When you’re digging into a subject on the internet, there comes a point at which the site links you’re following become known paths, and those paths start doubling back on each other with increasing frequency. It’s at this stage that you confront two possibilities:
- You’ve discovered all there is to discover on the subject.
- You’ve discovered a self-contained network on the subject, and there are other undiscovered networks dedicated to the same subject.
It seems counterintuitive that this could happen in an information age defined by search-engine and browser arms races, but it happens to me all the time. I search on a given subject, I follow the links, I seem to run out of fresh links, then I sit there, wondering: is there another system of links out there just like this? Am I missing it? Am I not searching for the correct keyword, variable or wildcard?
Maddeningly, there is no way to verify either possibility without actually searching for something that may not be there, and even then the best you is call off the dogs when the sun goes down and tell everybody back at the camp that you did your best. I mean, in the spy business this is why CIA operatives go funny in the head looking for moles. You can’t prove a negative.
I say this as preamble to frame my experience of stumbling onto April L. Hamilton and her various online incarnations. It’s also a lesson in doing due diligence as a researcher, which means digging into web sites, following links, reading comments, following links in comments, and generally being exhaustive in the way that you would be if you thought a big pile of money was waiting for you to find it.
My own route was as follows. While reading an interesting thread at E-Fiction Book Club, I ran across an interesting note by April in the comments. At the time I had no idea who she was, but her comment was informative so I made a point to read the rest of her comments in the thread, which included a link to this:
The Washington Post has a not-very-surprising article highlighting how many new book authors are discovering that if they want to be successful, their publisher isn’t really a huge help (unless you’re a big name), and that the path to success often involves doing a ton of “grassroots” marketing yourself.
Given that one defense of mainstream publishing these days is that independent authors don’t have the editorial, design and marketing support so critical to authorial professionalism, it was interesting to read a story about how publishers are making signed authors do the work of self-published authors. Sure, maybe a publisher in one subdivision of a giant multinational octopus can get an author TV time at another subdivision, but by and large most published authors are on their own in terms of marketing their books. (In that last sentence you should have taken close notice of the words on their own. The reality of the difference between a published author and a self-published author is shrinking every day.)
Grateful for that link I back up to April’s comment again and clicked on her name to learn more about her. Which is when I had one of those moments where I couldn’t believe I was staring at a site I hadn’t seen before: Publetariat.
I mean, six, seven, eight weeks of digging, and I missed this? On the About page I find Mark Coker, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, JoAnna Penn and other names I recognize. How did I miss this? Then I see April’s name again, after which it says: author, and founder of Publetariat.
Another click and I see she’s written books about being an independent author, she’s given speeches on the subject, she’s got a website all her own at AprilLHamilton.com, and a blog, too. And I had managed to miss all of it.
At which point I got both seriously interested and seriously irritated with myself. So I started reading and clicking, clicking and reading, and at some later point — and I cannot tell you how I did this — I ended up here. Which is the first thing you should click on today if you’re thinking about self-publishing anything.
— Mark Barrett