Writing a book is hard. Getting a book published is hard too. There you are writing in your garret, study, coffee shop, office cubicle when you really should be working or wherever it is you bang words into a keyboard. You do it for hours and days and then you do all the ugly stuff like editing and rewriting. All that work doesn’t happen just so you can fling it into a desk drawer – or a file on your computer desktop. No, you want people to read it, because your book doesn’t exist until someone else has read it.
So you send out a few sample chapters to any publishing house you can think of, with a cover letter where you try and not come across as so desperate to get in print that they can have both your lungs if they want them. And then the first rejection letter comes. And then another one. And another. Then every one you’ve sent out comes back. Except one – the guy who is happy to publish your book. As long as you stump up a grand or two to pay for printing copies (yeah, should have been a bit more discerning about who you sent those sample chapters to).
That’s been my experience. I’m a full-time journalist who has spent a bit of his spare time writing too. That includes a music webzine known as Dragster and an award-winning beer website called Beer is Your Friend (which still exists – beerisyourfriend.org), three unpublished non-fiction manuscripts, an unpublished novel, two short plays and an unfinished long play. Aside from those two short plays, which were performed by a local theatre group, and the blogs none of those have seen the light of day. They all still sit in binders in my study. Yeah, I’m old, so I like to print out the finished article. Makes it seem a bit more real.
So I’d given up on ever being a published author (I’ve been a published contributor, but it’s not the same). And them I discovered the whole print-on-demand thing – a bit later than most, I grant you, but still. This discovery came around the same time I decided to write The Slab, a book about the history of beer in Australia. Previous experiences with real publishers meant I chose to do it myself. Sure, it likely means I’ll sell fewer books and I have to do all that icky marketing stuff myself, but I figure I’m never going to set the world on fire and be able to retire on the royalties that flow in from the sort of stuff I like to write. Also, the aim is more about getting the book out of the study in my house and into the hands of a reader or two.
And so Last Day of School was born – a teeny weeny publishing imprint pumping out the work of one author. Me.