It’s been a long journey, but I finally got ‘there’.
I suppose I could have done it a while back, along any of several paths, beginning in the late 1990’s. But I’m the sort of person who does things his own way–call it being obstinate, or unwilling to rely on other people to make my personal dreams come true, or just an inability to engage in a process that up until recently was either extremely expensive to one of my limited means or too demanding of my patience with a process that has been (IMHO) needlessly complex.
In this case the technology to make my personal dream became available long before the ‘human’ mediated systems caught up to the technology’s innate possibilities. ‘Desktop publishing’ has been around in one fashion or another for over a generation; think of the first word processor software and computer-driven printers. It remained crude for much of that time, but bit by bit (pun intended) the technology improved to the point that there was no engineering-related reason for me not to have achieved my dream around the time I wrote my first novel-length work. What was lacking was the innate inadaptability of the human-based systems that ruled publishing for over four centuries.
Days gone by, an author (or his ‘agent’) sent a manuscript to a publisher. After a variable number of re-writes and editing iterations, the editor–an employee of the publisher–gave the go-ahead. Typesetters would do their jobs and press operators would run their huge machines and books would get shipped to distributors, marketing agencies would launch a promotion campaign, bookstores would sign up and the author’s book would hit the shelves. Dozens of people would be involved in every step of the operation, as industrial a process as making a rifle, a boot, a baseball bat or a can of tuna.
That paradigm doesn’t apply so much anymore. Processes are heavily automated now, whether they produce a rifle, a boot, a baseball bat or a can of tuna. Machines need a lot less human labor to operate anymore, and a lot of the steps that once required human attention no longer do. Paper, ink, printing, cutting, assembly and binding are a lot easier in the 21st century. The biggest difference, though, is in the jobs of the people who control content and the appearance of the final product. A lot of the folks once involved in the industrial operations like printing and binding are no longer involved, certainly, in our heavily automated world. The people I’m concerned with, though, are now almost totally absent from the process; the editor, the literary agent, the proofreader, the typesetter.
I performed the last four roles almost exclusively, albeit with help from a ton of software. I AM the middleman in that process. I paid no literary agent a percentage of my profits to get the work in front of an editor; no one from the publisher edited my work; no one proofread my copy, and software (plus a lot of fiddling work from me) set the type. I could have literally published a string of a random million characters that fit the overall guidelines of the typesetting software. No one would buy it, but that would be on me . . .since no single book is published unless someone purchases it from the Print-On-Demand publishing company. Only when a customer clicks ‘Buy Now’ on the publisher’s website is a book printed, bound, and delivered. Only that act sets in motion the wheels of 21st century publishing, pays the people who get paid to print the book, and eventually pays me a royalty based on the price I set for the book itself (which automatically includes the production costs).
Which all culminates in the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since I first set pencil to paper as a small child . . .to have a printed, bound version of something that I wrote available for others to enjoy. Go see for yourself. You can even look at it online, read a few chapters of it . . .and if you’re so inclined, click ‘Buy Now’ and have it in your hands to read and enjoy. It’s called ‘Man From The East’, and it’s now a paperback on Amazon.
Keep striving, folks.