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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

On “indie” publishing: the good feeling of making a thing

It’s Sunday and I just finished unpacking, signing, and repacking in smaller boxes 100 advance proof copies of True Shoes. I’m going to give those copies away this Friday, in New Hampshire, at a New England League of Middle Schools anti-bullying conference where I’ll be (thanks, NELMS) one of the presenters. Because this new book is an independent publication (in essence, I’ve created my own publishing company), this means I will go on handling actual books — ordering and receiving them, boxing them up for bulk purchasers, hauling copies to schools where I do author visits.

I like this! Usually when you write a book, someone else handles the physicality of its publication. The writer rarely deals with the actual printed product, except maybe to give away a few copies and sign some more (if you’re lucky and someone wants you to). Taking over the publication process has meant I’ve had the very satisfying experience of assembling and working with a really professional team — illustrator Sarah-Lee Terrat, graphic designer Tim Newcomb, and print-and-distribution service CreateSpace. This has been a lot of work, but it has also been the most fun I’ve ever had in the book-making business. That’s because I didn’t just make the words; this time, I got to work right at the center of making the thing.

I like very much being reminded that a book is a thing. It’s not just words floating in space, like so much writing that we do. A published book is something physically real: it’s a thing that people can have and own and keep — and that may also, once they’ve read it, become real in a deeper way in their lives. Yes, we will also publish True Shoes as an e-book; but the experience of seeing your work as a digital item online will never match the satisfaction of having and holding the printed volume in your hands.

Putting myself at the center of the publication and printing process means I have to be more than a word-producer — I have to be a businessperson, a contractor, a marketer. But it’s all a creative process, in the sense of creative that is most real: we are bringing forward into the world this new thing, which is both a creative expression and a physical reality. I really do like that.

And obviously — because True Shoes will be released for sale this Thursday — I hope you will like it, too.
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How it feels when your book (okay, this book) is p...
Here's a scene from True Shoes
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