I was really surprised by the response to my Angry Mom post. Thank you for the stories you shared either in comments or in emails to me personally. It got me thinking...there's more to say about this topic. And there are more people who will want to read about it.
I couldn't think of a magazine I felt was right for a longer piece on anger and motherhood and truth be told, I didn't want to write a journalistic piece - something smart but distant, with lots of quotes and research to back up my thoughts. I wanted to keep the raw-ness and intimacy of the original piece. There just aren't many places for that. And I didn't want to write a whole book about it either. In my head, I shelved it.
But after talking to David, we decided I should write a longer version of the Angry Mom post and submit it as a Kindle Single. Think of it as being the size of a New Yorker article, more full but just as personal, a real story. This will be my first Kindle Single (if it is accepted)- my big toe in the water of self-publishing.
Many of you know that I've ghostwritten other people's books for years. Some of those have been self-published by vanity presses, some e-books, and some by traditional publishers. Back in the day - like last year - there was still a second rate status to self-publishing and all kinds of barriers for marketing and getting seen at the bookstore.
Self-publishing just didn't have the same rep, because it wasn't vetted by the New York gatekeepers. It didn't have their stamp of approval, which was proof the work must be good or at least of some professional and worthy quality. So many self-published books suffered from bad cover art, poor editing and a simple lack of professional writing ability and insight. It seemed only the unpublishable self-published. It had the mark of defeat.
Even last year as I spent nearly 11 months writing, re-writing and re-tooling the book proposal for my hopefully-insanely-funny memoir about cooking with four year olds in Lucy and Edie's East Harlem public school, I would never have even considered self-publishing. It would've been a step down, like going to the prom with a perfectly nice, pimpley-faced boy who rides a scooter and wears high-water pants. I wanted to go to prom with a quarterback.
That was four months ago. Now, everything has changed. All of a sudden, Lord help me, I love high-water pants.
I have a perfectly awesome agent - thanks to all the virtual pavement pounding I did last year and fellow writer Beth Lipton - and Cathy and I are at work on a Charcutepalooza Cookbook proposal that we hope will find a home somewhere. I don't want to say too much about that book project since we are in the middle of working on it and it doesn't just involve me - but we are stupidly excited about it, as we are about anything that has to do with meat, making meat and Charcutepalooza.
Still, nothing is the same in publishing and I can't shake the idea that big things are in the works for writers. Maybe I've been reading too much Joe Konrath - I now get it when people find you and love you immediately and start reading your blog backwards devouring every word, that is me with Joe Konrath - but it seems to me that for the first time since the invention of the printing press, good writers are no longer beholden to publishers.
This is fantastic news for writers who have some experience under their belts. These are the writers who have several discarded novels sitting in their drawers - what I mean by that, is that they've written a few book-length projects and know what goes into it. They have enough solid professional writing experience to know what is compelling storytelling and what isn't (most of the time anyway). They know they need good cover art and they are savvy enough to recognize it when they see it. They know they need a top notch copy editor to clean up their slog. They not only know how to use social media to sell their work and themselves, but they absolutely love it and would do it even if they didn't have anything to sell. They want to write a lot and connect with readers immediately. They don't want to wait around for the slow, mud-clogged wagon wheels of traditional publishing to give them a pat and a nod and venue.
I've decided to take the summer to finish the entire food memoir and publish it in the Fall as an e-book. (Thanks for all the nice comments here telling me you are looking forward to the book. Those comments helped me make this decision. They made a huge difference. Huge.) And I'm not settling. That boy on the scooter is looking pretty hot these days. Truth is, after these last few months I can't even imagine trying to sell this particular book to a traditional publisher.
How's that for a turn around?
As a writer, I am drawn to e-books. I want to connect with the audience faster. I want to take my chances finding my own audience. I trust that after four years here, I know who my readers are and what they, and new readers, will want to read from me. If I can't, well, I shouldn't be doing this. I want to make more money, share less of the returns, and have total say in what I'm putting out. I want to please only readers, not gatekeepers because if I focus on pleasing the readers, the gatekeepers will love me anyway. I want to work with good people - designers and editors - who will make my work better, at my own expense, and know that it's my vision, what I want to do. I know that also means some things won't fly sometimes, and I'll make some hideous mistakes, but I can live with that.
And Joe Konrath is right - there will still be gatekeepers. But it won't be publishers. It will be readers. The same people who find the best stuff amid hundreds of tedious cable channels and a plethora of internet-watching opportunities and lift up the ones who resonate. Not even the best, just the ones that speak to us where we are.
I do not think that print publishing is over, by the way. Nor can I say that I wouldn't publish a book with a traditional publisher. Our plan right now for The Charcutepalooza Cookbook is that it go with a traditional publisher. But that hasn't stopped us from thinking about apps and all kinds of accompanying technology. Publishing is just changing. Agents and publishers roles are changing. Writers roles are changing. Think about it - the field is wide open. Every good writer has a shot. You don't have to be The Pioneer Woman to write a well-received book. No offense against Ree, love her. But that is damned exciting stuff.
Sure, there is still luck and randomness and market savvy, and e-books will see their share of surprise bestsellers and un-predictable clunkers, but still, it is a good day to be a writer. You have more options than ever. Instead of spending time convincing publishers why you are worth it, producing blog stats and page after page of proof/bullshit that you can market a book and spending countless hours doing stunts to drive up your traffic, a process that actually takes longer than writing the book itself, you could just be out there writing/selling your book. You actually get to prove your worth by what you're writing/publishing and how you can move it through the market place.
Radical. Freeing. Revolutionary, I think.
And Oh My God, think about the Kindle Single - you don't even have to write a whole book for God's sake. You can submit a single essay, a long-form idea, a novella, a short story. Just make sure it is great, something people will want to devour. That's why I'm starting there with my Angry Mom piece. It'll be an experiment. My toe in the water. My first dance with the high-water pant guy. David is pushing me to finish it. I'll keep you posted.
Remember, it is a good day to be a writer.