary and myself, Mark has several books published by indie presses and his thoughts on books and publishing are so relevant to my own situation that I decided to expand a bit on the comment I left at his site. But please read Mark's musings first. (Ah, Mark's Musings. Now there's a bad name for a blog!)

I've never bought into "art for art's sake." I don't write for myself, let alone for art. Frankly, I don't think art shares my tastes anyway. Much too snooty.

Although it's egotisitcial, the fact is I write in hopes of pleasing an audience. There are few things in the world more enjoyable for me than reading. As soon as books began transporting me to other worlds, I knew I wanted to work that same magic for others. We all love stories. So what could be more desirable than making up stories?

When I was in grade school my friends and I would sit in the back of the room during arithmetic lessons, draw cartoons in our tablets and surreptiously show them to each other, hoping to crack ourselves up with pictures of stick figures being oblitered by bombs or crushed by gargantuan bowling balls. If we got the teacher to scowl at us for inexplicably sniggering and giggling while she was writing the times tables on the blackboard we'd scored an artistic success.

On summer evenings we'd sit out in a dark corner of the yard with only a flashlight, telling each other ghost stories about nameless horrors lurking in the bushes, crawling silently out of the flower beds, invisible, soul destroying terrors from the abyss beyond waking and living reality. We competed to see who could scare everyone the most.

It wasn't whether we found our own cartoons funny or scared ourselves with our ghost stories, it was about the effect on each other, on the audience. Writing is about communication. I don't need to tell myself what's in my own head. I know what's in my own head. What's potentially entertaining is what's in your head.

It isn't necessary to find a publisher for my non-fiction -- plenty of people enjoy reading blogs just as I do. Years ago, I found a large enough audience (maybe fifty people) by publishing my essays in a spirit duplicated science fiction fanzine. Unfortunately, it is hard to find much of an audience for fiction unless you have a publisher.

Writing a novel is a big, time consuming project. Much more difficult than blogging. I would enjoy writing a novel that I figured there was an audience for, but I am not sure how much of an audience I would need to make it feel worthwhile. Not very large, but, I suspect, larger than I could find without the help of a publisher.

Then too, I am still not at the point, if I ever will be, where I can spend vast amounts of time amusing myself without compensation and were I to self-publish a book and charge for it, not only would it not come anywhere near paying for my time, but any charge would almost certainly drive off the audience (if there was a potential audience) which would justify writing the book in the first place.

Oh, there's always art, but I'm sorry, art, you're not a sufficient audience. You're just, So I guess you're out of luck. However, art, If you want to offer me a $30,000 advance, we'll talk.

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