Self Publishing and the Question of Literary Quality and Audience

An old student of mine from last term was in the office and we were discussing the possibility of a student writing club and publication and he asked me an interesting question. He asked: What does every writer want for their work? He answered before I could–publication.

I think of this idea more and more as a failed writer. Well, because what makes a writer failed? Is it lack of time to write or lack of inspiration in terms of story? I have plenty of stories to tell and lately I have been writing–free writing but writing none-the-less and that doesn’t seem to be the problem. My Cornbread Project is up to 135 pages and I do see a sort of way out of that narrative–I won’t say ending but I will say way out. That is sort of the way I look at it.  So I don’t think that is what makes me a failed writer.

Well, then, is it the ability to self-revise or to look at the work objectively. Well, I have just spent the last hour revising the Highland Stories and I have those mailed out all over–and I think  that is a solid book. Or at least solid in the sense that that is the level of work I am capable of. I mean I looked at it pretty objectively and roughly and I am fairly certain I have ripped as much out as I possibly can in terms of flat or stilted narrative. I can honestly say–this is as good as I got.  And D reminded me just how much work I have put in to the Huerfanos Project and until I reread that I’m nout sure if this is true but I feel that is as strong as I got. So perhaps that is not what makes me failed–I still have a lot of editing to do to the Cornbread Project though.

So I guess it has to be the sense that I am not getting my work out there as much as I possibly can. And I have seen so many people in the local news celebrating publication and yet when I click a few clicks on the computer I get to the screen or website that tells me they self-published. Tracy Daugherty and his editor had pretty strong thoughts on that and peronally I am not certain what to make of it. I want to be accpeted by a small press and given some sort of validation from an editor. Some sort of reading apart from me and D. Some sort of readership though as I write and think of it I don’t  consider the reader too much. And the Rimbaud letters and movies I watch remind me of the strong feeling he ha about publiction–it still sounds good even if it is from the mouth of Leonardo DiCaprio. Rimbaud says–Nothing matters but the work; everything else is just literature.

So when I see a writer self publishing and going on about readings and book signings–I am left with this question of literary quality and audience. Follow the link to see what I mean–he is a genre writer but the idea still stands.

I think what also might make me a failed writer is that I cannot imagine who would want to read about Manito or about Lolo–other than me and my uncle. Maybe my sister. The Grandfather doesn’t know how to read or at least that is his joke. They could understand a film I guess and I do have dreams of taking my camera and quitting my job and making a film to edit on my computer–and when I say dream I mean a literal dream where I do it in Colorado and have no worries of bills or anything–but I digress.

So, is self publishing realy publishing. Tracy Daugherty’s editor told a group of stuents if the book isn’t reviewed and if there aren’t smaller publications that add up for the collection–well it might be better to write a novel which is why I wanted to write a novel instead of another collection of short stories. And now the Cornbread project has turned into another novel–a longer, more in-depth story than shorter sprints.

And I do know the history of beginning new presses and D’s son is a musician and created his own label to put out his music which is so crafted and beautiful music. But in the music or musician world I guess it is just more accepted that you put out your own cd than to put out your own book.  That is just how you get people to hear–again this question of audience. I wonder who D’s son imagines will purchase his music–or does he think a bigger label will pick it up? Or is it all for the experience and validation of getting your stuff out there? And there are tools to get your music onto ITunes and the like and I am sure that is what he is following.

I’m sure this question of publishing and literary quality will go on as I write and work–and I read an article in the State Journal Register here in Springfield that takes on a harsh position against self-publishing and if I can find it I will comment more on this soon.

PS–Sent out the Highland Stories to Black Lawrence Press.

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

One thought on “Self Publishing and the Question of Literary Quality and Audience”

  1. You ask good questions, of course we’ve talked about this before, but I think the answer lies in so many things, some of which you address: audience, purpose, ethics, pride, popularity/marketability, and insider/outsider status. You keep writing, I’ll keep reading and commenting, you keep sending out, and it will happen! This is your year.

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