Jack Cheng is one of the people that inspired me to become a writer and have a real go at publishing a book. Instead of going the traditional publishing route, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development and printing of his first novel, These Days, which is about a young designer in the New York tech scene falling in love with a girl who doesn't even own a cell phone. It was a wonderful, contemporary book that tapped directly into the beautiful mess that is the millennial generation of relationships (or for that matter, all relationships, I guess). I liked the ending as well - it was brave in its realism, and although I won't ruin it for you, despite Cheng being an idealist, he doesn't let that inflate his characterization of love in the traditional romantic sense.
Below is a talk Cheng gave at a festival about how he approaches fiction writing. Instead of viewing the creation of the book itself as his singular role, he took on everything, much in the way that an artisan might personally complete every component of his work. Cheng hand-coded the digital versions of his novel, filmed and narrated the beautiful promotional video, type-set the text, and even designed the cover. You can see how much he cares about his work, and it's a beautiful thing. A book is an experience, and the form in which it arrives does matter. The way the text appears on the page matters. The way the pages feel in your hand matters. Now, in the long term, that sort of effort is probably not sustainable. But as an expression of love for the actual work of artistry, it's amazing.
The big take-home message from Cheng's approach to art is that you can do it yourself.
So many people want to do something but waste time waiting for permission from someone, or waiting for the gatekeepers of an industry to tell them that they're good enough.
Do it anyways. You can hire an independent editor, cover designer, and book designer yourself. You don't need anyone else's permission.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis