There's been quite a bit of talk on the interwebz lately about self-publishing, and I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I’ll leave discussions of sales numbers, platform, production values, etc. to other blogs. Today, we're going to take a look at a much more basic concern. That's right folks, we're going to look at whether self-publishing makes you die.
Now this requires some context. My own views on self publishing are pretty moderate (it’s doable, but incredibly hard work, and you should get objective confirmation that your writing is up to par), but I like reading discussions on the topic and sometimes lurk to see what self pub supporters and die-hard traditionalists have to say.
One self pub argument caught my attention. Given the odds for traditional publication, good manuscripts do slip through the cracks. In addition, with the advent of electronic publishing and POD, you can self publish with little or no financial investment. Since you've worked so hard on the novel, what's the harm of trying?
That kind of made sense. If you fail, at least you know it’s your fault and not because the acquisitions editor read your manuscript the week his mother-in-law was in town. Sure, there's stigma, and there will always be people who assume you’re selling your failures. But what's that to the knowledge that you really tried your best?
At that point, I caught myself. “But wait, Livia,” I said. “You're a psychologist. You can't just blithely ignore social factors as if they don't matter.” And I was right (funny how often that happens when you argue with yourself). Social status has considerable impact on health and quality of life.
There's one study that looked at the effect of social status on longevity. The researchers compared the lifespan of Nobel laureates to Nobel Prize nominees who didn't get the prize. The Nobel Prize winners ended up living on average 1.4 years longer than the nominees. Now remember that even the nominees were highly respected in their field and financially pretty well off. But being a laureate added over a year to the winners’ lifespans!
Once I remembered this, I became highly agitated. Was it possible that self-publishing writers were jumping in without realizing the risk to their health? Should I warn people, or should I just sit back and wait for the coming holocaust? I could just see it—self published writers dying off in droves, 1.4 years before their time.
Luckily, I caught myself again and realized I was jumping too quickly to conclusions. Because many other factors contribute to your health. Among those is ability to control your circumstances .
And self publishers do win in the control department. They don't have to deal with the publishing roller coaster—the agent who loves your work but decides to leave the industry to become an organic farmer. The editor who inherits your manuscript from the editor who inherited your manuscript from the editor who took over your manuscript after your original editor left publishing house. The art department who decides that your children's book about puppies would really sell much better with hot vampires on the cover. All stressful events out of an author's control—events that in combination just might start shaving days off your life.
So what's the moral of the story? I’m not quite sure. Perhaps the best thing is not to think about it too much, and write the best book that you can.
Hmm... isn't that always the conclusion we come to at the end of the day? *sigh* Here's to many more happy years of writing for all.
So what do you think, writer friends? Any aspects of your writing life cutting your days short? Or is it smooth sailing?
Note: The research described and linked to from this article is real. If you haven't figured out by now, everything else—including interpretation of research, implications for the publishing industry and the pros and cons of self-publishing—should be taken with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Livia Blackburne is the author of From Words to Brain, an essay on the neuroscience and psychology of reading. On her blog, she explores the craft of writing from a neuroscientist's perspective.