Vanity publishing

I’ve been reading a book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Angel’s Game, about an obsessive writer.

Set in Barcelona in the 30’s, he ends up making a deal with a shadowy figure to write the ultimate book in a year. In that year, he starts to hear strange things about the man he’s dealing with and decides to break the deal, resulting in all sorts of terrible things happening. Part mystery, part supernatural thriller, this book has a great combination of elements that pull in the reader.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz ZafonI can highly recommend it – as with a few Spanish writers (and their translators) who seem more than capable of writing gripping page turners, I couldn’t put this one down either! If anything, it’s the kind of novel I aspire to write myself.

And as it’s a novel by an author about another author, tidbits of writing ‘thought’ sneak out amongst the plot, perhaps casting light into the ways this author thinks about writing. The way he starts the book made me laugh out loud which, regardless of his intention, had me hooked.

“A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood, and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that will surely outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember this moment, because from then on his is doomed and his soul has a price.”

I would be lying if I said I didn’t recognise myself in that description, as I’m sure a lot of authors would. It’s amazing what we’re all willing to do for that small version of fame, finding one’s name in print.

“Normal people bring children into the world; we novelists bring books.” I would go so far as to say they’re our children, more’s to the point. The difficulty for some is letting those children go. Me, I can’t get them out of the house fast enough, but ‘real life’ often gets in the way.

So yes, I’d say we’re all vanity publishers – why else would we subject ourselves to this kind of self-imposed exile with so little obvious benefit for the average author?