Material Remains

By Richard W H Bray

A small world fractured in the wake of an untimely death

Thursday, 1 October 2015

eclipses and a pyrrhic battle royale

Things that do not involve writing, or funding, books have encroached on any quality shed time of late. In an effort to keep my vocabulary from atrophying completely, I wrote a little personal blog about the lunar eclipse this week. Please have a read. I don't do comments, but if you like it, or anything I write, it's best to shout at me on Twitter. You should check that blog out in general, especially the archives. It turns out I've written a lot. Some of it is even readable. 

I also wrote a bit on Facebook a few weeks ago. I'm not really a Facebook fan, but I have a few friends far away and it's important to keep in touch. I also plug the book a lot there, which probably annoys people. It annoyed one person in particular, who shall remain nameless. They, explaining that they were not meaning to be rude, demanded to know why I was crowd-funding my book, rather than just *publish* it. I counted to ten. And then, instead of furiously pounding out an all-caps response directly into Facebook, I opened a blank document and wrote the following. I thought I'd share it for you because I'm pleased with my response (edited to omit names). 

It only sounds rude because of how you phrased it, but I’m still happy to answer. 
First off, I had a good experience with crowd-funding a book before. Salt & Old Vines won an award and is required reading for the UK’s only BSc and MSc Oenology and Viticulture courses. It made several top 10 lists at the end of 2014 and it was published without me in debt to the publisher for an advance. 
Secondly, my publisher is brilliant. Unbound are run by fucking smart, fucking ace people who love books. I count among fellow authors established names like Jonathan Meades, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Julie Burchill, Terry Jones, Nicholas Lander, Raymond Briggs, Robert Llewellyn, Peter Jukes, and Matthew Fort, along with newly published writers and poets such as Salena Godden, EO Higgins, Rose Bretécher, George Chopping, and Miranda Ward. Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake was long listed for the Booker in a long list of other awards and mentions it received. Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note is, deservedly, a phenomenon. I’m in good company, surrounded by brilliant writers who often fall outside the norm of what traditional publishers normally go for. 
Third off, I like the names in the back of the book. It hearkens back to Dickens. I like seeing my own name in the back of books that I’ve supported. The idea of patrons in literature is not a new one.
Fourth, to use an old hockey phrase, I prefer to skate to where the puck is going, not where the puck was. Publishing is in a state of flux and authors are the ones getting hit first. Unbound might not know exactly what the future holds, but I feel their model at least acknowledges that it’s going to be different. 
None of this is easy. I’m not famous. I’m not terribly fond of discussing my writing, either, which is quite an important part of this whole process. Asking my friends to chip in sometimes feels like panhandling. I often take it too personally when people who know how much this means to me don’t support it. It feels like banging my head against a wall and I loathe that I’m annoying people by asking them for money. The loneliness of writing can be terribly compounded by the loneliness of not being fully funded. But it’s worth it. And nothing I’ve heard from other authors makes me think for a second that getting someone else to publish it is an easier or better option.

The argument went on a bit longer, and it became obvious that the person didn't really *get* what Unbound does, and couldn't separate it from a vanity publisher. Moreover, that person, when faced with several arguments to the contrary, didn't seem too fussed to change their stance. I walked away with mixed feelings. I felt I aquitted myself well. I made my argument, and received some really amazing, heartening, messages of support in the wake of things. But I also failed to convince, and had seemingly fallen out with someone quite publicly. That's never nice, even if the person is a total asshole. 

Regardless, it's good to be tested on something you believe in. To question why you believe in it, and have an answer that satisfies. I answered. It doesn't silence all the doubt, nothing does. But it shuts it up for a wee while. 

I'm off up to St Andrews tomorrow. First time since May. Goodness knows what I'll get up to, but some of it might wind up here.

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E O Higgins
 E O Higgins says:

Bravo, Richard.

(And "it only sounds rude because of how you phrased it..." is a truly fabulous opening remark.)

posted 2nd October 2015

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