As well as being a blog, this blog will soon be a book. Emboldened by my to-be-published poetry collection, and like many bloggers before me, I’ve decided to collect together posts from this blog into a self-published not-so-slim volume. Why? you may ask. Isn’t a blog sufficient unto itself? Well, yes, it is, and it’s nice that a certain number of people follow it and (I hope) read it. But a book would be something more substantial; I could even call the pieces ‘essays’ rather than ‘posts’. The question that inevitably follows is: are they worth it? I’m not the best person to answer – author’s vanity, and all that – but it seems to me that there probably is enough substance there. For better or worse, I’ve always tended to write my blog posts as little articles rather than just thoughts in the moment. And I like the process of collecting writings together and editing them into a readable sequence.
In order to do it cheaply, I’m afraid I’m resorting to the iniquitous Amazon. A friend of mine has published several novels that way and recommended it to me, and it seems pretty straightforward as well as cheap. And the book will be easily accessible to potential readers, though unless the author does a huge amount of marketing I would guess that the majority of self-published books are bought mainly by friends and acquaintances. As it’s printed on demand and I don’t have to buy copies in advance I’d be quite happy with that: I’m not looking to this book for much more than the satisfaction of creating it. Of course I’d be hugely chuffed if friends wrote nice reviews (no pressure here) that encouraged a few more people to buy it, and of course I’ll put it out on the book table at readings and open mics, but we’re talking small numbers and pin money here.
Never mind. A book is a book is a book. In the days when I so desperately wanted to be a writer but thought I was wasting my time, I put together two collections of writings that I sold or gave to friends. The first one was a sort of portfolio of all the different kinds of writing I’d done up till then – short stories, extracts from a novel I’d written, poems, autobiographical pieces, ‘therapy writing’, even a short verse drama. It was produced in the early 1990s on an Amstrad word-processor, with a printer that sounded like a machine gun, and photocopied on A4 pages because I couldn’t reduce it. The covers were copies of two paintings I’d done and I lettered the title on a sticky label, the corners rounded with a pair of nail-scissors. The comb-bound ‘book’ was so big and bulky that several people said they couldn’t manage to read it.
The second attempt, ‘published’ in 2002, was a more manageable A5 size, in Times New Roman font, with sections in bold or italic and fancy colophons. It even included photographs – technology had moved on a lot by then. This book was rather different, in that it started out as a project for a personal development course and was about ‘me, my family and dragons’. Again it was a collection of short pieces – a mixture of fiction, autobiography and reflections about writing – the strands interwoven in a sequence that seemed random but had its own logic. The cover was a photograph of a collage dragon made of shiny paper, and I lettered the title on the computer. I think more people read this second one and some certainly liked it, but some of the writing was too personal to put into the public domain.
I still have copies of both these books, and of a short anthology of poetry and fiction by therapy colleagues that I self-published under my own imprint on 2012. This last one is definitely a book, properly bound and with a professionally designed cover. I did include some of my own writings – I’d just finished the MA and was full of everything I’d written – but once more the main satisfaction was in arranging the pieces by theme and in the best order, so that it read like a proper collection. I was quite proud of it and so, I’m glad to say, were the contributors.
When it came to putting together the poetry collection I was no stranger to the process, having previously entered several pamphlets for competitions. I enjoyed making the poems link with one another linguistically or thematically, choosing where to follow like with like and where to introduce a contrast of tone or form or subject matter. I’m enjoying doing something similar – though less sophisticated – with the blog pieces, grouping them according to date and subject so that there is a progression. The book isn’t done yet, but when it is then naturally I’ll blog about it.