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  • [SWP: BEHIND THE BOOK] Why Publish With a Hybrid Press?
[SWP: BEHIND THE BOOK] Why Publish With a Hybrid Press?
Written by
Tory McCagg
August 2013
Written by
Tory McCagg
August 2013

"Why do I write?" "What do I write about?" "What do I learn through my writing?" People don't tend to ask me these questions at parties, or in casual conversation. They ask, "Are you published?"


Do they ask to cut to the chase? Maybe they have heard of me, already read my writing. (Ah, that moth to the flame allure of fame. The attraction of being near someone who is someone . . . Tory McCagg sounds remarkably like J.K. Rowling, doesn't it?)


Or do they ask because, if I am published, I have entered a new level of being: as Author and that gives me an entirely different status than a mere writer. (Especially if the author has been paid. Paid work is valued in this society, the more the better.  Unpaid work?  That's not work is it? 


In any case, traditional publication signifies the recognition, the imprimatur of an outside observer, (preferably one with status of his or her own) and that validates the work, and legitimizes the writer.


Which, in part, explains the negative connotation of self-publication. If the work is presented (paid for) by the writer, then it is a form of self-congratulation and self-promotion, right?  Egotism at its worst! Thus, the age-old moniker of "vanity" publishing.


Sometimes I do get to scratch the surface with someone and talk about what I write about and learn. More typically, my response to that question--No, I am not published--results in a flicker of "ah!" on the face of the questioner. I am not published. That means I am a writer, not an Author. That means I could be anything from a scribbler to someone who just isn't good enough.


For my entire adult life I have been writing and always there has been this conflict: between the writing and the recognition (or lack thereof).  Especially after thirty years, one must wonder, what is she up toShe couldn't be any good. Thus, in warped fashion and, perhaps only in my own mind, the question "Why write?" is braided with that of "Why publish?", and publication has taken on a grail-like quality: if only I were published, somehow my work (I) would be validated. 


There lies the rub. Isn't the creative process what gives the writing its true meaning? Or does the writing not signify until someone other than the writer reads it?


For me, the foremost purpose of writing is to control the chaos in my brain. Writing soothes and focuses me. It helps me to think through my thoughts and feelings and hence, through me, those of my characters'.  Writing is what has formed and informed me and so to have the counter to writing be publication, (read exposure and judgment)?  It gives the question of "Why Publish?" a whole new meaning.  It makes publication a risky affair.


. . . But then, so is writing.


Relationships and (dis)connection. Loss. Love. Letting go. These are the themes I have explored in my writing over the years.  They are the themes of my novel Bittersweet Manor (coming out on She Writes Press in March 2014).

 As all writing does, Bittersweet Manor evolved. I have worked on it, on and off, for over ten years. Scenes long ago deleted still exist in my heart. The characters have changed jobs, names and purpose. And now here rests my literal baby. I look at it lying on the desk, amazed that somehow I created it, this printed manuscript giggling so adorably, grabbing its proverbial toes. I want to protect it . . . even as I prepare to expose it to The World. Will people like it?  Disdain it? Is it good enough? Does it even matter because the book has already taught me what I needed it to: there is no perfection in this world but there is good enough. I have learned how to finish, and am now ready to plunge into the business world of writing, also known as publication, marketing and publicity. 


That last sentence being a baldfaced lie. I am so not ready for this. I have managed to avoid publication for three decades and now I am on the cusp of it and what do I expect to gain or learn from publishing? What do I want out of it? What will it mean to be published?


Fame and fortune?  Of course there is that frank hope for the spotlight but if I think about it? Please no. Fame and fortune would wreck my attempts at routine and calm.


Is it for the outside validation? Acceptance by total strangers? I suppose it will be kind of cool to have someone I don't know read my book and like it, though there is the fear of bad reviews and no one actually buying the book.


Bringing it a level closer, do I want to publish to justify myself? To show my family and friends that this is the reason I have tried to hold my morning hours sacred? Has it been worth the sacrifices made? Or will it prove, once and for all, that I have wasted my mortality. I can't write. Time to move on to other, more worthy endeavors?


Or is it this: the publication of Bittersweet Manor will teach me the very lesson I attempted to teach through it: that of how to let go. It is time to share the best-that-I-can-do with whomever cares to join me--family, friends, and strangers. To put publication in its place, behind me, and move on to other books and other lessons.


