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Monday, January 16, 2012

Self publishing, What do you think?

Self publishing has had a bad reputation and I wonder if it is fully warranted.  The standard idea is that if a traditional publisher doesn't want a person it must be because they just aren't that good.  Yet we all know that the publishing houses have been hit hard, retail book stores have been closing so the publisher today wants a sure bet.  Thus we get a glut of vampire books because they are hot sellers right now.  

I believe this is why every reader out there has read a book where they have said "whatever possessed the publisher to sign on for this book?"  I don't think I am the only one who has come across that situation.  It would seem that poorly plotted, terrible characterizations, disastrous dialog, and atrocious writing in general have been accepted by those traditional publishing houses.  If they have made bad judgements in their seeking the next big seller why is it that a self published book is looked down upon?

I found the Self-Publishing Hall of Fame which lists the multitude of successful self-published books which I have taken some highlights from and listed below.  I bet some of these will surprise you and perhaps challenge the notion of self published automatically equates to poorly written. 

Spartacus by Howard Fast was a best seller and a blockbuster movie was self published.

Bestselling Canadian author Margaret Atwood self-published her first volume of poetry Double Persephone in 1961.

Richard N. Bolles originally self-published What Color Is Your Parachute

Before selling rights to Putnam, Julia Cameron self-published her bestselling The Artist's Way. The book has sold more than a million copies now.

Deepak Chopra vanity published his first book and then sold the rights to Crown Publishing. The book went on to become the first of many New York Times bestsellers for this author.

British journalist Stephen Clarke originally self-published in France his travel adventures, A Year in the Merde.

American poet e.e. cummings self-published No Thanks, a volume of poetry financed by his mother. On the half-title page, he listed the thirteen publishers who had rejected the book, which became one of his classics.

In 1933, Charles Darrow invented the game of Monopoly. Parker Brothers had originally rejected the game because of “52 design flaws,” so Darrow produced the game himself and quickly sold 5,000 games to a Philadelphia department store.  Okay, it is not a book but I thought it was interesting.

Mary Janice Davidson began by publishing her romance novels as e-books at  A friend of hers brought her novels to the attention of an editor at Berkley, who liked one of them enough (Undead and Unwed) to offer a three-book deal.

French novelist Alexandre Dumas, author of such swashbuckling romances as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, self-published some of his first books.

Nobel Prize-winning poet T.S. Eliot, author of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land, paid for the publication of his first book.

At the age of 26, Ben Franklin, using the pen name of Richard Saunders, self-published his Poor Richard's Almanack in 1732 and continued to produce the almanac for another 26 years.

Greg Godek sold more than 750,000 copies of his 1001 Ways to Be Romantic before selling the rights to Sourcebooks Trade.

Zane Grey, the father of the adult western novel, originally self-published. His first successful novel, The Heritage of the Desert, earned enough money that he was able to move his family to California from Ohio.

British novelist Thomas Hardy, author of such classics as Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, paid for the publication of his first book.

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, author of such classics as The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls, paid for the publication of his first book.

In 1958, Clifton Hillegass borrowed $4,000 to self-publish a guide for Shakespeare's Hamlet. He sold 58,000 copies of the first Cliff Notes in that year. He went on to publish hundreds of Cliff Notes booklets that high school and college students came to rely on for helping them to study and write reports. He eventually sold his company to John Wiley for millions of dollars.

In 1968, after taking eight years to write his novel about the Korean War and after getting more than a dozen rejection letters, Capt. Richard Hornberger chose to self-publish M*A*S*H under his pen name of Richard Hooker. In 1970, his novel was made into a movie, with a screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. and directed by Robert Altman. The movie was the third highest-grossing film of 1970.

Irish author James Joyce, author of Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, and many other novels, paid for the printing of Ulysses in 1922 with the help of bookseller Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Company in Paris, France, and some of their friends (this is called patronage or subscription publishing). Beach contacted writers and arts patrons throughout Europe pre-selling copies of the novel. When they collected enough money, they published the book.

Robert Kiyosaki sold more than a million copies of his self-published Rich Dad, Poor Dad in less than three years.

Todd McFarlane formed Image Comics with six fellow artists and proceeded to self-publish the Spawn comic book in 1992. The first issue sold 1.7 million copies!

Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly & Associates, started out as a self-publisher of books on UNIX. He now runs the fourth largest trade computer book publisher, which grew out of his self-publishing efforts. 

In 1776, Thomas Paine self-published Common Sense, a 46-page pamphlet that sold over 500,000 copies and helped to draw more people to fight for the American Revolution.

18-year-old Christopher Paolini self-published the first book of his fantasy trilogy, Eragon, with the aid of his parents in February 2002. He spent a year hawking the book at various festivals, schools, and bookstores, often selling 100 or more copies. When the book began attracting a lot of attention, Paolini sold rights to the entire trilogy to Knopf Books for Young Readers in a major deal worth half a million dollars.  These books are intricate and amazing high fantasy so I was blown away to read he had self-published the first book!

Business consultant Tom Peters self-published In Search of Excellence and sold more than 25,000 copies directly to consumers in the first year. He then sold the rights to Warner, whose edition has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies.

When publisher Frederick Warne rejected The Tale of Peter Rabbit because of the costs of printing the illustrations, Beatrix Potter self-published a limited edition of 250 copies in 1901.

James Redfield sold over 80,000 copies of his self-published book, The Celestine Prophecy, from the trunk of his Honda and then sold the reprint rights to Warner Books for $800,000! The book, the #1 bestseller in 1996, has gone on to sell 5.5 million copies.

Irma Rombauer used $3,000 from her husband's estate to self-publish The Joy of Cooking in 1931. Since then, this cookbook has sold millions of copies.

M.J. Rose self-published an erotic thriller called Lip Service. Within three months, it became's highest ranked self-published novel. In 1999, it became the first self-published novel acquired by the Literary Guild book club. A few weeks later, after a heated auction, the hardcover rights were bought by Simon & Schuster for its Pocket Books imprint.

Several of those really surprised me, how about you?  The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry is a classic example of self publishing a book and once it had proven itself then the traditional publishing houses had a bidding war over it.

In this day and age of ebooks and print-on-demand technology self publishing is more accessible than ever.  What do you think about this?  Do you shy away from self-published books?  Are you more cautious when considering a self published book?  Please share your thoughts on this growing trend and how you see it impacting you?  The future of publishing?  Can it perhaps save the printed book and encourage reading in general?

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Jo said...

This was a very interesting post. Some of those were pretty surprising and even impressive.

I don't have any problem reading self-published works. I'm less likely to because of things like availability and price, but I'm not unwilling.

Susan Fuller said...

Yes! I'm a self published author, and help others do so. It works. So much of wanting a publisher has to do with the perceived prestige of it, but you still have to do your own publicity and marketing. In all likelihood you will also make more money through self publishing.

A.F. Heart said...

Great comments. Susan, I also understand that it is 18 months with a traditional publisher before the book makes it to the shelf. I can see that being a turn off for authors who have time sensitive material. Then there are the creative aspects where a traditional publisher may change any aspect of the book from the name to plot dynamics and characters. Self publishing allows the author more control over their finished product.

all things to consider.

misskallie2000 said...

I have nothing against self pub except I have to read on my computer which is not comfortable. With a book I can move around also move around with my Kindle. I do have some downloaded I need to read.
That is some list of great people and their feats. Never knew some of it but did remember some even if I have been out of school 50 yrs. lol

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