Saturday, July 16, 2011

Against the common denominator of the number of hours per week you have available to read, you have subscriptions to four publications specifically related to the appearance of new books.  Used to be five, but the Washington Post decided for reasons beyond your ken not to continue mailing printed copies of its weekly supplement, Book World, to subscribers who do not take the entire newspaper.

You subscribe to at least eight so-called little magazines, which publish short fiction, poetry, and essays in addition to reviews of forthcoming books, thus your sensory apparatus, which is literally subjected to billions of impressions each day, are additionally impressed by advertisements and reviews of books.  Thus bombarded, you visit at least one bookstore a week, wherein you are attracted to yet other impressions or visions of books of potential interest to you.

This assault is not a new phenomenon; it is a siege that has been bombarding you for much of your life, during the course of which you have bought books published by major publishing houses, scholarly and niche publishers, university presses, and small mainstream publishers.  These purchases have been made in response to your curiosity about a subject where you were interested in expanding your awareness, in hopes of being entertained, and in a kind of combination of these seemingly different goals.

In addition, and either as a paid employee or contracted consultant to various publishing entities, you have designed hardcover and paperbound books of various genera, in some cases supervising them through the various stations of production from raw manuscript from the author to printed book.

This background has provided you with a certain sensory radar you had no thought to obtain.  This radar is an uneasy analog of racial profiling.  You can pretty much distinguish a self-published book from a kind of published you do not have a readily defined, one- or two-word name for, thus enhancing the sense of unease.

There is something about the self-published book that calls out to you, perhaps in aggregate qualities, perhaps from only one or two, such as the cover design or the type faces used.

One of the book reviews to which you subscribe frequently has full-page ads from companies that produce self-published books.

Sometimes the mere title of a book suggests its origins.

The only thing you have against self-published books in a general sense is the larger potential they radiate of the potential to be boring, perhaps even tempests in a teapot.  You have even been paid to edit books you knew were about to be published as a self-publishing venture.

The judgmental landscape between the traditional and self-published book is gray, so far as you are concerned.  You have gone so far on some occasions as to suggest self-publication to a writer, the ultimate goal being to sell enough copies to entice a traditional publisher to want to take the work up.

Nor is it a matter of you believing traditional publishers are unfaltering in their competence against self-publishers being incompetent; any number of titles you are aware of, having been published by traditional publishers, have been botched in the crisis management that often appears to go with traditional publishing.

In some ways, your attitude toward the self-published book reminds you of the associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, who, when speaking of pornography, said he could not describe it although he did recognize it when he saw it.

Whimsical cover design.  Strange type faces.  Strange margins.  Woeful lack of copyediting.  (In fact, you were just sent a portable document format [PDF] of a self-published book, no doubt in hopes you would review it.  There were six copyediting mistakes on the first page--possibly even more--at which point you stopped counting--and reading.)

You are for the little guy.  You are, in fact, a little guy.

You have, in fact, chosen for your latest book a start-up publisher with a business plan you believe has as a part of its genome the future of book publishing.  You chose this publisher over a traditional publisher that much impresses you.

There is a good deal riding on your choice, internally as well as in the external sense.

Thus it invariably returns to risk, doesn't it?  There is a risk with every sentence, every word.

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