All Is Not Vanity: The rise of literary self-publishing.
This article makes some interesting observations on various Post-Gutenberg publishing issues… despite still being too tied to the old model in some ways, with many assumptions based on it.
I would argue that the Post-Gutenberg Revolution places the responsibility, if not duty or test, of discernment and taste, upon the reader… As the author of the article rightly points out, all the leading, traditional, review publications are corrupted by the advertising dollars of the mega-publishers, just as much as an author who would pay someone to review their book on Amazon or elsewhere, which was recently in the news.
It seems to me the Internet and social networking provide the potential reader with the opportunity of knowledge of a writer’s work, and therefore the possibility of exploring it further. As has been observed, a great book judges its reader as much as the reverse–all the more true in the current Post-Gutenberg world, tired of the “taste” of the corporate gatekeepers, but still too often in limbo waiting for the new world to be born, not actively enough bringing it into being. For a long time I’ve thought of this as the reader not realizing how much power they actually have.
Self-publishing is at a stage analogous to the early days of Wikipedia, when users were
reluctant to trust information contained in a communally written encyclopedia…. Whether
the increasingly virtual world of selfpublishing will eventually learn to regulate itself is an
It’s not a matter of regulation, which would mistakenly re-install an hegemony, but a further extension and development of democratic space and openness, wherein perceptive voices can identify, nurture, and cultivate taste, persuading through merit and argument. What is the literary tradition in all national literatures if not that? Convention and revolt with newly digitized tools…
Book IV of The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem is now available:
BOOK IV, THE ARGUMENT
“Beyond in medias res, Tagore guides the Persona to India, to the ashram of the sage and epic poet Vyasa in the Himalayan foothills; to the field of Kurukshetra; and, in sight of Mt Kailash, Shiva Nataraja. Kabir. The epic struggles of the Ramayana. Hanuman carries the Persona to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.”
The summer serialization has essentially become the eighth draft. I know Milton published a revised second edition several years after the first, as many writers do and have. For me, the words keep coming, though on a noticeably more focused level of precision of word choice and detail, mostly small touches, some more lines here and there, a sharper characterization, nuance. The flood of ideas for incidents and scenes, foreshadowing and expansion, development, has seemed to wane, or, rather, I’ve moved beyond it, having that down on paper. I believe it’s done, though, and this serialization fits what Dickens and other writers used the method for, to give readers who are interested the opportunity to be the first to read a book and to participate to some extent in its final evolution and development, contribute to it, a sense of the author’s own involvement in and excitement at a new creation.
Perhaps I’ve found a way to revive serialization in the Post-Gutenberg Age. I don’t know of anyone else who has tried this. It simply occurred to me suddenly in late May. I remember thinking about The New York Times making first chapters available during the last decade or so, and Amazon’s Kindle Singles program, which is largely popular schlock and talking-head non-fiction. Charles Dickens and all the grand old magazines of the 19th Century came to mind with a flash of insight. I’m quite encouraged by the results and reaction and intend to carry through on my pledge to my readers to serialize the entire epic poem. There’s a Web 2.0 quality about the way the serialization is unfolding.
Book Cover, The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem.
Arguably, fiction evolved out of epic poetry. As a story, a tale, I’m bringing it back!
For years I’ve dreamed about the book cover for The Parliament of Poets, a concrete metaphor of the epic itself, and have finally put it together, with the Hubble Telescope Ultra Deep Field image of space, in the constellation Fornax, from 2003 to 2004, looking back at the light of the universe more than 13 billion years ago, and the photograph from Apollo 11 of Earthrise.
I first began to think in this direction when I saw the Hubble Deep Field images, taken in 1995 and 1998. I knew I was looking at images unlike anything ever achieved by the human being. They came together in my mind, resonating with my long interest in astronomy and the themes of my thought and poetry, science and scientism, imagination and reason, man and woman, all the antinomies.
I’ve finished now the seventh draft through Book IX and should be able to finish the entire seventh draft in about a week to ten days. I continue to think that I’m closer to being done with the entire book than I had realized, the writing of the first five drafts of the epic by hand having put me considerably ahead of the curve. This seventh draft has turned out to be a reading of the printed sixth draft, with particular attention to the readability of the text, to word and eye. I intend still to do one more draft going over my “Epic Notes” folder on my hard drive, but it’s more out of a sense of diligence, now, than of any intention to make major changes or revisions. What I had wanted to include from there in the poem was incorporated long ago. I’m starting to feel that I’m nearly done with the poem and must be careful not to overwork it.
I’d very much like to serialize the individual “Books,” highly episodic chapters, somewhere, as in a magazine or journal, in the old days, when more publications were willing to do so, reminiscent, in my mind, of Charles Dickens and other Nineteenth Century writers, and then the full book in the early fall. The small literary magazines, quarterlies, and academic journals rarely publish anything beyond short lyric poems and single short stories. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harper’s have mostly become symptoms of our cultural problems, like Time and Newsweek. None of them would publish something like an entire epic poem! …even in installments of chapters. One Book would probably fill much of a thin issue of a literary magazine like Poetry.
