What do Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, even William Blake all have in common? Yes, they were each self-published. If you were going to choose some remarkable role-models these folks wouldn’t be the worst ones you could choose. So why the scorn for the self-published author? Much of it is warranted, but if you consider how many small businesses open and close all the time, then compare that to the number of self-published books which aren’t successful it isn’t such a surprise really. In some ways a book by a person is a bit like starting a business. Of course, like anyone, I am more interested and curious about the ones that have done well rather than hearing about the ones which have failed.
All I used to hear, over and over again, when I first started out as a book author was, “Who published your book?” The implication is (and still is) that if you self-publish it’s because you can’t find a “real” publisher and thus not a real author at all. Now, I’m not going to state that many of the self-published book I see these days are very good, there are many things that people do wrong when self-publishing: carrying too much anger, promoting too narrow a view point, even using too wide of margins on their pages. Keeping in my mind what many say about reality/talent shows like American Idol–the most untalented contestants are normally the ones who are soooooooo sure they are really, really, talented.
So, why did my press start as a self-publishing venture? Honestly, I wanted to learn how to be a book publisher as well as an author and I had become fascinated with book arts/book design. The first book was River Tips and Tree Trunks, it combined much of what I cared about at the time: fly fishing, the outdoors, book design, being an author. I started out thinking I’d do three books and discover what publishing could lead to and this is exactly what I did. My first reading was to 12 people at a small bookstore in Cedar Falls featuring a picture of one of my favorite authors, Richard Brautigan. I worked on selling books after I got off of “work” (you know when I left my “real” job) my background in sales was a benefit as well. My second book was mine too, Moving With The Elements, then my third book was for another author, Northern Spirits Distilled, and this is when I first felt having been a self-published author really paid off. I was able to transfer the motivation I held for books and use them for another. In fact, having my roots in self-publishing is a blessing for authors I represent in my opinion, I wouldn’t wish on them many of the problems that came my way early on. Plus, and this is a bit of a tangent which I’ll cover more in the next ezine, I did have two other books of mine published by other publishers and I won’t say the experiences were bad, but I felt like they didn’t have the passion I have for being an author’s publisher.
I believe that having started out as a self-publisher not only puts me in good company, but taught me how to be a better publisher. More on why this in the next installment of this series.