James Altucher is one of many authors who have gone from traditional publishing to self-publishing, and he encourages others to do the same. I see exactly where he’s coming from. I’ve now had seven books published under my own name, and have been an editor or contributor for about the same number. And with every one there was something about the final product that left me dissatisfied – although, unlike Altucher, I wouldn’t place all the blame for that on the publishers.
What I’m not so sure about is his notion that self-publishing is a no-brainer for experienced bloggers because they’re sitting on a vast treasure trove of material that just needs a bit of tweaking to render it into book form. I know that some people have pulled it off; blooks were all over the place a few years, what with One-Track Belle In The North About Whom White People Are Indifferent and all that. But I did get the feeling that the blogs from which these tomes derived were, for the most part, created with an eye to a publishing deal of some sort.
I didn’t begin Cultural Snow with that thought in mind. I hoped that it might draw a wider audience to my writing, and maybe get me some work as a result, and it did to an extent. But the closest I got to writing a potential book here came with the two posts about the uke-strumming existentialist Stanley Pidd, and his exploits have fallen foul of my usual problem when it comes to writing fiction, the inability to come up with a convincing middle. (The end is bloody brilliant, thanks for asking, and I may well post it here one day.) Most of the posts are written as, well, posts. You know, for a blog. Which means that many of them include explanatory links, and quite a few have video clips or the like; the sort of thing that doesn’t usually work that well on paper.
To be fair, Altucher is right that this blog contains plenty of stuff already. And all that stuff could be updated and expanded, and maybe bulked out even further with various doodlings from other sites. And hey, I could always turn some of the links into footnotes, which I bloody love. In fact, footnotes have been to some degree a sticking point between the publisher and myself in my last three books, but if I did the whole thing myself I’d be the publisher as well, so the arguments wouldn’t happen. Actually, they probably wouldn’t, but at least I’d win the argument this time. Actually, I’d probably lose.
The fact remains that I haven’t been writing a book for the past six years. I’ve been writing a blog. It’s on Blogger, which may give you a clue. And why would people suddenly want to pay money for something they could have freely accessed on line, since 2005? Altucher argues that they’ll be paying for the curation as much as for the content – but doesn’t this mean that they’d also pay to read this stuff online provided I just ditched a couple of the jokes that didn’t really work, changed the font, dealt with the overuse of the word “actually” in the previous paragraph and tweaked the order a bit?
Ultimately I’m a tad ambivalent about the whole idea. Would you buy and/or read a book made up, for the most part, of posts from Cultural Snow? Bearing in mind that I probably wouldn’t much want to read it. Even though, according to Altucher, I’ve already written it. Let me know in the space below. See, that’s something else you can’t do with books.