DIY (Do-It-Yourself) culture is everywhere these days. What started as a punk rock ethos of spurning the system and making your own clothing, albums and films has become an essential part of our economy (it even has its own cable channel). Self-publishing, one of the oldest forms of DIY (I doubt Gutenberg had a corporate publisher before there was such a thing as mass-produced books), is a brazen statement of independence and resiliency, no different from someone making their own shoes or outdoor shower.
Then why don’t we associate self-publishing with something as radical and cool as someone selling cassettes from the trunk of their beat-up Volkswagen? Possibly, it’s the very nature of writers to be reclusive — not trumpeting their works from behind a microphone and sweating all over the front row of screaming teenagers. And yet almost each week we see a new author who chose to self-publish, to go DIY, become a media force, able to connect with thousands of fans through Facebook, YouTube and public events.
Self-Publishing is as DIY as it gets, it just looks a little different. A writer decides not only to brave perhaps the most solitary experience in the world (the writing of a book), but to also to try to market and help that book find an audience with little help from (or interference by) a publisher. They’re able to rely on friends, other authors and even strangers to help edit their book, to spread the word, to create an underground sensation. That’s why it’s always a shock to everyone whenever a self-published book finds its way to the best-seller list — because it was done through a network of loose acquaintances. It’s just like when an independent band suddenly explodes onto the scene — a slow, underground, DIY product has taken the world by surprise.
So, while we do admit that there are some key distinctions between indie rock stars and writers, we like to point out their similarities: they both now participate in a great tradition of creating your own work, controlling your own work and building community around that work. When you self-publish, you aren’t handing off your book to someone else and saying, “now this is your problem.” Instead, you’re looking at what you’ve created, recognizing you’ve done something outstanding, something that not many do and inviting people to help your project grow. You’re ready to Do It Yourself, with the help of others. And that’s what DIY is really all about.