And now for the news.
Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:
This week on Bustle, contributor Megan Reid covered the story of Nikki Giovanni, one of the most foremost surviving figures of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, which also included the Amiri Baraka, founder of BARTS in the wake of the assassination of Malcolm X. Her 34th poetry collection releases in October of 2020. What does this have to do with Nikki Giovanni? A whole lot, as it turns out. As Megan Reid sums it up, “She self-published her electrifyingly vernacular poetry to wild success, selling about 20,000 copies of her first two collections, and was already recognized as one of the preeminent artists of the Black Power generation alongside fellow writers and activists like Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and her good friend Maya Angelou.” And that’s just where her authorial story starts, publicly speaking––she has become a voice for so many who rarely saw their experiences transformed into public art. We cannot recommend reading Reid’s full interview wit her on Bustle.
Storytelling is often a political act (although this often depends on how you define both ‘storytelling’ and ‘political’), but rarely have we seen a decade of presidential politics so steeped in story (both for and against, Republican and Democrat in takes, or polarizing in how each story is received. This month, however, is an unusual one in that the storytelling platform in question is one affiliated with self-publishing, and this has brought the democratizing power of indie options back into the limelight. As the New York Times’ Elizabeth A. Harris and Annie Karni put it, “His plans to self-publish, however, along with the book’s unconventional rollout and distribution plan, make it something of a curiosity in publishing circles.” Now let us pause for a second to roll our eyes––not at the book author, but at the kind of highbrow exceptionalism that it takes for newspaper companies that also celebrate their identities as “tastemakers” and “literary gatekeepers” to call the fundamental nature of self-publishing a “curiosity.” We love occasional highbrow moments ourselves––fresh-ground coffee really is superior, and looseleaf tea knows what it’s about––but it seems a bit self-serving at this point for the literary establishment to dismiss self-publishing because of its (new this month!) association with politics. At least it’s a step up from being stigmatized simply for existing? Much of the rest of the article focuses on continuing to cast shade at the author, and color us disappointed to see self-publishing so poorly thought of that anyone associated with it must automatically lose face within the literary establishment. We’d really prefer for the world to see us as we really are, supporting the freedom of expression across the political spectrum. Democracy is the stronger for having self-publishing in the mix.