Is Self-Publishing Only for Desperate, No-Talent Authors?
Bite your Tongue.
Those who decide to self-publish can hold their heads high, because they will be counted among some of greatest authors in history. Below is but a partial list of authors who have chosen to self-publish at sometime in their career.
- William Blake, Ken Blanchard, Robert Bly,Lord Byron, Willa Cather, Stephen Crane,
- e.e. cummings, Alexander Dumas, T.S. Eliot,Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Benjamin Franklin,
- Zane Grey, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne,Ernest Hemingway, Robinson Jeffers,
- Stephen King,Rudyard Kipling, Louis L’Amour, D.H. Lawrence, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine,
- Tom Peters, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Pope, Beatrix Potter, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust,
- Carl Sandburg, Robert Service, George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelley,Upton Sinclair,
- Gertrude Stein, William Strunk, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoi,
- Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman.
Note: The list was pulled from John Kremer’s Self-Publishing Hall of Fame
If you don’t find at least one of your heroes here I would be very surprised. Also you may have noticed that quite a few poets populate the list. Modern poets complain that publishers aren’t interested in their books. It’s said that poetry doesn’t sell. Compared to a fast paced pop-novel of sex, violence, and action they are probably right. I have to keep reminding myself that publishing isn’t primarily about getting the finest works into the public’s hands–it’s a profit generating business like a grocery store. If the stock isn’t turning it is costing money. I, like many others, tend to glamorize the traditional publishing houses and imbue them with a nobility they just don’t have. It’s a business. Poetry, on the other hand, is something else. Poetry is a work of passion, not business. Publishers probably weren’t any more anxious to publish poetry then than they are now and that is why so many poets had to resort to self-publishing.
One of my Talking Through My Hat readers added this comment about self-publishers:“For me all I had to do was find out that Hemingway’s first book was “self-published,” to help me make my decision and after 32 years of “practice” I feel I did it just right. And then later this year when I found out about Mark Twain’s force of ten thousand book agents scattered across America selling his works and Ulysses S Grants Memoirs (also published by Twain’s company which was run by his young nephew Webster).” Miles Cobbett, Author the Alaska book CHAMPION.
Miles followed up with this comment in another post: “One more tasty tidbit about Hemingway and his publisher, that I bet you already know is his lively discussions in letters between him and Charles Scribner about Royalty Payments. I was fascinated to read in copies of Hemingway’s “Letters” that CS only offered to pay Ernest Hemingway 10 % of the net. And Ernest wrote back in a lively letter that he wanted 15 % or a Minimum of 12.5 %…
This was fascinating to me, especially when I read in the other book I wrote to you about, (Birth of a Salesman), how Mark Twain offered and paid U. S. Grant and his widow, a whopping 70% of the profits from publishing Grant’s Memoirs.”
I have more sympathy for the traditional publishers than you might think from reading my posts. They have to have highly tuned crystal balls to foresee the future. If they choose to take a gamble on an author, and it tanks, what do they lose? Why the entire investment, of course. And what about credibility? What happens to the employee who stands behind a book bomb? Or two, or three? Can you say pink slip?
If you know your book will sell–you stand behind it. Raise the money to print and promote it. You might be like my friend Miles Corbbett whom I quoted above. His self-published book CHAMPION is selling well and he owes it all to word-of-mouth advertising. Miles has this to say about his success: “Getting the word out has been a fun & challenging journey, but it’s all been done so far without any help from a Madison Avenue super advertising blitz.”
If you are a self-publisher, considering self-publishing, or a supplier to self-publishers be sure to check out the manifesto for The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors, Inc. (click here).
Tags: Robert Bly, Robert Service, Robinson Jeffers, Rudyard Kipling, Self-publishing, Stephen Crane, Stephen King, T.S. Elliot, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Paine, Tom Peters, Traditional Publishing, Upton Sinclair, Walt Whitman