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Steve Almond on Self Publishing

Writer Steve Almond is self-proclaimed as “crazily” self-publishing one of his books. In April, he spent the day on the Chester College of New England campus and interviewed with Compass Rose staffer Laura Evans, who delved into this experience of self-publishing. The following is an excerpt from the full interview.

LE: You’ve recently begun self-publishing, right?

SA: It’s been pretty basic. There were a couple of projects, some things I wanted to put into the world, and it didn’t seem appropriate for some corporation or publishing house to invest money in me because I didn’t think the books were going to be profitable in that way. They’re too personal and kind of strange. These days you can put out books yourself fairly cheaply, and the best thing about it is that they cost less. And rather than have the book be a commodity that a corporation puts out and sells to a bookstore and maybe someone comes along and picks it up if you’re lucky, I can read from these books to an audience. Then, if they like it, they can buy it from me, the artist. It’s a nice feeling to be able to have it in person, like an artifact of some kind rather than a commodity that someone expects to make money on. And there’s a beautiful simplicity to it. Technology’s done all these bad things and so forth, but it also has created the opportunity for artists young and old to democratize the means of production. I’m just taking advantage of that.

I mean, I have this new book coming out, the Rock and Roll book, that Random House is publishing, and I’m delighted. That’s a whole other thing. I hope it sells a zillion copies. But I don’t have to worry about that with these little books. I just get to have the pleasure of reading them to people and having them connect in a more personal, organic way.

LE: So when would you advise self-publishing?

SA: Well, you need to do an apprenticeship. It’s great to just publish because the means are there, but your work has to be worth putting into the world. You have to spend some time, usually alone, sometimes depressed, working, and writing and writing and writing, and making bad decisions, then eventually some pretty good decisions, and then hopefully at some point some really good decisions. True decisions. I don’t know how long that takes for anybody else (for me it took twenty years), but I don’t think it’s reasonable, and would probably be very frustrating to just self-publish and expect that you’ll have a readership. You know, I’m happy to have put a few hundred of these little books into the world, but I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into becoming a better writer, earning the privilege of being able to read to people. Most writers right out of the gate don’t have that.

Read the full interview here.

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