Out on a limb

MANILA, Philippines - It used to be that self-publishing was thought of as the last resort of the writer.

Unable to find a traditional publishing house that would publish one's work, one could turn to vanity publishers to put their book out into the world. Whether bookstores or critics would take their books seriously would be another thing entirely.

But recent years have seen the stigma of self-publishing slowly being eroded, as more and more success stories are emerging from the pile.

There is J. A. Konrath, a mystery writer who achieved modest success with traditional publishing but became a best-selling writer of self-published e-books.

There is also the tremendous success story of Amanda Hocking, who started self-publishing her books in 2010 and in the space of a year sold over a million books and earned US$2 million from sales. This caught the attention of St. Martin's Press, who signed her up and is set to publish her next four books.

Hoping to emulate at least a fraction of that success is Christian Emmanuel Marbella Fontanilla, an 18-year-old incoming University of the Philippines College of Medicine student. Fontanilla is the author of "Gray", a novel that revolves around a boy who has fallen from the sky and is seen as a savior by a population suffering from chronic mental illnesses.

Fontanilla is self-publishing "Gray" through Central Books Supply's Publish On Demand (POD) service. The book can be bought in any Central Books store in the country, as well as online through www.central.com.ph.


Deciding to opt for POD may have been a non-traditional choice, but Fontanilla is certainly continuing a family tradition of writing.

On his mother's side of the family are grandfather Jose Domingo Karasig, an editor of Liwayway and a novelist who published under the pen name Rafael D'Alarcon; grandmother Cornelia Antonio Santiago, a poet who published under the name Corazon Amor-Seco; and his grand aunt Nelia Santiago Karasig, who has had her work published in Catholic journals in New Jersey.

Fontanilla's first foray into writing came through comics.

"I wasn't really a comic book reader when I was a kid - the only ones I had being those from my uncle - but I guess I enjoyed making comics because it combined my interests in literature and art," he recalls. "My first works were kind of embarrassing. I was a typical kid amazed by heroics and powers, so I wrote a series of short stories which combined these two themes."

Fontanilla continued to pursue his interest in writing even while studying at the main campus of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS), signing up for an elective in creative writing and becoming the Poetry editor of the literary school paper.

It was also in PSHS that he would first get the idea for "Gray", during a classroom discussion about allegories.

"The concept of allegories was discussed to us in class and since I was intrigued by it, I decided to try it out. At first, I intended Gray to teach about values and show a path to self-improvement like how most allegories are but as I wrote it, my interests changed and I decided to use it as an experimentation with story elements," he shares.

"I wanted to be unorthodox in my writing style. Instead of parting a moral lesson, I wanted my novel to be an experience of reality, of how it's seemingly distorted and incomplete due to the limitations of one's perspective in a world filled with multiple and varying perspectives," he continues.


While Fontanilla was able to finish "Gray" in high school, finally deciding to publish it took some time.

"What made me reluctant to have it published was how my theme interests and preferred writing style were changing as I was entering puberty, causing me to feel unsatisfied with my work each time I read through it," he explains. "It was when I had finally decided to stop constantly editing and simply remained contented with leaving some parts in my younger writing style that I then moved on to having my novel published."

Frustration at the lengthy process of getting "Gray" published through more traditional publishing houses made Fontanilla opt for self-publishing, but he says he didn't go into it without being aware of some of the disadvantages.

"It indeed was convenient and they did assist me a lot in the technical aspects of publishing such as trying out the printing styles, designing the book cover, and distributing the copies," he says. "But it can't be helped to feel a certain degree of uncertainty with your novel because you won't receive a professional assessment of your work before the publication. You are your own editor and you are completely in charge of how your novel will turn out."

Nevertheless, Fontanilla says that self-publication is something that aspiring authors should consider.

"If you're confident with your work and have a very solid plan for how your novel should turn out or even if you're simply really eager to become a published author, self-publication is practical and suitable," he says.

