How many of you know Sal, from Already Pretty? I imagine it’s a non-trivial number. She writes the kindest blog I know, offering style advice even as she advocates contentment with one’s own shape and size. In real life she’s open, lovely, and no-nonsense. Now Sal’s published a book. I’ve read it. Everyone has something to learn about how to dress oneself well from Sal.
Books, of course, aren’t just their content. They are projects reflective of the drive we have to matter. Here Sal talks about why she self-published. As in all of the best endeavors, her personal agenda lines up very nicely with the goals she has in serving her readers.
“When we dress to show respect for ourselves, people around us cannot help but sense our confidence. If you want others to respect you, you must respect yourself first. And show it.” Sally McGraw, Already Pretty
And some more from Sal, who is honoring us with a guest post today.
All is Vanity
I received a degree in creative writing in 1998. Back then, self-publishing was referred to as “vanity publishing” and considered to be laughable, illegitimate, downright shameful. I entered the job force believing that the only way to become a writer was to convince the cadre of already-employed writers and editors that you were up to snuff. And I did, and I nabbed a few freelance gigs here and there, and eventually became so frustrated with the insulting pay and rigged power system that I abandoned my love of writing to learn design, marketing, and project management.
In 2007, a friend suggested I launch a blog, and I did. It grew slowly which made the process all the more fascinating and rewarding for me. I still had some lingering feelings of illegitimacy since I wrote and published to my own website without ever soliciting the blessing of an editor, but I pushed that aside when I saw how rewarding it could be to write passionately and reach people immediately.
In 2010 I created a book proposal, secured a literary agent in New York, and worked with her for a solid year. She must’ve consulted with 20 or more publishers, all of whom said some version of the following: The book is well-written and original, Sally is terrific, and we’re not going to publish it because she’s not Tim Gunn and it’s too much of a financial risk. When I first contracted with my agent, I was convinced that the validation of a traditional publishing contract was essential. After a year of being told that my inability to sell tens of thousands of copies to total strangers was preventing me from making my book a reality, I decided I would damned well do it all myself. My readers had been requesting a book for years. I knew that SOME of them would be excited if I created and released one.
So I worked with a wonderfully diverse group of fellow bloggers to secure photos of their outfits, and designed my book according to my longstanding vision. And maybe I’ll sell 50 copies to my friends and family and then the book will disappear forever. But it feels fantastic to have followed this project to completion, despite being pooh-poohed by the struggling traditional publishing industry.
Writing has changed, publishing has changed, career paths related to writing and publishing are changing. I’m sure that many people will read my story and still see vanity publishing. I get that. Maybe it is vain to have been told by experts that you’re not good enough, and to plow ahead regardless. Or maybe it makes sense to utilize these new tools for creating and distributing creative work to reach whomever you can, instead of trying to reach absolutely everyone.