I imagine that most of the writers who choose this route are ones who have been unsuccessful in getting a conventional publisher to take them on. They’ve grown tired of waiting for the Man from Del Monte to say “Yes!” (seventies advertising reference) and have decided to take matters into their own hands. A few have found phenomenal success this way. Many more, I suspect, have not.
But good luck to them all, I say.
But it’s not just those who haven’t broken through the normal way who are deciding to self-publish. Many writers who have been published are either self-publishing additional books alongside their “legacy-published” work, or ditching the conventional model entirely and turning themselves into their own publisher.
Michael Gregorio is a successful crime-writer (actually a husband and wife crime-writing duo, Michael Jacob and Dani de Gregorio, he English, she Italian), the author of a wonderful series of historical crime novels featuring Hanno Stiffeniis, a magistrate in Napoleonic-era Prussia.
As last year’s economic crisis rocked the Italian ship of state, bringing down Berlusconi and bringing in a government of non-elected technocrats, Mike Jacob kept a highly illuminating and entertaining chronicle of the political, social and financial collapse of Italy over on the Michael Gregorio blog. He has now collected all those pieces together and published them as an e-book, INSIDE ITALY, available on Amazon.
As an Englishman writing about Italy, Michael Jacob/Gregorio at times displays the outsider’s indulgence as well as exasperation at the foibles he is describing. But he combines that with an insider’s understanding of what’s really going on. The stuff the New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post and Economist don’t know about, as he puts it.
This is no tourist memoir of an extended stay in a foreign country. Michael Jacob has lived in Italy for 32 years and is married to an Italian. He knows the country as well as any Englishman can. The affection he feels for the country, and the vast majority of its inhabitants, comes through clearly. As he says himself, Italy is his idea of paradise. (He couldn’t live in England because it’s “dull”, or America because it’s “superficial”.)
He’s careful to challenge stereotypes, for example when his brother makes a joke about “Italian cowardice” following the Costa Condordia disaster. His humour is far more informed than that. Reading the pieces, I was reminded of the words of the Roman satirist Juvenal, who claimed (if my memory serves me right!) that indignation drove him to write. Reading INSIDE ITALY, with its tales, for example, of a parliamentary stenographer (an obsolete post, as the job of recording parliament could be achieved digitally) paid more than the King of Spain, it seems the people of Italy have much to be indignant about.
Publishing INSIDE ITALY as an e-book has enabled Michael Gregorio to get the book out quickly, while the events he is writing about are still topical, which has added enormously to the immediacy and appeal of the book. But events move quickly in politics, especially Italian politics. This again plays to the strengths of e-publishing. We’re promised a second volume in April 2012. If Volume One and recent events in Italy are anything to go by, I’m sure it will be an interesting read.