Ditching My Publishing Dreams for the Personal Web

There's more competition than ever in the writing and publishing worlds of today. If you're an aspiring author and want to make a name for yourself, you not only have to bring a good, original story to the table, but also take networking and marketing seriously. Even traditionally published authors are expected to promote their work, something that publishers used to take care of altogether. Things have changed and the midlist is, unfortunately, shrinking. Sadly, it isn't the best time to be an author, unless you've been established for years.

Believe it or not, publishers have a large amount of control over an author's success. Although they invest in all their authors, some are more invested in than others. This is understandable as publishing is a business, not a hobby, but it leaves plenty of authors feeling like failures when, in reality, most probably didn't fail at all—it was insufficient help and resources that sealed their fates from the beginning.

Few writers only write for themselves. Most want their work to be noticed, and there's nothing wrong with that, whether it's the modest desire for communication or something as lofty as mass appeal. The writer is a special breed among starving artists who is constantly beaten with reminders that their labor is worth pennies (or nothing). We've been led to believe we must become social media experts and influencers for our books to succeed. When we receive cricket silence, we're apparently at fault for not working hard enough, even though big social networking sites have algorithms that don't favor discovering new people and relevant, chronological content.

But fear not, my fellow writers (and other creators), for the personal web is your friend.

I remember a time when finding community and making genuine friendships on the internet was a great deal easier. The old web, also known as the personal web, had its fair share of problems, but it was free of corporate control. If you feel as if nobody cares about your work, remember: the corporate web—Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and so on—isn't intended to connect people as human beings, but to connect them as consumers and profitable targets of ignorance and anger. That's why hot takes and cancel culture get so much attention. Outrage is a lucrative business, and it's only going to get worse as paywalls become normalized.

So, you want people to care about your work. You want support, a loyal audience. The corporate web, like traditional publishing, is hit-or-miss with far less than a 50% chance of hitting. Self-publishing would be a more viable option if social media had the noncommercial-based values of the personal web. Seems hopeless, doesn't it?

I honestly don't know how I'd be managing right now if I hadn't discovered Neocities, a sliver of proof that the personal web is not completely dead. There are no algorithms or influencers here. It's all organic discovery and connection, an entirely different world.

Personally, I'm not interested in monetizing my writing anymore so I do treat it like a hobby instead of a job, but Neocities is a godsend for creators. There's a lot less competition and much more support. It isn't just the size of the site that makes a difference, but also the way it's designed. Here, we aren't products being pitted against each other, a fact that applied to the whole internet before corporations took over.

Some of us think we want to be famous best-sellers, but we really just want to connect with sincere people and contribute to appreciative spaces. I was one of those aspiring authors with the Hollywood dreams, wanting to see my stories unfold on the big screen and fans create art of my characters and whatnot. Before rediscovering the personal web, I believed I had to reach literary stardom to garner any real support. It was flawed logic, but the setup of social media is literally designed to make you feel inadequate and starved for attention. You don't know it's not a "you" problem until you realize exactly how the corporate web works.

This article was created by Liminal-Librarian