Why Publish?

To publish means to issue for sale or distribution to the public. I’ve invited author Luanne Castle to share her thoughts about publishing and what it means to her.

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Luanne Castle

Anneli asked me to think about why writers want to get their work published. She said it can’t be about the money, so what is it about?

I do know writers who write for the money. Since I’m not acquainted with Stephen King or his ilk, the writers I know who have aspirations of big advances and even larger royalty checks, are in the not-yet-published category–and pretty clueless, to boot. That’s because–Anneli is correct–there is little money to be made in writing.

That makes writing perfect for me. I have a history of gravitating to low-pay-lotsa-work jobs. When I was starting out as a grad student in the English department, I went to find one of my professors in his office. He was tenured and had been with the department for many years. The door was closed and locked, but taped to the outside of the door was his paycheck stub.  And the pay was about the same that I was making working fulltime in retail.

I was still so new at grad school it would have been easy to back out and apply to law school. But do you think I paid any attention? One day, when I had years of grad school completed and was teaching college as a non-tenured and harried “freeway flyer,” I looked at my paycheck and remembered that warning I’d ignored.

Money is definitely not an incentive to me, although by now I’ve worked in both business and creative pursuits long enough to realize that the world is clearly divided into those who are motivated by money and those who are not.

So why do I want to publish? Having an audience of readers is a powerful incentive for writing. After all, writing is communication as is all art. If we don’t share our stories and poems and blog posts, we aren’t communicating, and communication is how we negotiate our way in the world and build a stronger world community.

I also like to bolster my weak self-esteem and build up my troubled ego by publishing stories and poems in journals and magazines. They rarely pay writers, but it’s nice to know that an editor or editorial panel liked my work enough to publish it. They put their seal of approval on my work by showcasing it in their magazines.

For example, although I plan to complete a book-length memoir, the literary journal Lunch Ticket, run by Antioch University’s MFA program, just published a chapter from my memoir, called “Nuclear Fallout.” You can read it online here, if you like.

Finally, I also think that when I do publish my book, it will make it easier to respond to the usual conversation with strangers.

Stranger:         “What do you do?”

Writer:                        “I’m a writer.”

Stranger:         “What have you published?”

Writer:                        “A memoir called Scrap: Salvaging a Family.”

Stranger:         “Where can I buy that?”

Writer:                        “Amazon, any book store, Target, Wal-Mart, everywhere.”

At least, that’s my fantasy. Now when I say I don’t have a book out yet, they tell me I’m not really a writer.

In the meantime, I’m over at Writer Site.  Thanks so much to Anneli for inviting me to explore the subject of publication over here!

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*Note from Anneli:

If you write, you are a writer. Being published does not change that. Luanne is too modest. She’s an excellent writer. Be sure to check out her blog, Writer Site.

Also, please leave a comment and tell us what you think about publishing.