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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

To Self-publish or Not to Self-publish


          Every year birds nest just outside my door in a corner of the woodwork that supports the balcony of our upstairs. I’ve had the pleasure of watching babies take their first flight over the years. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever watched. They look like children tiptoeing on the edge of a pool, wanting to jump in but wrapped with fear.

          That’s about how I feel about self-publishing my essays on disability.

          I actually wrote an essay for this week offering some reflections on my time in high school as a mainstreamed student. It’s a topic I’ve touched on previously, but the emphasis this time was going to be on academics and taking (or not having taken) responsibility for doing my best when I wasn’t necessarily pushed to do so because of my disability. However, as I have begun looking into the possibility of self-publishing a collection of my essays on disability, I’ve decided to hold that essay for what I hope will be my first book.

          It’s amazing the level of angst I have experienced since considering whether or not to self-publish. From what I’ve learned putting out a book these days isn’t much harder than publishing a blog. Yet, despite all but one of the essays in the collection having been published online, it feels very different to potentially make them available in book form.

          In fact, I actually think it’s too easy to self-publish. As much as I appreciate the readers I get on the Ink, I know that my “hits” don’t amount to a blip on the radar of the internet. I can rant and rave all I want, and not very many people will discover my genius . . . or, let’s be serious, my potential stupidity.

          Of course I joke about my stupidity because I don’t want to come off as a conceited jackass, but that really is the fear. With self-publishing there’s no one to genuinely warn a writer that he/she is about to make a huge mistake. I started looking into what it would actually take to self-publish on June 1, and I’m pretty sure that some of the best known sites could have had my book available by this week. As someone who knows a thimbleful about publishing, I knew that wasn’t a good idea.

          I was lucky enough to find a middle ground. I found someone with experience as a writer and editor to evaluate book, and will potentially look for more feedback depending on his response – positive or negative. Just putting it someone else’s hands makes my stomach swirl now and then. I’m actually glad to have it away from me for a while. As difficult as it is to have someone else evaluating my work, it was almost worse looking at it for the 100th time trying to decide if it was ready.

          I can’t imagine having just published the book on my own. In the last few weeks since being interviewed for a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer on a totally separate topic I’ve been reminded (on a much larger scale) of something that my blog has taught me. People respond with negativity far more than they make a point to agree or suggest that they like something. The collection I have in mind for a book is intended primarily to be something positive for teens and young adults with physical disabilities to read and hopefully to learn that others have gone through what they are dealing with. Yet, I already know that the need to be brutally honest about my experiences in order to have it be something worthwhile for them to read will put a negative spin on it for some.

          So, the doubts pour in. Do I want the deal with potentially negative feedback on something that can be personally revealing? Will I embarrass myself? Will the message I intend get through?

          At some point, it’s just time to take the leap to see if you can fly. That time seems to be nearing for me.