I’ve been floundering around in the e-publishing shallows for quite a few years now, and up until now I’ve resisted the urge to make the dive-bombing, backward-looking jump from the electronic to the physical. But just recently, I have finally published my three crime novels (plus the fiendish Jim Mullaney’s horror novel and two horror short story collections) as paperbacks, and they are now up for sale on Amazon alongside their digital counterparts. I have my proofs here beside me in my study, and they’re perfectly lovely. I look at them far more often than I should, I’m afraid, and my wife is becoming slightly concerned…
I like them so much, in fact, that I’ve found myself wondering why it ever took me so long to make the decision to give readers the option of buying paperbacks, and this is what I came up with:
First, I stuck to e-publishing my work out of some notion of ecological economy – I felt that in a small way I was doing my part to save the planet. Secondly, I thought that people would be more likely to buy the work of a new self-publishing author if they could buy it relatively cheaply for their various devices. Third, e-publishing seemed like the wave of the future, and that physical books, along with bricks-and-mortar bookstores, were not only old-hat, they were inextricably linked to the big publishers, the traditional gatekeepers whose whims the new writer/publishers had finally eschewed. Fourth, the part of me that had always longed for acceptance by the trads, and which was still slightly sensitive about the perceived stigma of being self-published, viewed producing paperbacks as not too far from the ultimate humiliation of…of… vanity publishing. There, I said it.
Oh the horror, oh the shame, oh the indignity… oh nuts.
Well, either I’ve grown up a bit, or toughened up a bit, and consequently become a little less precious about how people see me and my work, or I’ve just gone back to the very beginning of my love affair with writing. What was it that seized my imagination and made me want to start telling my own stories? Reading, of course. Reading books.
I love books. I always have. The smell of a new book, its weight, its cover, the dedications. Utter delight. I still have a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles that my sister bought second-hand for me for my birthday from Stringers Bookshop in Leeds Kirkgate Market, when I was about eleven-years-old, I think. It was printed in 1959 (long before I was born) by John Murray, of 50 Albemarle Street, London, and actually has the price incorporated within the illustrated cover. Brand new it cost two-shillings-and-sixpence. Somehow I had forgotten that I love books, and also that I’m not alone in this regard – lots and lots and lots of other people love books too.
I now have a fantasy which quite probably will never be realised, and even if it is, I would be unlikely to know it.
I fantasise that at sometime in the future, in thirty or forty years’ time, perhaps, in some charity shop on a busy high-street, a bored person browsing the donated books will pluck out one of my novels, scan the first couple of pages with interest, and decide to give it a try. Not only do they buy and enjoy the book, but it ends up sitting on their bookshelves for another forty years, and every few years they rediscover and re-read it, and it will be a comforting friend to them, the same way that the 1959 John Murray edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles is to me.
Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?