Getting Your Book Published

I just finished writing someone about their hope of getting their book published. Since I do this often, I might as well make the essence of my advice available here.I’m always somewhat saddened when people write me to ask about how to get their book published, because the reality is that it doesn’t matter whether your book is important to anyone or not, if you want a commercial publisher, then those folks are a business and their main consideration is whether your book is likely to sell well enough for them to invest thousands of dollars in producing and promoting it. As an author I think the world should subsidize publishers, but that only happens with university presses for specialized, scholarly books. In the commercial world, publishers have to make a living at what they do.You can try to find an agent to look for a publisher, but agents have to make a living too, and they can’t afford to try to place books that publishers don’t think will do well in sales.However modern print-on-demand technology has made it possible to self-publish one’s book easily with companies like iUniverse.com (who have re-published some of my books that had come out with a commercial publisher first but were out of print), and your book is then available for web ordering. They don’t really really advertise and promote your books, though, that’s up to you as the author. But at least you’ve shared your insights in the book, you have the satisfaction of a published book, and somebody who would benefit from your writing might come across them! That’s a big step over not having your book available at all. So you might check out iUniverse.com and similar companies.

5 comments

  1. On a general note: I look forward to reading your latest book. I came across your site only recently browsing for sites in the scientific field that might be of use to me in the process of clarifying certain questions. I am trying to construct some sort of viable philosophical basis on which to proceed with my own meditive practice. My concern arises out of an intuition that for myself progress can only be made in the context of some sort of coherent conceptual framework that puts meditation experiences into an acceptable generalized scheme of how reality works, especially with regard to the problem of the relationship between the brain and consciousness. For myself I seem to be beyond any sort of easy acceptance of the metaphysical systems in which traditional Buddhist practice in embedded. This is not simply a matter of theory. In my experience doubts become a hindrance on a practical level, manifesting as a constant low-key background distraction. One could of course make such distraction an object of meditation but I also find it necessary to address the problem on a conceptual level. I note that in one paper you address the question of the positive affect of a predisposition to believe in cases of extra sensory perception and a corresponding negative affect in cases of sceptics.

    1. >an intuition that for myself progress can only be made in the context of some sort of coherent conceptual framework that puts meditation experiences into an acceptable generalized scheme of how reality works, especially with regard to the problem of the relationship between the brain and consciousness<

      That's the way we usually operate, we have an a priori set of beliefs about how things are supposed to be and, we now know from psychology, our perceptions tend to edit and distort input to make things fit that way. Some kinds of meditation, on the other hand, may start from a belief system but have an injunction that their main purpose is to get better and better at observing how your own mind actually operates and so getting back to a more basic level of reality than belief systems. The way Shinzen Young teaches vipassana (insight) meditation is like that, e.g. How far these approaches ultimately go….I don't know. But they certainly provide a lot of insights at an ordinary psychological level and can create a kind of "spaciousness" of perception and thought that makes it less likely for ideas to carry us away (mindlessly)…..

  2. Thanks for your reply. This is the first time I’ve engaged in a conversation via a blog. I am amazed and delighted that I can do so with someone as accomplished and knowledgeable as yourself. The wonders of modern technology… Ill try to be brief.

    “We have an a priori set of beliefs about how things are supposed to be and, we now know from psychology, our perceptions tend to edit and distort input to make things fit that way…”

    I think there are two categories of ideas here. The first … ideas that combine to create a belief system… the stuff we inherit or are conditioned into or which we ourselves create in response to a breakdown in belief or the absence of any overt belief in the first place. I think most of us are in the last category these days. Those drawn to Buddhism at some point encounter a metaphysical system, including belief in the six realms, gods and goddesses, nature spirits, reincarnation, the omniscience of the Buddha, and the bardo realm etc.
    Unless we are willing to abandon a critical stance and embrace a pre enlightenment belief system we are inevitability plunged into a crises, especially if we have tasted the deep benefits of a spiritual practice that systematically but gently forces us to encounter aspects of ourselves that we would rather avoid. I think the huge interest in Buddhism in the west has to do with the vast array of meditation techniques contained within the tradition. Our collective koan is that we find the treasure buried within a tradition as exotically metaphysical as the most baroque and exuberant forms of Catholicism. What to do? I t seems inevitable that we will, personally and collectively, embark on a demythologising and deconstruction of Buddhism as systematic and as tortuous (to those who have become attached to the beauty of the forms and the extraordinary richness and depth of the symbolism… most of us?) as that undergone by believing but critical Catholics.
    The second… ideas that, if we identify, plunge us into reactivity and negative behaviour. I think these are the cognitive aspect of emotions like anger or hatred, strong energy coupled with a conceptual judgement. This is one of the places where western psychology and Buddhism intersect.
    The complication is that in the first category of ideas, those that go to make up a worldview, the emotional factor is often hidden. In regard to Westerners attracted to Buddhism (me) I mean attachment to exotic forms, wishful thinking, wilful blindness, dogmatism, the allure of charismatic personalities, and wonderment at the beautiful completeness of the philosophical system. (Equally important at the other extreme… undercurrents of emotion fuelling the critical stance.)
    In the second category, emotions that plunge us into reactivity, it is the cognitive factor that we are often blind to, the underlying judgement that gives force to the emotion.
    All of which sometimes makes me wish I had never heard of the Buddha. As Chogyam Trungpa once said to a beginner… now you are in for it.

  3. >As Chogyam Trungpa once said to a beginner now you are in for it.

    Good warning! But our egos will try to use any spiritual or belief system just to make us more comfortable, so we have to work hard to get beyond that. For example, the concentrative skill learned in meditation can be used to suppress unpleasant feelings. That certainly seems an improvement over ordinary suffering, no? As I understand it, from Shinzen Young, though, the Buddha’s great contribution to a world where concentrative meditation was already a highly developed skill was to realize that concentrative control wasn’t enough. It didn’t get to the causes of avoidable suffering, you needed to develop insight for that. Thus Vipassana, “insight” meditation. But this takes courage to keep looking as your mind goes deeper and deeper, and then, at least sometimes, you see causes of maladaptive emotions and have a chance to do something about them…

  4. I wish it were simply a matter of continuing to meditate. I know that at one level it is so… and the noting of maladaptive emotions will lessen their force over time. But even in the noting of emotion isn’t there a cognitive element? I mean in the way we might eventually realise the coming and going of emotions and their lack of a solid core? My own experience of meditation is very modest. I have had one clear incident of direct seeing in which I realized, with clarity beyond conceptual thought, that my own relative, particular, unique self was at one and the same time a manifestation of the absolute. I was simply the way reality manifested in one particular instance… as a unique individual among an infinite number of equally wondrous and unique individuals. The insight was accompanied by laughter. It seemed so obvious. How could anyone miss it? The paradox of a thing being at one and the same time individual and universal, relative and absolute… without alternating between one state and the other, without any loss of individuality, and that it was the same for everyone and everything… was no problem for reality at all. It certainly is a problem for my mind. And the need to make sense of meditative experience and the felt lack of it, that too is a form of suffering. Perhaps it should be categorized under the heading…loosing what you possessed and not getting what you desire. As the memory of the incident fades it seems to become more important to fit it into some sort of conceptual scheme. Isn’t that a quality of the mind… to try to see how things might fit together and isn’t there a good side as well as a bad side to that?

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