As for other aspiring young authors like himself, Fontanilla gives some well-worn advice.

"As cliche as it sounds, they should follow their dreams. They should not lose confidence in their talent but they must also not be too proud to listen to others' opinions. They should continually challenge themselves and not fear sharing their ideas with the world," he declares.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Indonesia's Jokowi to speak to attorney general about Philippines death row convict
    Indonesia's Jokowi to speak to attorney general about Philippines death row convict

    Indonesia President Joko Widodo will consult with the attorney general on legal issues surrounding the case of death row convict Mary Jane Veloso, the Philippines presidential spokesman said on Monday. The statement came after the Philippines President Benigno Aquino met Widodo at the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur and appealed for "humanitarian consideration" in the case. Widodo was sympathetic and was consulting with the Indonesian attorney general on the legal issues, he said. …

  • Pacquiao a national symbol of hope in Philippines
    Pacquiao a national symbol of hope in Philippines

    Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao is idolised by tens of millions in the poverty-afflicted Philippines both for his punching power and as a national icon of hope after rising from the streets to the pinnacle of world boxing. Known to his countrymen in the Asian archipelago as "The National Fist", Pacman fights undefeated American Floyd Mayweather on May 2 to decide who is the world's best "pound-for-pound" boxer. To most of the Philippines' population of almost 100 million, Pacquiao, winner of an …

  • Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia
    Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia

    Australia on Monday urged Indonesia to ensure all legal processes have been cleared of corruption before executing two of its nationals, as bribery allegations surfaced regarding their drug smuggling trial. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on Sunday evening while Prime Minister Tony Abbott has written to President Joko Widodo to again plead for the executions to be halted. "Bali Nine" drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan could face …

  • Pagasa: Drought may worsen
    Pagasa: Drought may worsen

    The drought in 12 already dry areas in the country is expected to worsen as the summer season peaks next month, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. In an advisory, PAGASA said the provinces of Albay, Bataan, Batangas, Biliran, Cavite, Cebu, Ilocos Norte, Leyte, Misamis Occidental, Pampanga, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur will continue to receive “way below” or “below normal” rainfall in May. PAGASA defines …

  • Maximum restraint for Phl troops in West Phl Sea
    Maximum restraint for Phl troops in West Phl Sea

    The military has advised its pilots conducting surveillance in the West Philippine Sea to exercise maximum restraint even if they are being bullied by Chinese troops. Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said all actions of the pilots should be consistent with the declaration of conduct signed by claimant countries. Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the Philippines should remain on moral high ground when it comes to the territorial dispute. A …

  • MMDA simulates rescue march after quake, tsunami
    MMDA simulates rescue march after quake, tsunami

    The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) yesterday led the annual rescue march from Quezon City to Manila, giving rescue volunteers a glimpse of possible scenarios if the metropolis is hit by a strong quake or is inundated by a tsunami. Cora Jimenez, MMDA general manager, said 700 volunteer rescuers walked from the Quezon City memorial circle to the Bonifacio monument in front of the Manila city hall to simulate a response-exercise to a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. Renato Solidum, …

  • Islamic State threatens Mindanao, Phl tells Asean
    Islamic State threatens Mindanao, Phl tells Asean

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario bared yesterday before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reports of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threat to the Philippines through the Black Flag Movement in Mindanao. Speaking before ASEAN foreign ministers, Del Rosario said the ISIS threat to Philippine security is real rather than imagined because of the Black Flag Movement’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. …

  • ‘Chinese reclamation affecting Phl’s energy security bid’
    ‘Chinese reclamation affecting Phl’s energy security bid’

    China’s occupation and buildup of its military structures in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea is causing the country’s top energy official to get the jitters as the encroachment is seen as a huge dent on the Philippines’ efforts to achieve energy security. “It is a concern but if we don’t bring it to the United Nations, where will we bring it? We cannot bang heads with them,” Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told The STAR in an interview over the weekend. The US Energy …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options