… at least I hope I’m not. The thing is, I champion the e-book and the e-book reader, yet still yearn for a print deal. If you’re interested in why, and would like to make your own decision as to whether or not I *am* a hypocrite (which I might be, I accept that) then please read on.
I sweat over writing my books, every bit as much as a ‘traditionally published’ author. I spend days, weeks and months researching so every detail is as close to perfect as I can get it, so the voice of my MC sounds authentic, and so fewer people will be able to sneer at me and use the fact that my book is digital as a reason to slam it. And when the research is pushed aside a bit, I write the best story I can, in the best style I can, with the most natural but, hopefully, entertaining characters I can. I polish. I grit my teeth, I prop my eyelids open and work at it every chance I get, fitting a fledgling writing career around a full-time job, and being the sole caretaker of my home. I hone each sentence. I read, re-read and delete, re-phrase, re-think and re-arrange.
I would like to know then, why so many people still assume my work is less of a real book than one printed on a dead tree, but I have accepted it, and will continue to face that expression that cuts deeper than a poor review: that initially interested look that fades into rolled eyes, and ‘Ohhhh …’ as soon as you say your book is digital. Some of my closest friends, and even someone in my family, have said (not intentionally hurtful, I’m sure) that they want me to write a “real book.” Or that perhaps one day I would be “properly published.” (ouch!) But when I’ve read some of the warm, genuinely complimentary reviews and comments about my work, not one single one is qualified with: ‘for an e-book.’
So if I champion the e-book so strongly, why do I want a print deal? It’s very simple. I cannot, cannot be taken seriously by the “Literati” in my own home town, unless I can wave something made of paper in front of them. Oh, I’ve shown them the paperback copies of The Lynher Mill Chronicles, but no. ‘That’s self-published,’ and therefore, by definition, must be sub-standard. Yes, even though I’ve proved I take my craft seriously, by finding an agent and getting book deals, and the reviews are gratifyingly positive. Self-published = rubbish.
So here’s the problem: my e-book sales through my two publishers are both doing reasonably well, but they’re digital. My self-published series is paperback (hooray!) but I haven’t sold enough copies (damn.) This means my local paper isn’t interested, I can’t even get interviewed by the Plymouth online website who promised to feature my new book last June, despite several polite e-mails asking when I might expect to be approached. I’ve now given up with that. Even Literature Works, based in the same building I work in, and part of the University, have no interest in adding me to their database. Another writer who works in the same place as me, and who has a print deal, will not acknowledge me as a writer … and barely as a colleague, come to think of it. It’s embarrassing, to say the least.
So, when I spoke to my agent the other day I told her I wanted to try for a print deal. I told her I didn’t care if, afterwards, I went back to digital-only, (or digital-first, as they insist on calling it!) but that I would never be called upon to give workshops, talks, or even take part in the Plymouth Book fair run by my employer, unless I had a physical copy of something, published by a proper publisher. I can’t get a book signing, or gain the slightest flicker of recognition for my work. And this is my own place of employment. Again, embarrassing.
There’s always the hope that my publisher/s might make one or more of the books I have with them available in print via POD, but until then I want that print deal. I’m holding out for it. Small-press, limited run, I don’t care. I believe e-books have a role to play in the future of literature, but too many people refuse to accept them as legitimate pieces of work. And while Plymouth, in particular, remains so ridiculously snobbish about the whole thing, it’s going to be a case of: if you can’t beat ’em, swallow your pride and play their game.
If they’ll let you.