Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Self Publishing And Mucus
Torrents of mucus have gifted me a morning to blog.
Whether this post now descends into an ocean of nasal slime is largely dependent on...the volume of nasal slime squirting from my nasal. Hell, if I were an American, I might even add, “not to mention squirting from my ass”.
I’ve never known a mucusy episode like it. Normally, the Desiccated Crystal Gnomes inhabiting the space above my philtrum make like crazy with their shovels the moment any excess liquid fills my tubes. Maybe they’re on holiday this morning. Or maybe their shovels have warped. All I know is, when I woke up, my pillow looked like a battlefield in the wake of an almighty gastropod showdown between slugs and snails. It doesn’t help that in the two hours since my alarm clock sounded I’ve decanted enough eau de nostril to fill a swimming pool — maybe even the kind of football pitch you often see quoted in discussions about how much space your lungs would fill if rolled out to a thickness of a single alveolus. By lunchtime, I expect to resemble a slice of French toast afloat on Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.
Imminent bodily fluid loss aside, my main problem as I write is how to prevent myself from dripping all over the keyboard. I’ve attached two lengths of hose pipe to my nose and dangled them out of the window, but in the absence of the necessary hose/nose affixing fluid (which, ironically, I noticed was reduced to £3.99 a tube in B&Q last weekend) I’m having to use rather too much duct tape, and though my keyboard has remained relatively droplet-free, I can barely see what I’m typing and breathing has become very difficult. That next door’s cat has taken a shine to my hosepipe danglies doesn’t help matters. I comfort myself that the knock-on effect of her wild talon swipes is far from proper whiplash.
Mucus announcements over, it’s time to consider the thorny matter of self-publishing. Formerly known as “vanity publishing”, the foisting upon the world of self-produced books has traditionally been the preserve of well-meaning grandmothers recalling their childhood days during the Blitz or anyone with a totally unremarkable baby. You would see these people at car boot sales and charity events hosted by churches, offloading reams of poorly bound waffle in exchange for hubris-boosting smiles. Invariably the material was not good and, thanks to unscrupulous “publishers”, the overheads were reminiscent of the heavens during the last few episodes of Doctor Who season 1 when you couldn’t see a patch of blue in the sky for Dalek spacecraft.
The internet has changed all of that.
In principle, anyone with a computer can now upload the products of their genius to Amazon, iTunes, Smashwords — and more. Had my grandad still been alive (it’s a push, I know — he’d have been a hundred this November) he could finally have told the world the story of the day he knelt on a six-inch nail, and (time warp permitting) got my five year-old self to crayon the cover. Does the world beyond my immediate family wish to read such a tome? I think not.
If it’s true that 2012 is set to become “the year of the indie author” then it’s almost inevitable that come December it will have been “the year everyone got sick of indie authors” unless the free-for-all is channelled in a way which benefits the eventual reader. The glut of potential output opportunities for writers (of whatever talent) doesn’t alter the fact that, as readers, we have limited amounts of input power. Any visit to an EAT AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE pizzeria will confirm this. I’m guessing most of what gets written and uploaded this year will never be read — like an explosion of sperm in the literary uterus. To continue the analogy, although more eggs will undoubtedly end up being fertilised, a considerable amount of garlic bread will be wasted.
My hope is that the explosion of self-published ebooks (let’s dispense with the sperm for the time being — allied to the mucus trailed earlier, it makes me look like some kind of Offensive Gloop Metaphor Fiend) will be accompanied by a network of informed sieve-wielders, ready to dispense reviews and generate Top Ten lists. Likely, some of the sieve-wielders will be Trad Pub gatekeepers but it’s a sufficiently new enterprise for one and all to expect plenty of outside runners hogging the inside lane. This kind of thing is happening already, of course, but not necessarily at a rate sufficient to keep pace with the current outpouring of ematerial. It’s the only way a meaningful self-pubbing phenomenon can phenominalise its potential. Interesting to see if it comes off — with or without literary uterus.