Four months after sending my memoir manuscript to a small press (at their request), I mustered the gumption to write them and ask for a rough sense of when they might make a decision. Four days have passed; I haven’t heard back. This lack of response does not give me any definite information about the press, or the status of my manuscript; how I feel, in relation to it, does give me information about how I might like to proceed.
How do I feel? Like a dog scratching at a window, whining to be let in.
I notice a string of accusing questions: What’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you landed a book deal? What do you lack?
I try to answer: I’m not good at networking or self-promotion. I haven’t worked hard enough at composing shorter pieces and submitting them to periodicals. I don’t tweet. I’m barely on Facebook. I haven’t built a big enough platform.
Then, I question the questions: Where do they come from? Whom do they serve?
Charles Eisenstein, who self-published The Ascent of Humanity, going bankrupt in the process, interprets his failure to attract the partnership of a publisher as a test: Was he really serious about delivering his story to the hearts and minds of other humans? Or was he simply attached to the money and glory he imagined publication would bring him? If he’d been after money and glory, he would have given up.
In the past nine months, many of my motives for delivering my book to the public have fallen away. What remains? Gratitude for the gift of books I’ve been shaped by; desire to contribute my own book to the stream, to honor that gift.
I’m realizing that the words I’d use to describe my book to a field of potential reader-supporters would differ dramatically from those I’ve used to describe it to publishers and agents. Why? Because, in the past, I’ve been trying to make my book sound sexy, garb it in dollar signs. But, were I to describe my book directly to readers, I could speak with greater honesty and intimacy – I could speak as I would to a friend. One inclined to want what I offer, as opposed to one seeking reasons to say no. I think now of Zendik – of seeking belonging from this entity that needed a certain amount of human-power for survival, but had no particular attachment to my unique being. Is violence – dispensing of persons – inherent in any process of application? Any situation in which humans drop themselves, their work, into some kind of pool?
Were I to interdependently publish (thank you, Rivera Sun, for this term), I would need to make the final decisions regarding date of completion, finished form, and the like. I would need to choose whether to hire a copy editor, whether to request writer friends to give it a last close read. I would need to decide on a cover. I would be the final word. How could I be sure, in this situation, that the book produced would be good? Fully realized? The highest version of its most beautiful self?
The truth is, I’ve read corporately published books that were not fully realized – books rushed, it seemed, through the process and off the presses. Corporate publishing, small press publishing – neither guarantees a fully realized text.
I want my book to be fully realized. I want to deliver it to readers. I want to pay forward the priceless gift of books I’ve been receiving all my life.