by Meridith Mckinnon
Alan Marshall apparently had always wanted to be a writer. Reading his autobiographical novels he shows a man of great patience. Not just in his style of writing but in how he published. It intrigues me how in Australia’s short history the landscape of publishing has changed enormously, as it has globally. From the days of publishing Marshall’s perhaps most known novel, I can Jump Puddles, in 1955 we can sum up the now three main pathways to publishing.
A finished manuscript can be pitched direct to a traditional publisher or to an agent or a writer can enter the world of self publishing. All three very legitimate pathways for a novelist to take. It really comes down to what you want from publishing and how you want to publish. Whether you traditionally publish or self publish both methods have their merits and pitfalls – again depending on what the author wants from their creativity and their expectations.
For Marshall, the options would have been only traditional publishing. And in Australia, publishing houses were few at the time of his first published work in, I think, 1944. Publisher F.W. Chesshire was drawn to Marshall’s work. From what I’ve read Chesshire’s bookshop located in Little Collins st , Melbourne printed Marshalls books. The bookshop was advertised on the back of tram tickets. What a change from today!
Having self published my first (my only!) novel, I can confidently say it was the only way for me. I loved the process of re-writing, editing and publishing. For me it was easy, exciting and uncomplicated. To make sure my book was professional and the best it could possibly be meant it was hugely time consuming, self absorbing and there were times it was a tad over whelming. But I wouldn’t have done it any differently! So would I do it again? Definitely. Will I do it again? I’m not sure.
Publishing a novel is a business. It involves an outlay, not only of time but money and sacrifice. It’s hugely personal and selfish completing a manuscript, let alone self publishing it. It’s definitely not for everyone, yet it could be for many who think they can’t do it.
I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had enormous support surround me from family and friends. The publishing process done, marketing it is another whole adventure! Another story for another time.
I envy the seemingly simplicity at which Marshall published his book, in a seemingly uncomplicated publishing environment. I don’t mean to undervalue the competition of publishing at his time but it was certainly a different era with different values placed on an author and their writing. Today, traditional and self published authors sit parallel to one another- both worthy of whichever pathway taken and both valued by todays reader.
I'm heading to Noorat, the birthplace of Alan Marshall on July 28. An afternoon event with Anne Gleeson after her return from Estonia and Ireland - cant wait to hear about it! Tickets available from Noorat Writers Group.