…and give your blog posts misleadingly bold titles.
This article from Forbes, ‘Don’t Publish that Book’ is one example of a species of very sensible advice that’s been going around ever since self-publishing lost its stigma. The short version: don’t publish your horrible early writing, because it’s horrible and it won’t do you any good in the long term.
That’s almost certainly good advice, and in the article it’s rather more subtle than I’ve made it out to be. But I do wonder if the changes to what publishing means might be more exciting than this career-centric approach suggests.
Under the old model, publication indicated that somebody thought a work was, in some sense, good – even that sense was more financial than artistic. The very fact that a book was available suggested that it was more worth having than the mountains of unpublished manuscripts in the world. This is changing. We are decoupling availability from approval.
We’ve done this before, with Myspace and iTunes and YouTube and, well, the internet. It doesn’t seem to have been terribly troubling for other art forms. It’s cool to like an unsigned band, an obscure comedian or a play by a small company. It’s only authors who have to ‘sell out’ to be taken seriously.
It seems like we’re willing to forgive a bum note from a new band, or a young actor flubbing their lines, but a novel is expected to be polished and professional. I wonder if that might be ready to change. Maybe we’ll start stumbling on exciting novice writers who are brave enough to publish work they’ll look back on one day and cringe over, and following and encouraging them. Some people are doing this already; some people have being doing this for years.
It might not happen, and it might not be the best model if it does. But I think there’s something exciting about the thought of writers across the world publishing early and publishing often and letting readers work out what they like.