Self-Publishing: Realm of the Authentic Voice?

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Neal Pollack’s recent New York Times essay “The Case for Self-Publishing” got me thinking. While he currently has a contract with an established publisher to write something “mainstream in concept and execution, with a clear marketing hook,” he is also investigating self-publishing options for another project in the works. Why? Because, according to Pollack, that product “may not be the easiest proposition for mainstream publishers.”

Sure, big corporate publishers still take occasional chances on writers both brilliant and unique. But when most books don’t even earn enough to cover the advance and marketing budget, it’s no wonder publishers crank out a steady stream of “safe” releases (formulaic books tailor-made for a predetermined audience.) The risk-takers of the written word are already beginning to make new homes for themselves away from traditional publishing houses.

This made me wonder if the world of self-publishing will become (or already has) the best environment for risky, quirky, bold, and brilliant writing. If someone else’s job (besides your own) isn’t on the line if your novel goes bust, if a stock-holder or investor isn’t putting the pressure on, if the suits aren’t breathing down your neck about deadlines, if the execs aren’t pestering you to turn your 600-page bildungsroman about deaf music-enthusiasts into the next Da Vinci Code, then won’t you be free (or at least free-er) to shape your work with more passion, conviction, intuition, and drive than the person writing on-assignment?

We don’t need any more semi-literate opportunists winning big while copying last year’s model. I want to hear an authentic voice, one that speaks from an inner compulsion. As Pollack’s article points out, self-publishing makes this more and more possible each day.

-Chris R. at BookBaby

Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

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