Non-Traditional Publishing


In their 2006 article, Eikhof and Haunschild discuss bohemianism–a lifestyle, and general philosophy–turning away from “middle-class (bourgeois) conventions” (236). The basic idea of bohemianism is that an artist’s work becomes a means of fulfillment, as opposed to a paycheck.  These individuals traditionally have a lower income and looser social ties, but perhaps a more effective integration of life and work.

Eikhof and Haunschild point out, however, the bohemianism is a bit more difficult to identify in the modern sense:

Whereas the traditional notion of bohemian applies to irregularly or nonemployed artists only, the contemporary understanding of ‘bohemian’ is broader. New fields of artistic activity have emerged (film, video, photography, web design etc.) and work arrangements of artists vary today. Artists may work on the basis of an open-ended contract (orchestra musicians), on a temporary or project basis (actors, authors) or without any employer (painters or sculptors) (237).

An excellent example of such modern bohemianism is non-traditional publishing. Sometimes self-publishing is a “Plan B,” used when an author was rejected by publishing houses by very much wanted their work printed. In other cases, authors have ideological reasons for avoided such companies–particularly when it comes to editorial control.

Robert Kroese, author of Self-Publish Your Novel: Lessons from an Indie Publishing Success Story, decided to publish his own work because he thought traditional publishing was “like trying to get into an exclusive club”. You’re not, he said, “even sure what’s in the club, and there are some people who are coming out of it and saying ‘well, that wasn’t worth it’.” (Christina Patterson, The Independent).

While this is similar reasoning to traditional bohemianism, self-publishing has benefits other creative outlets do not. Still allowing for the control and opportunities bohemians crave above all else, electronic publishing often brings in more steady income than through a publishing house (monthly royalties as opposed to once or twice a year). It is important to consider, however, as Patterson points out, that self-publishing (which I would extrapolate to bohemianism in general) does not inherently lead to quality work:

We might see that this gives us possibilities to read, and write, and publish, that no generation has had before. And we might feel grateful for the Prousts, Sternes, and Woolfs, who took a risk to publish work the world took up. But we might also remember that most writers, and certainly most writers who publish their own work, don’t write like Proust. We might remember, as Robert Kroese says, that “the average return of the self-published book is £500”. And that the odds of being successful on either side of the publishing divide are, as he also says, “very poor” (The Independent).

In other words, what artists lose in the battle for creative control with traditional systems, audiences gain in what I would call a higher rate of success/quality.

-Ryan Persons


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