Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Self-Publishing: A Proud Tradition, A Promising Future

By Brent Erickson

In 1989, James (then 39) quit his job as a therapist to work on his book full-time. Drawing on his interest in Psychology, Eastern Philosophy, Ecology, and History, he completed what he believed to be a fine first novel.

James began sending his manuscript to publishers in 1992. He received a few cautious offers, but they did not feel right to the aspiring novelist, so he decided to self-publish the book. With the help of his wife Salle, James sold his novel out of the trunk of their car. “Of the first 3,000 copies we printed, we mailed or personally gave away 1,500 to small book shops and individuals…” recalls James, “Word of mouth recommendations took care of everything else.”

Thanks to grassroots enthusiasm for his novel James's book was soon picked up by a major publisher. The Celestine Prophecy was published in hard cover in 1994, As of 2005, it had sold over 20 million copies worldwide and had been translated into 34 languages, making James Redfield a household name.

Though the story of James Redfield and The Celestine Prophecy is an extreme success story, a surprising number of authors got their start as self-publishers. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. was originally self-published for his classes at Cornell University. Twelve Golden Threads by Aliske Webb was rejected by 150 publishers, but after self-publishing and selling 25,000 copies, Webb signed a four-book contract with HarperCollins. A Time to Kill by John Grisham was self-published, and like James Redfield, Grisham sold his first novel from the trunk of his car.

The List of authors who began as self-publishers reads like a who’s who of classic writers, giving historical context to a practice often looked down upon by the mainstream literary world. Virginia Wolff, E.E. Cummings, William Blake, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Irma Rombauer, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Mary Baker Eddy, William E.B. Dubois, Mark Twain, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, George Bernard Shaw, and Anais Nin all had to prove themselves with self-publishing before being picked up by the major publishers.

Today, thanks to modern technology aspiring authors have more tools available to them then their predecessors could ever have dreamed of. Three of the most promising developments for self-publishing in modern times are, Desktop Publishing programs, Print on Demand method of publishing, and the Blogging revolution.

With a personal computer, printer and affordable desktop publishing software, writers can create high quality publications complete with visual elements all from the comfort of their homes.

Print on demand or POD is a methodology in which a copy of the book is not created until after an order is received. This style of publishing was impossible in the past due to the costs involved, but now because of low printing costs it is a fast growing way to sell the works of young writers.

The term blog is derived from the words Web-log but blogging is more than,what has come to be called, “Vanity publishing”. With millions of people surfing the net everyday a blog is a method of self-publishing that holds a lot of potential for young writers.

Free web space, affordable programs, print on demand method, all that is missing now is the next James Redfield. Start making room in the trunk!


d. chedwick bryant said...

James Joyce was self-published? Mark Twain? that's

Vanessa said...


You're quite welcome. Your site is awesome and Post Modern Times is off the chain. I had such a great time surfing the sites, it was almost orgasmic. I'll definitely use info from there for future posts. Let's keep in touch. Thanks again.


skip sievert said...

Reality is that... If you sell a hundred thousand $ worth of books, you may get 2 or 3 grand out of the deal if you are lucky..
So. Always publish yourself. Start your own publishing company. Do it your way. Do not lose your creative control.
It also helps if you are not interested in money , and can tell any , and every one to jump in the lake. The first and last Freedom.