Since self-publishing went digital, people (writers who self-publish mostly) have been coming up with ways of referring to themselves that don’t have the old derogatory connotations of traditional vanity publishing attached to them. No one wants to be tainted with that label. The publishing industry has always looked down its collective nose at such enterprise. Vanity publishing is conventionally associated with people who believed they could write, were not able to get traditionally published and who then paid to have a print run of their books produced. These they would often try to shift themselves only to end up with large numbers of books in their garages awaiting processing for mouse-nest bedding. Even in the digital age it still goes on.
On my email signature I refer to myself as an ‘author-publisher’. I think I got that from Joe Konrath, a phenomenal success in the self-publishing business and something of a self-appointed champion/mouthpiece for self-publishing, like him or loathe him. I thought if it’s good enough for Uncle Jo, it’s good enough for me. It is, I think, tinged with a little more respectability than a term with the word vanity in it. Vanity smacks of attention seeking. But are we self-publishers in the digital age conceptually any different to the vanity publishers of old and new, regardless of how we label ourselves? Are we not all seeking attention for our work and therefore for ourselves?
It occurred to me a little while ago that I wished I hadn’t self-published under my own name. The more I have come to think about it the more I see that as the single defining standard regarding whether one is a vanity publisher, as putting the vanity into vanity publishing – is the author self-publishing under his/her own name? I’m referring to those of us who are going it alone from nowhere in the hope that we might receive some positive reader attention, maybe even be ‘discovered’. Of course, we want attention for our writing. None of us is writing to be ignored. But I can’t help equating self-publishing under one’s own name with walking around sporting face piercings and exposed arms covered in tattoos – things that shout look at me!
Hindsight is often a wonderful thing. I wish I could start again. I would write under a pseudonym because writing under my own name makes me feel like an attention seeker in a bad way. And the older I get the more I dislike attention seekers and attention seeking. I don’t know what pen name I would have used and there is no point wasting time on that aspect of this attention seeking lament now.
Being honest, part of why I decided to write under my own name was that when I was in my first flush of self-publishing youth I hoped that enough readers would like my books enough and then I might make something of a name for myself. I was seeking attention for my name. It’s vanity. It’s ego. It’s narcissism. It’s self-importance. I feel like doing a penance. Has that hair shirt been through the wash, I wonder.
Last weekend I received Smoke & Mirrors (Acer Sansom #3) back from the gentleman who proofreads my books. That gave me a decision to make: devote my time to looking at his comments, corrections and suggestions with a view to getting the book on to Amazon post-haste, or finish my own final read throughs of He Made Me (B&C #2) so that I can get it off to him. I flipped a coin and option B won. So, this week I have made the best that I think I can out of He Made Me and sent it off. Now I can turn my full attention to Smoke & Mirrors. I’m looking forward to it. All being well it’ll be out shortly.
I’ve been working on the Amazon blurb and it’s looking like this:
Reeling and vulnerable from news regarding the sudden death of a woman who he thought he might have had another chance at life with, Acer Sansom has agreed to do a one off job for Crouch of British Intelligence. He’s not doing it for money. He’s not doing it for his country. He’s doing it for the children.
Acer has gone undercover in Iran in search of evidence that British scientists believed dead are, in fact, alive and being forced to work in one of the regime’s nuclear facilities.
A straightforward reconnaissance assignment becomes something far more involved, more complicated and more dangerous. In light of new knowledge and reason, Acer finds himself with no alternative but to risk his life and the lives of others with a change of plan.