When I last blogged three weeks ago, I spent some time looking at the evolution of self-publishing from where (and what) it was when I first got started in the business well over a decade ago to where it is now, in 2017. And the history of self-publishing is, in many ways, a history of self-reflection writ large into the future. One might even say that the self-publishing author is, always has been, and likely always will be, a visionary. But what does that actually mean?
A visionary sees things differently.
On a fundamental level, I mean. A visionary thinks in terms, not of what is possible, but what could be possible. And that’s a big difference. When someone is limited by what is versus what could be, the future narrows to predictable outcomes rooted in measurables that exist today. Meanwhile, visionaries have no such restrictions–they’re more interested in creating altogether new systems of thought, of measurement, of ambition. It’s not that the measurables don’t matter at all, or that visionaries are necessarily detached from real-world and present-day concerns, but they do have a dash of something a little bit extra, and the capacity to think outside of the box. To build a new box from scratch–from materials that didn’t even exist when the idea was first born.
Think of Steve Jobs:
In his biography of this tech titan, Walter Isaacson repeatedly mentions Jobs’ predilection for creating devices and inventions for which no infrastructure yet existed. He always had the iPhone constantly in mind, but he had to invent (or reinvent, depending on who you ask) cloud storage–the iCloud–and the software–iTunes and more–to make the iPhone possible. And in the meantime, the hardware itself didn’t exist–he wanted a good camera, a good battery, and a surface that didn’t exist yet.
He made it from scratch, from materials that didn’t yet exist.
That’s future thinking. And this isn’t to reinforce some mythology of Steve Jobs which ignores the other future-thinkers necessary to his enterprise. The iPhone, like everything else at Apple, was a group effort. Jobs first had to recognize a need for, then go looking for, talented engineers and technicians and managers and so on to infinity who could create these as-yet-nonexistent materials and systems. They deserve every bit as much praise.
And together, they made something new.
Self-publishers do this all the time, and they do it in what often comes across as a vacuum. They conceive of a book, but there’s no one on hand–no editors, no agents, no publishers, no marketing team–to make that book come into being. Self-publishers are talent scouts, like Steve Jobs, only on a much tighter budget. They have to be able to construct new ways of getting the job done, using systems and procedures and materials they may never even have heard of. When you think about it that way, it’s clearer than ever that self-publishers are visionaries. Are future-thinkers.
So, what do we do with this information? We find ways to support each other, first of all. We will always have to create some of our own resources, it’s true, but also we ought to support each other in this enterprise. By creating shared resources, by offering support and guidance, and by empowering the individual author to go after that ambiguous, often frightening future.
In my upcoming posts, I’ll be looking at ways we can both become and support future-thinking in self-publishing. Watch this spot!
You are not alone. ♣︎