And so it's off to the market. I begin this journey of publication, still in the vortex of home's constant change and projects, with chicken feathers fluttering around me and fur balls, on occasion, between my toes, and I thank goodness for She Writes Press. It has sprouted into existence just in time to assist me with this daunting task. Under the auspices of She Writes Press, I take note of how it might have been done "in the old days" . . . but the old days no longer exist. We writers must make way for the new and the new does seem to point to this joining of the best of both worlds: the expertise and support of professionals in the field, and the relative freedom and control of self-publishing. Every day I know better that this path that I am stepping onto is my path, leading me in the direction of my choosing.


Is this just a writer giving excuses for not being published traditionally? I don't think so. Though I have no idea what my experience and world would be if I had gained the attention of an agent and, in turn, an editor and thereby been published in a more traditional way, yet I think many of the steps I will be taking in the next months will be the same as with a traditional press due to the dramatic changes in publishing.


The difference? I have read through the "Behind the Book" posts of Lone March, "Why I chose to Self-Publish", of Jennifer Richardson's "My Path to Partnership Publishing", of Judith Newton's "Three Things I would Have Done Differently in Hiring a Publicist", of Tracey Barnes Priestly's "Writer to Writer: Understanding Yourself, to Better Understand Your Publishing Options", of Jill Di Donato's "Key Points to Publishing an Indie Novel". Reading about their experiences, their thinking, their advice, I believe I will have a richer and more positive experience than I would have with a traditional publisher, because it's all about creation and self-knowledge and adaptation. With She Writes Press, I get to decide exactly how far I will take this process, and why. Thus, the publishing, like the writing, will be a creative process. Can anyone think of a better reason, or a more fitting one, than to publish with a hybrid press? To allow the process to take priority rather than the finished product? Traditional publishing might meet old expectations and needs, but I think those are, in the end, false and irrelevant to personal growth. Some might still point and call hybrid press another name for self-publication, vanity. But I think of writers of the past who believed in their work enough to put their money behind it. Charles Dickens. Anais Nin. Walt Whitman.  And I think that I don't mind joining their ranks, if on a lesser level of celebrity. At the very least, a journey with She Writes Press will allow this writer, anyway, to take the time to listen more to her heart instead of the clamoring outside. 


I am including the below poem by the Greek poet Cavafy because the reality is there are innumerable writers out there.  I am privileged to be able to count myself as one of them.  And lucky to have the chance to take my writing to the next step.



By Cavafy, as translated by Rae Dalven


The young poet Eumenes

complained one day to Theocritus:

"I have been writing for two years now

and I have done only one idyll.

It is my only finished work.

Alas, it is steep, I see it,

the stairway of Poetry is so steep;

and from the first step where now I stand,

poor me, I shall never ascend."

"These words," Theocritus said,

"are unbecoming and blasphemous.

And if you are on the first step,

you ought to be proud and pleased.

Coming as far as this is not little;

what you have achieved is great glory.

For even this first step

is far distant from the common herd.

To set your foot upon this step

you must rightfully be a citizen

of the city of ideas.

And in that city it is hard

and rare to be naturalized.

In her market place you find Lawmakers

whom no adventurer can dupe.

Coming as far as this is not little;

what you have achieved is great glory."

Tory McCagg


www.darwinsview.com (blog)

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  • Tory McCagg Publishing

    I am not sure of protocol on responding.  I will try each of you separately but THANK YOU for your supportive responses.  It means a lot.

  • Rossandra White

    Thanks to your brilliant articulation and equating the publication of your book to a birth (forgot about that aspect!) "I want to protect it . . . even as I expose it to the world . . ." Too many of your gems to express here that gave me insight. Thank you!!! Looking forward to reading your book.

  • Valerie J. Brooks

    I think you've voiced the experience of so many, given your journey its due overview, and have found yourself and the next step in your novel, as you have said. Congrats, Tory.

  • Abby Kelly

    I love, love, loved this post, because it was my very own heart and experience. I just finished the draft of my manuscript and stand trembling above the abyss of what is next. thank you

  • Deborah J. Brasket

    Great post!  You speak for so many of us writers on the journey to publication.  Also I checked out your main website and really like what you've done--creative and unusual and really gives a sense of you as a person.  And congrats of the book publication!