In our digital age, two new facets of reading and publishing are pushing at the forefront of literary change: e-reading and self-publishing. As much as the purist in me rebels at the idea of self-publishing, I have been taking it more seriously recently because two things happened. The first was Margaret Atwood’s very public joining of Wattpad, an online self-publishing community of short fiction. After her many tweets about the subject, I joined the site, read her work, and have begun to branch out into reading other people’s stories. So far it’s a mix of what you would expect when I say “self-publishing:” there are interesting stories floating to the top of a lot of slush, combined with what are probably really awesome stories in genres I just do not find palatable (like fan fiction. Especially fan fiction. Almost exclusively fan fiction.). The second was telling my husband about finding Wattpad through Atwood’s tweets. Just the route I took to find this site is digitized. We are a digital age, and with that comes differing relationships with authors, reading, books, news, everything.
One thing that is continually lambasted by almost everyone interested in books and publishing, except the authors that do it, is self-publishing. The idea that an author decides on a work’s inherent worth, as opposed to a string of publishing people, is an affront to many readers and authors. I am including myself, to a degree. A part of me is holding out against it, largely because of what self-published literature I have read; I can’t actually point to one single work and say “this, this is important, this is a good story.” But I can’t help but think about writers of the first novels, when mass publishing and reading for pleasure was becoming the norm. Writers like George Eliot and Charles Dickens published serially – and here’s the important part – they took in feedback from their readers in between segments, sometimes changing the work based on what their readers were saying. And Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who together founded the Hogarth Press out of their home when her works were considered not worthy of publication. Self-publishing is on par with these major historical literary acts because it is completely innovative and unpredictable.
To that end, and really to see what the new wave self-publishing entails, I put up a short story of mine titled “A Blue Vase” on Wattpad this morning. This is a very unscientific experiment, in that I have no control, no hypothesis, no expectations. I just want to get a glimpse of what it means to self-publish. I’m posting the link here, on my Facebook, and also on my twitter, but that is the extent of promotion. I’ll write about this at least one more time, but I hope some interesting results happen. If you like the story, consider posting one of your own, and if you do, please tell me what you think about the process.