Ed Spicer posted an article on my Facebook page earlier this week; the author encourages her fellow writers to “come clean” about the often unseen privileges that make their writing life possible. Well, it’s not easy being a black feminist writer but I do enjoy certain privileges that make it possible for me to put my work out into the world. I just finished watching Miss Potter (for the third time, I think); yesterday I went to see The Hobbit and after each film I had time to sit and reflect on what I’d just seen. All of that is possible because I’m a tenure-track professor. I complain a lot about my job but I do also thank the universe at least twice a day for giving me this life. I’m still marking papers—two sets of grades have been submitted and I am determined to submit the last set tonight. But when I’m slogging through student essays I often reward myself with favorite films and/or food. I’ve eaten a WHOLE lot of chocolate this week and will be very glad when all my Xmas cookies are delivered to their rightful recipients so I can stop popping one in my mouth every 3 hours. I eat a lot when I’m stressed out and December has been a pretty stressful month. Yet when Edith Campbell asked me to write a short essay about courage, I immediately knew what I wanted to say. She’s running a series about courage on her blog and my guest post is up today. Here’s some of what I had to say:
Self-publishing does take courage—a recent opinion piece in The New York Times gave this wry definition of self-published authors: “Treated as Crazy Ranting People: either ignored or pitied by the general public until they do something that is brilliant or threatening.” Independent authors are often treated as pariahs—our books aren’t reviewed by the traditional outlets, won’t be considered for any major awards, and most bookstores won’t stock our titles. Publishers often look at indie authors as “tainted” and no longer viable, though there are exceptions to this rule.
The truth is, even people of color who KNOW the publishing game is rigged will look askance at a self-published book. To some Black writers (and readers), self-publishing is gutless, the most shameless surrender. “Just be patient,” they’ll say after you’ve faced a decade of disappointment. “Try harder!” they’ll exhort, as if the publishing industry were an actual meritocracy. Others assume there must be something lacking in your work but won’t read your book in order to dismiss or confirm that assumption.
So why self-publish? I explain my motivation in the acknowledgments section of THE DEEP:
I felt sure that there was a teenage girl somewhere in the world who needed this book yesterday. I never found anything like The Deep when I was scouring the shelves of my public library as a teenager, but it’s a story that might have changed my world—or at least my perception of myself. Black girls don’t often get to see themselves having magical powers and leading others on fabulous adventures.
G. Neri was Edi’s first guest. Be sure you follow her blog for the rest of this month to see what other authors have to say!