A summer serialization, twelve weeks, as it were, into the fall. A dream in itself… but how, and what would be its fulfillment in the Post-Gutenberg Age? What would it look like? Where?
As someone involved for so long in independent publishing and Post-Gutenberg developments, I resist the idea of publishing The Parliament of Poets in a conventional manner, for reasons I explain elsewhere. There must be a way to publish it so as to affirm the expanding freedom of the individual as a result of the decentralization of the Digital Revolution. And given the Web 2.0 world of social networking, it would be interesting to receive and learn from reader feed-back prior to book publication. I know my poem has already benefited from discussion with friends on Facebook and Google Plus, and it’s an exciting thought to wonder what else might be the result of serialization.
And yet after thirty years of study and reflection, four of incessant writing, I’m not about to give the book away, lose control of my own book, so I won’t be posting it here on my blog or anywhere else online.
I suppose I could publish each chapter separately on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google ebookstore, and their affiliates, as well as Earthrise Press, though I don’t believe that alone would achieve what serialization in the Nineteenth Century accomplished for writers, publishers, and readers.
In Post-Gutenberg terms, a serialization that reflects our new world would have to go around the old intermediaries. Again, it must affirm the freedom of the individual now made possible globally, while protecting the individual right to intellectual property. It would, too, I believe, contribute to the exponential change that is sweeping the globe, by helping to demonstrate what is now possible, brought further to fruition, which has not yet really been made evident by a piece of literature of the highest order, but rather only the popular genres, such as detective, romance, and vampire fiction.
The clearest wake-up call to the old order will be when a serious literary work goes global and viral, without them. I believe I’m the poet, with the epic poem, that has that potential. Where is the Post-Gutenberg venue that has the vision and ability to make it happen? That is ready, and has evolved, to the point that it can? I have the history and background congruent with what’s required, and the poem. Do they have, not only the technical ability, but the humanistic, visionary prerequisites to recognize and promote it?
“‘E-books make the Gutenberg system, which still characterizes the industry after 500 years, absolutely obsolete,’ insists Jacob Epstein, the veteran publisher who invented trade paperbacks and founded the New York Review of Books.” “E-publishing radically decentralizes the marketplace,” Jacob Epstein.
The decentralizing of post-Gutenberg publishing is something that I can speak about with intimate knowledge and ties in with my book of poems Into the Ruins and other books. In the mid nineties I became disgusted with the conventional avenues of cultural and literary publishing, both books, journals, and magazines. I had more than a decade of rejection slips from ignoramuses who demonstrated not the slightest understanding or familiarity with the manuscripts I sent them, along with a number from highly respected editors at major publishers, one, for instance, telling me he thought my book The Grove of the Eumenides should receive a hearing but did nothing to make it happen. I came to think very little of nepotism, especially in publishing. Other editors, publishing their post-modern drivel, enjoyed indulging themselves at my expense, they apparently thought. I quite consciously walked away from the whole conventional publishing scene, and the university in 1996, and began seeking ways to go around the stranglehold of both, directly to the reader.
I first thought the way to go around the decadent post-modern establishment and open a new path for literature, seeking to revive and renew its deepest humanistic traditions, was the time-honored route of typical self-publishing and brought out Into the Ruins through the printer McNaughton Gunn in 1999 under my own independent publishing company, Earthrise Press. While I sold some books through Borders and Barnes & Noble, through Baker & Taylor, I found them all to be opposed to an independent voice. A selection from the approximately twenty Reviews from that time are on my website. Despite a few insightful reviews, no one really understood what I was fully attempting with Into the Ruins. Thus far, the same has proven to be the case with The Bower of Nil in 2002 and The Grove of the Eumenides in 2007.
Along the way, I evolved into using POD (Print on Demand) technology through Lightning Source and thought the way around the stultifying post-modern status quo would lie in that direction, which nevertheless opened up the way to the global reach of the Internet booksellers to an amazing degree, shocking me that I could sell books around the world. Very early I recognized the value of Jason Epstein’s Espresso Book Machine, though it’s yet to fulfill its potential.
Along in there, too, ebooks increasingly became a possibility, and I published all of my books into ebooks, available worldwide and going around all of the conventional gatekeepers. The record of much of the evolution of my thinking is in my Publishing in the Post-Gutenberg Age https://www.fglaysher.com/Post_Gutenberg_Publishing.html
Like everyone else, I’ve evolved along the way with a website since 1998 and a blog, eventually Web 2.0 social networking… Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Through all that, I continued to study and work towards my epic poem, the earliest notes for which are from 1982, recently finishing the fifth draft in March of 2012. It’s not only the methods of publishing that I’m talking about, but how the identification and promotion of disparate views and visions of life, in literary terms and otherwise, evolve and reach the broader culture. I have not devoted over thirty years of my life writing an epic poem to allow a corrupt, conventional corporate publisher ever to touch it. Everything I’ve written is about the freedom of the individual soul, and the poem must be published in such a way as to affirm it.
ANN ARBOR—On September 22, 29, and October 6, the theatre company, Apollo’s Troupe, will stage the theater adaptation of the poem, The Parliament of Poets, written by Michigan poet Frederick Glaysher and published in 2012 by Earthrise Press. Continue reading →