I’ve been blogging through some of the reasons I’ve chosen to self-publish my new book, Mutiny – Why We Love Pirates and How They Can Save Us, exploring ideas of controlling the means of production, re-imagining ideas of copyright and being able to say exactly what I want to say.
One of the final reasons I’ve wanted to experiment with this concerns the idea of TAZ – the Temporary Autonomous Zone. I’ve written about TAZ in my previous book Other, but in Mutiny I take the ideas there to a much greater depth. The principle of a TAZ is this: it is a temporary liberation of a time or place, in which new modes of being can be modelled. This only happens for a short time, as a way of confounding the systems of power who, by the time they’ve arrived to break up the party, find that it has already moved on.
Pirates were all about TAZ because they were able to exploit information lags in a pre-digital, pre-telegraph age. They were able to enjoy time ashore in some secluded cove or other in the knowledge that by the time the Royal Navy were informed about where they were and had sailed to find them, they would be long gone. It was, as one Royal Naval Admiral put it, ‘like sending a cow after a hare.’
How does this relate to publishing? Firstly, by retaining full control of the manuscript, and using a print-on-demand structure, I’ll be able to revise and respond as the book is read and reflected on. I’ve not had the money to invest in a professional proof-reader, for one thing, so the glitches will be able to be ironed out – something that can’t happen when you’ve already done a print run of a couple of thousand. (Plus, as an environmental point, the model I am using has benefits too. Each copy is printed on demand, so there is no waste.)
Secondly though, this is also about wanting to take some risks. Going for the model of self-publishing I am stepping out from under the big business benefits of being with a large publisher. There’s going to be no ad budget. No inserts into magazines. No publicists to do mail-outs and arrange interviews and push media spots. No big stands at book fairs. No money behind me for a big book tour. No attempt at celebrity. (LOL)
And you know what, that feels great. Why? Because it means that the levels of bullshit are reduced as much as possible. Those that read the book – and I hope you will – will talk about it and encourage others to read it, or not, purely off their own backs. There’ll be no touring round doing the same schtick each night, then trying to hawk books on people who, frankly, may not be buying for the right reasons anyway. Just to be clear – I’ve got nothing against people doing the whole tour and promo thing – it’s just that it really does not sit well with where I’m at right now.
So it feels kind of exciting really… to be releasing something that’s slightly under the radar of the whole publishing machine, but engaging in different information networks that will, hopefully, spread the word about it organically and with genuine passion. And that feels more ‘gospel’ right now: something a little more underground, viral, soulful…
…And risky. Because, to be frank, this could all flop. It could get lost in the noise and hum of a billion tweets about…stuff. But I’m excited to see how it goes. I’ve never wanted to live ‘at the centre’, and this edge feels pretty good for now.
So as we come to release in the next week or so, I want to say I hope you support it and do what you can to push the information round whatever networks you have. But actually, I only want you to do that if you really want to do it, if you really want to share the ideas because you are excited about them, not because there’s a bandwagon or any crap like that.
One of my favourite pirates in the book is Captain Barty Roberts, who, reflecting on the choice between continuing with the stable but brutal life on a Royal Naval ship, or ‘going on the account’ as a pirate, said:
‘Who would not balance creditor on this side when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst is only a sour look or two at choking?’
Roberts knew the risks he was taking, knew that most seamen who turned pirate lasted less than two years more, and ended up ‘choking’ on a gallows road, performing ‘the dance of the four winds.’ But he was undeterred.
‘A merry life and a short one, shall be my motto,’
he said… And perhaps this will be the motto of the book too. It’s been a hell of a fun ride to write, and even if its life is short and I get hung for it, I’ll still balance creditor on this side for, as Roberts also said, ‘a pirate’s life is the only life of a man of any spirit.’ Arrrrrrr!