Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Self-Published -- Among the Subpar and Undeserving of Being Read

While reading an article about authors and how best they should get published, I got to a part where it talked about self-publishing and how this was a terrible idea. The writer of the article went in depth as to how such self-publishing projects were for books that were subpar, and as a result more of the author's vanity than work being deserving of being read. I considered what the person had written for a few minutes and then I recalled some stories I had heard about other authors who went the self-publishing route and what the results were.

Mark Twain is among my favorite authors. Not only for the words that he put on a page but the humor that he managed to inject into his entire life. He also worked as both a journalist and wrote factual works as well as fiction. Therefore, I tend to self-identify with him as we share a similar writing CV, although I would never claim to have his talent. 

One thing that many people do not know about Mark Twain was that in addition to being a writer, he also became a publisher.  The book Huckleberry Finn was his first self-published work and goes against both of the rationales that I came across in the article I mentioned. The work was neither subpar nor was it strictly for the man's vanity. 

As far as I have been able to discern, Twain self-published because he was tired of publishers making more money off of his books than he did, so he took on the effort as a business decision. If you have ever read Huckleberry Finn, I think you would agree with me that it is well deserving of being read. 

When author Charles Dickens self-published A Christmas Carol in 1843, he did so out of sheer desperation. He realized that the tale needed to be in print for Christmas and not a single publisher was able to meet that deadline. So, he took it upon himself to make the print version a reality, to include contracting John Leech to provide the four original illustrations within the pages of the book. Dickens worked with a printer, and the first edition of the book came out on December 19, just in time for Christmas. In fact, the first printing of the book sold out by Christmas Eve.

Is there a single soul who would consider the book to be subpar? Dickens, like Twain, had business reasons for self-publishing.  The only way to ensure the book’s commercial success was for it to be in stores on a particular timeline.  A timeline no publisher would agree to meet. That publisher has now joined the ranks of those who failed to realize genius when it was placed in front of them and one who let a historic opportunity slip through their fingers.

I wonder if the writer of the article was even aware of these two examples of self-publishing that disprove his theory that such an effort is either subpar or the result of an author's vanity and undeserving of being read?  I do not doubt that he probably read both works at some point in his life, and enjoyed them as well without realizing that neither would've existed if they had not been self-published.

Reflecting on my efforts in fiction, all of which is self-published, I can tell you that I spent time deliberating over whether what I wrote was worth the time it took me to write – – or the time it would take to read. Once released into the wilds of online and physical bookstores, I sat nervously waiting for the first reactions.  Based on the reviews both from readers and from peer journals – – I am proud to say that they were not considered subpar and were all considered to be a worthwhile read – – with one book being called Unputdownable, which may or may not be a word.

Oh, in case you did not realize it the writer I spoke of – was a publisher.


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