"Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogran, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories.
When I started writing The Total Manageability of Everything six years ago, getting it published was the furthest thought from my mind. I knew nothing about writing at the time, I just had an idea, a story, and some characters to work with.
So when I finally finished my last proofreading pass, I realized that the time had come to think about how I wanted to share my work. There are many routes a first-time author could take, ranging from the simplicity of clicking the "Publish" button in iBooks Author to the nightmare that is sending cold query letters to over-saturated agents and publishers. I could print a bunch of paperback copies at my own expense and try to peddle them to local independent bookstores (I do live in Portland,) or I could sign up for Amazon's CreateSpace service and let them do all of the legwork for a nominal fee.
The options were overwhelming. How was I supposed to choose, knowing as little as I do about the modern publishing industry and having no reputation to offer?
Then, once I decided on my distribution and publication method, I would have to negotiate the cost of my work with at least my readers, if not a whole series of agents, editors, and publicists. How much should it cost? I spent the better part of six years obsessing over this project, but no one asked me to do that, and a lot of that time was spent learning the craft. Is five dollars a fair price for a debut novel? Is ten?
Ultimately, I had to ask myself what my goals were with publishing. If my goal was to make a ton of money, great, I would take the route that offered the greatest return on investment. If my goal was to get on the New York Times Best Sellers List, I would query every agent I could find to groom my personal brand into something respectable. If I wanted every college in the country to have a copy of my book, I could just do math and print up a few hundred to send as personal donations to their respective libraries.
In the end, I didn't want any of that. My goal with publishing this novel is simple: I want people to read it who would benefit from reading it.
Investing yourself in a book is a very personal experience. That's why I love libraries so much, you can dip into a bunch before making a commitment. But the problem with the above distribution methods is that they would make it hard for people to try out my book, to see if they liked it enough to keep reading. Once you've bought a book, you're committed, and a lot of people take that decision seriously.
I certainly couldn't ask someone to pay for my book, sight unseen. While I certainly believe in compensating artists for their work, I prefer the gallery approach, where people can see the artwork and compare it to others before paying to add it to their collection.
In the end, the choice was clear. I am going to publish my book, one chapter at a time, right here on the web, for free. It will be free from advertisements and sponsored content, it will be unabridged, and it will be easy to share with anyone else who might enjoy it. Everything for everyone, for good. I will publish a new chapter each week, starting on Saturday, April 23, 2016 until the novel's conclusion, sometime in August 2016.
I'm open to print publication and digital distribution options in the future. Avid readers love adding to their libraries. But first, I wish to offer it freely, digitally, in a format that is readable on computers, tablets, and smartphones.
I hope you enjoy what you read and share it with others who might enjoy it too.
For those of you who have stories of your own to tell, who don't quite know how to get the ideas on paper or in the hands of readers, I will tell my own story of learning to write, from initial inception to final publication. These articles will appear here on my weblog and on Medium, and you can expect a new one every Wednesday.
Thank you for your curiosity, and remember that everything is totally manageable.