Word to the wordsmiths, with a smile and a wink

[ Asok Pillai ]

It’s easy, after reading a dozen novels, to decide to become a writer. But getting down to the brass tacks of the job and actually putting your masterpiece out there is akin to rolling a boulder up a steep mountainside. You know it. Unless you have the resilience and the moxie to carry it out, sooner or later you may lose the will to go on.
If, like me, you have written several spectacularly horrible stories in your time, you know that your game is not on the level it should be. If, like me, you have faced rejection from a series of publishers over the years, you know it can oftentimes get very lonely at the bottom of the rung.
But, as somebody or the other said, hope springs eternal in the human breast. So one plods on. And along the way, as one continues on the path of learning, one becomes, if not a better writer, at least a fairly discerning reader. If you are inclined that way, you also develop a certain sense of humour – which is necessary, come to think of it, because you might otherwise crack under the pressure of taking yourself too seriously. Of course, if your self-deprecating humour reaches a stage where you start giggling at random things you do, you might need help. There is that.
Hope is a necessary element. It must have been because of the collective hope of millions of aspiring writers that the universe conspired to bear forth the long list of vanity publishers we find these days. Have the mainstream publishers rejected you? No problem. This is the new world. You take charge of the situation and publish your own work, exactly the way you want it, but there is a catch: you pay for it.
The argument over whether it is okay to self-publish is not likely to end anytime soon. Some would say that if you are the one paying to be published, it beats the whole purpose of the exercise. After all, they argue, beyond expressing your creativity, your writing should be good enough for publishers to want to pay you to publish it. It is the litmus test you must pass.
Then there are the voices in concurrence with the idea of self-publishing. Why not? they say. If you think you have written the next Booker Prize winner, you should go right ahead and self-publish if the mainstream idiots reject your labour of love. They’ll come salivating at your doorstep for your next book.
It is a seemingly enticing prospect, publishing your own work to cheers and adulation from readers who suddenly realize that yours was exactly the book they had been waiting for all these years… or maybe cheers and adulation from the kind of followers you get on Facebook and such – whatever your yardstick is.
The choice is entirely yours to make, especially considering perhaps there is even an element of luck involved in all this business of publishing. History has witnessed well-publicized ‘mainstream’ books tank at the bookstores; it has also seen obscure self-published works hit pay dirt in no time.
So take a chance, swing with the flow, and do what you think is best for you. Who knows – you could be the next Vikram Seth or EL James in the making.