I was in Williamsburg, Virginia last week for a business conference. I decided to bring my wife along and once the conference was over, we explored the old colonial town of Williamsburg.
It was amazing seeing the shops, taverns, government buildings, and living streets of a colonial town. It really gives perspective to how far along we’ve come.
My two favorite shops were the print shop and the quilt shop. Both of these are two sides of the same coin really. It takes days to complete a book or a blanket, and the words and patterns displayed on each tell unique stories or convey certain beliefs.
The “Self-Published” Section
For dinner we found ourselves in Market Square, the modern section of town. We went into the William and Mary College Barnes & Noble for a cup of coffee after dinner and on the way out I noticed a “Local Interest” section.
There were books on this shelf you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the world (except online). Ghosts of Williamsburg, the History of a Forgotten Man, or Life and Times in the Colonial Village of Jamestown.
I turned to my wife and pointed out the shelf. “Pretty soon, there’s going to be a ‘Self-Published’ section right next to that one.”
I believe it too.
Why anyone would want to send their work to a traditional publisher or agent is beyond me. I’ll wait until I’m good and ready, with an army of readers behind me. I’ll wait until I prove my work has valid product-market fit.
I think we all should.
That way we have the ammunition necessary to play by our own rules and call the shots. That way we can truly be the CEOs of our work and treat a publisher like an investor or partner.
Old Way, Modern Method
Back in that colonial print shop the people being published were locals with something to say. They paid the printers, or the printer invested in their work, because they saw genuine value in each other. They were craftsmen entering into trade for the benefit of their community.
And that’s what publishing should be about.
We should want to share our work with our neighbors, our friends, our community, to make their lives better in some way.
Yet today’s communities are very different. Our direct neighbors may be completely alien to our beliefs and values. Our friends and countrymen are instead spread out across the globe and we’re connected to them only by the internet.
This is a double edged sword. We’re able to spread our words farther and wider, to more people than ever before, yet our voice can very easily get lost in the noise if we don’t know where to find our neighbors.
Still… it’s becoming easier.
At least now we have options. We can find other craftsmen (and women) online who will help us put words to page and find our audiences. Book marketers and cover designers, publicists and illustrators.
And if my hunch is right, I think we’ll soon see small bookshops and bookshelves in Barnes & Noble popping up again with a focus on local, homegrown, and handcrafted (or handcoded) works of lit.