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Self-Publishing. Four Mile Beach.

It rained about five inches last week—what we call a storm in California. I love to see water do its thing. So much beauty, all there for free, gone in a moment.

I have a couple of new links today. My young friend Brendan Byrne has started an ezine called The Orphan with a couple of his pals. It’s a zine for fragmentary stories or articles that are somehow fated never to see formal publication. I contributed a piece called “Catalog Notes for the Secession,” involving some catalog copy that an artist asked me to write for him…and then changed his mind about using.

My other link is to an interview with me on a website called Self-Publishing Review. I did self-publish my art book Better Worlds last month. And with POD (print on demand) and ebooks coming on stronger all the time, you really have to wonder what publishing really means anymore.

You can read my interview at that site, but I will quote one riff here that I thought was funny. I wrote this in the context of me discussing why you’d bother to use a publisher at all if, at some future time, all a publisher was going to do was to produce POD and ebook versions of your work—as opposed to distributing paper copies in bulk. Even though you can do this yourself, a publisher can still provide an advance and a modicum of promotion.

Re: promotion, for mid-list writers like me, promotional media advertising isn’t really a factor. My publishers mention each of my novels in a multi-book ad in the SF trade zine Locus, and that’s about it. But they do send out review copies. Of course a self-publisher can send out ebook review copies for no cost—but this is really a mass spam ad. And reviewers are, of necessity, adept at ignoring spam. Having a commercial publisher lends credibility. That is, if my book comes out under the aegis of a familiar publisher, people feel assured that the work is of professional quality—as opposed to being the maunderings of a senile madman.

Would that work as a memoir title? The Maunderings of a Senile Madman. No, no, that wouldn’t be a wise move.

Something I didn’t explicitly say in my interview, by the way, is that blogging is, in and of itself, already a form of self-publishing. Maybe we’re going to slowly let go of the notion that to “publish” something is to have it pass through the hands of an office in a skyscraper in a big city. Maybe publishing doesn’t really have an unbreakable connection with commerce. Maybe it’s like rain, your words and images pelting down on the world, sending out their little circles and fading away.

Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention in my interview is that it costs nothing, that is $0, to make your book available in POD on Lulu…they make their money by taking a small cut of each POD copy they sell. For $100, Lulu will get you an official book barcode and have the book listed on Amazon…but I think you can actually to this yourself for less. The point is: self-publishers no longer need to hand over thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to predatory vanity presses…even though there are POD publishers who still try to follow the old vanity press model of selling their authors multiple “editing, distribution, and promotion” packages.

I finished my lastest painting, Four Mile Beach. Painting number 50! I was out there en plein air on the last day before the storm moved in. The waves came out well—I did that part in under an hour, right there on the beach. I reworked the cliffs and rocks at home. I like this picture a lot. Sometimes the easy ones are the best. Click here to see a larger version of this painting.

10 Responses to “Self-Publishing. Four Mile Beach.”

  1. Sarah Levantine Says:

    Were you outside of Whole Foods in San Mateo last weekend?

    Hi, by the way.

  2. Rudy Says:

    Hi Sarah, I seem to remember you helped write a great deer-hunting videogame for your project in my Software Engineering class at SJSU. With the deers shooting the hunters! And then I think you got a job at EA?

    I was not in San Mateo last weekend, though. That must have been my clone…

    All the best, and I hope you’re doing well.

    Dr. R.

  3. Alex Says:

    The sea and waves in “Four Mile Beach” are especially good. The big rock in the foreground reminds me of the big rock in the painting “Flint” by Andrew Wyeth I just saw today at his brilliant exhibition here in Nagoya. Your rock has a very hylozoic look to it…

  4. womansvoice Says:


    Thought I’d stop by after not being around for awhile. The photos in this entry are really gorgeous. Hard to say which one I like the most, though the chair with back arching into the sunlight seems loaded with sensuality, even in its simplicity.

    Thought the painting was one of your better works. You’re developing more control over your brush and the sea colors were just spectacular. It seems like you really enjoy painting these huge, open seascapes. A way to capture all the elements (sea, sand, sound and sky) in one place in time and space. I guess that’s Cali – forya -lol-

    Thx for your comments on self-publishing. If the Kindle makers are the cutting edge of publishing media then DIY distribution will no longer seem so eccentric.

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  5. Matt Says:

    I like the boulder in the painting.

    And so yes, I think publishing is probably a by-product of former technical limitations in producing written material. No longer necessary but kind of hard for people to wrap their heads around any alternative to what they’ve always known.

  6. Brian Says:

    Hi Rudy – found you here through your interview.

    I’ve been having a lot of discussions lately about publishing and TV/film, etc, and how evryone is waiting for the new paradigm to establish itself – I mean, it all worked a certain way for many, many years.

    I think we may be in a long (and permanent?) transitional period wherein nobody really knows “how it works”, which is either exciting or scary, or both. (I choose exciting.)

    Anyway, enjoyed the interview – I was not familiar with your work before, but am glad to have been intro’d to it.

  7. Sarah Levantine Says:

    I left EA a little over a year ago, and have been at a startup ever since. It’s nice to be at a company small enough that you can effect real change.

    It looks like you’re enjoying your days – nice photography and paintings; hope all is well with you.

  8. Steve H Says:

    “The Maunderings of a Senile Madman” would, however, be a great short story title. It would begin with “I told you so” or “I bet they’re all sorry now.”

  9. Alex Says:

    I just realized that 2 books I read recently are self-published.

    The 1st is “Princess Dianas Revenge”

    Which was refused by 30 publishers, even though
    Michael de Larrabeiti was a highly successful author
    (the Borribles series are some of the best older children’s books
    ever written)

    The 2nd is

    An amazing book on small house architecture.
    It does however have the worst cover you’ve ever seen.

    Perhaps self-publishing is becoming so mainstream,
    we don’t even realize it.


  10. helix Says:

    I laughed a lot reading your short story. I’ve wondered a couple times reading your stuff if you’re familiar with Rob Anton Wilson, good to see you at least know the Subgeniuses.

    Great painting, and great photographs as always.

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