Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Frankenstein's Monster Defends Doctor Frankenstein

Two sides of an issue that remains divisive. Regardless of which side of this debate you fall, I think it's important to be respectful.

Girls at Isleta Day School, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1940.
I believe we each achieved that here—though one of us was a bit more long-winded. That would be me, of course.

Hello Kelan,

I have just noticed that you produced your book Delta Legend through Createspace, which unfortunately makes it something of a problem for us to carry at our store.  Createspace is a subsidiary of, a company whose business practices have been very harmful to independent book stores such as ---------.  So we can't in good conscience carry their publications in our stores.  That's the case both for books that are self-published through Createspace, as well as other titles Amazon publishes through major publishers such as Houghton Mifflin (Penny Marshall's autobiography is an example of such a book that we declined to carry at any of our stores).  We can sell your title at the event.  That would be okay.  So while I can take Delta Legend on consignment, it will only be for the night of the event. You can either bring them the night of the event or, if you still want, you can bring them by early.  I'll leave a consignment form for you.  But unfortunately, we would not be able to sell or display your book until the event on --------, and we would need to return any unsold copies to you at that time.  I am very sorry, and I apologize for any inconvenience that this might cause you.



Dear -----, 

Thank you for one of the more respectful and polite rejections I have yet to receive. And yes, I’ve received my fair share of nasty ones, both in writing and in person.

I believe it is in the best interest of all parties that I appear to interview ------ about his wonderful book but do not sell my own book at this event. This event is not about me. It’s about generating interest and sales for ------'s book and ---------.

I am extremely proud of Delta Legend and I would never want it placed somewhere it’s not wanted—only tolerated for an event. I do, however, feel it’s important that you and others who share your stance understand why I ultimately self-published Delta Legend and did so with CreateSpace.

In 2010, when I finished the manuscript and began querying agents, I truly had no idea that agents and the majority of the publishing industry believe that a book featuring an African American male protagonist relegates that book to a limited niche market. I was extremely na├»ve. 

Thanks to the We Need Diverse Books movement, things have shifted slightly, but there’s still work to be done in this regard. Toward the end of my 51 rejection letters, two agents actually spelled things out for me; letting me know that while I was a decent enough writer, Delta Legend was going to be a tough sell. That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to let the gatekeepers of the publishing industry keep me from telling Calvin’s story. 

In researching my options of how to make this happen, CreateSpace came out ahead in customer satisfaction with regard to accessibility and guidance. They were, after all, in the independent publishing business before being bought by Amazon.

I’ve had booksellers tell me that I should have published with LuLu or some other company not owned by Amazon (thank you for refraining from that by the way). Being an armchair publisher is one thing. Actually bringing a book into the physical realm is something else entirely.

My partner, Tom Size, has been a Sound Engineer/Producer for over 30 years. He experienced first hand the revolution within the music industry similar to the one that’s currently underway within the publishing industry. Post-revolution, Tom’s had the opportunity to work with some amazing artists whose music never would have seen the light of day under the old paradigm of the record companies.

When the gatekeepers no longer hold exclusive power to decide what is worthy, it changes everything. We are still in the throws of discovering both the good and bad of this with the publishing revolution. I hope, however, that independent booksellers don’t allow their war with Amazon to become their identity. Independent brick & mortar bookstores serve the community in ways never could, never will. People still crave authentic communities over online communities and I will always support indie bookstores, even though my own book will likely never appear on their shelves.

I would have loved for Delta Legend to have been traditionally published. It would have been a much easier road than the one I currently walk. But there will always be challenges that make us work harder in order to be even better.

The discrimination I experience in being a self-published author is minor compared to the very real discrimination marginalized groups experience routinely. It means everything to me that I now have a physical copy of Delta Legend to share with the students I’ve had the privilege of working with. If not for the advent of self-publishing and CreateSpace, that could not happen.

When a young adult who struggles suddenly becomes engaged and discovers the joy of reading through a main character named Calvin Pierce—someone he can identify with—that’s something I will never be ashamed of, or apologetic about.

—Kelan O’Connell  

Bride of Frankenstein, 1935
CreateSpace Author, 2013

In addendum: The event went extremely well. The bookstore folks were respectful and gracious to me. I bought my copy of Bettyville by George Hodgeman (so excited) and connected with yet another teacher who serves at-risk youth. A complimentary copy of Delta Legend is on its way to him.