Saturday, October 1, 2011

The publishing house I am associated with is called Bridge Works Publishing Co. It is now 20 years old. The first year of our existence Bridge Works published a collection of my short stories, called GOODBYE, FRIENDS. It seemed to me that after many years of writing freelance for magazines and newspapers and selling three stories to small literary magazines and a newspaper, I had paid my dues and should be able to produce an acceptable work of publishable fiction. Principals of small independents do this regularly, publish with their own houses, and for many reasons--too many rejections from the wider publishing world, a burning desire to get their works out to the public, to augment their lists. A cynic would call this no more than vanity publishing. For that reason, I was reluctant to publicize GOODBYE, FRIENDS too much, because I had (and still have) a residual hesitation about the legitimacy of publishing myself. Thus, I must admit unhappily, GOODBYE, FRIENDS had very little publicity and an even shorter shelf life. Many of my friends never heard of my book.
With this phony (to me) short cut to publication always weighing on me, I turned my hand to editing and over 20 years have become proficient in book doctoring. Today, publishers and agents without editors they can rely on turn to me for freelance work.
In the meantime, self-publishing via the Internet has gone legit. Amazon sells self-published material and, as far as I can tell, the interest in it is as great as the material coming from Random House. And while I can attest that the quality of most self publishers would not cause Ernest Hemingway or Martin Amis to lose any sleep, amid the welter of opinion and imagination are some adult works that are not totally embarrassing.
No, more problematic than the legitimacy of self-publishing today is that the young don't read long-form content, preferring to get their opinions and kicks on Twitter, while adults clamor for young people's works (see Harry Potter and Anne Rice's vampires), rather than challenge their intellects or imagination. The truth is, today we don't know a good book from a bad book and what's worse, nobody cares.
Even with this state of affairs, I have decided to challenge myself to write another work of fiction. For 20 years, I didn't have the courage to risk more rejection, more advice to give up. Maybe I will even have to publish the work myself just as I did 20 years ago. You might call me a slow starter and and an even slower learner!
B. Phillips