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Securing an independent voice

by Cliff Burns, over 3 years ago

I became an independent publisher by choice.

And note that I use the term "independent publisher", rather than "self-publisher" because the distinction is an important one.

I have dozens of professional credits and make great efforts to ensure my writing is innovative, literate and original. I place the bar high, aesthetically speaking, straining to always meet the highest possible literary standards. My books are meticulously edited, carefully vetted. THAT'S what makes me an "independent publisher".

A "self-publisher" writes poems about a beloved pet chihuahua or fan fiction based on their favourite idiotic TV series.

I was forced to publish my own books because the "marketplace" determined that my narratives lacked the right stuff. Publishers were never interested in book-length manuscripts I submitted, this despite my work appearing in some prestigious publications and anthologies and gaining positive critical attention.

But my writing has always been singular, unique, the point of view I employ very intimate and for some the result can be an uncomfortable reading experience. I never take my foot off the gas pedal or offer the reader a safe escape. One reviewer noted that my books belong on a shelf of essential books, "somewhere between Jorge Luis Borges and William s. Burroughs". Neither of those authors is an "easy" read...and I guess the same thing can be said for my 11-book canon.

New technologies and platforms have allowed me to bypass the gate-keepers of publishing. Since 1990, I have released books under my own imprint, Black Dog Press, and rarely submit material elsewhere any more. Why should I? I have my press and my blog, "Beautiful Desolation", which celebrates its tenth birthday in March, 2017.

While I may not have a big presence in physical bookstores, my writing has done well in the digital domain...the nice thing about computers is that they eliminate physical and geographic boundaries. Thanks to my on-line endeavours, I have readers around the world and using that aforementioned technology I can keep in touch and engage with them.

In the past five years, I've received more attention than ever, two of my books named finalists for ReLit Independent Press Awards, my volumes gaining high praise for the quality of the writing but also their design and eye-grabbing cover art.

I've been a professional author for over 30 years and it certainly isn't getting any easier. But thanks to technology and print on demand publishing, my writing has the potential to achieve a wider readership, while I wield absolute control over the look and content of my books.

That makes it all worthwhile.

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