Sunday, March 29, 2009

Twain, Poe and Sandburg started out as self-publishers
By Sarah Long Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 3/8/2009 12:01 AM

One of the questions often asked of librarians is, "How can I get my book published?" Unfortunately, the unwanted answer is, "In your dreams" or "Not easily." But being mannerly people, librarians steer would-be best-selling authors to books such as "Writers' Market Place" or "Writers' Market." Both are annuals and you can find them at almost any library or bookstore. Both books offer good advice about agents, preparing a book for submission to a publisher, researching likely publishers, etc. Still, it is very hard for a first-time author to get a book published by a commercial publisher who will be absorbing the cost of publishing with the hope of recouping the money from book sales.
If you are willing to underwrite your publishing effort you can self-publish. Publishing companies who do this work are sometimes called vanity presses or vanity publishers. Typically, these are traditional publishing companies specializing in producing books on offset presses at the author's expense. All the copies produced are the authors and can be given away or sold. The term, "vanity press" now has a negative connotation based on the assumption that if the book were truly worthy, a commercial publisher would have accepted it. But given the difficulties of getting a commercial publisher to look at the work of a first-time author, this is not always the case. In the past, many famous authors self-published in order to have more control over their work, and perhaps, with the hope of larger profits. Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Carl Sandburg, and Henry David Thoreau, among others, went the self-publishing route. Read Full article Here.

As inspiring as the article is...this article features a new ebook DIY site called, and under their publish your work section, I found:

Here is how it works Register as an Author and Sign In and go to MY eBooks and click Get Published. It’s easy. Features and Benefits publishing with

  • FREE hosting solution for your ebooks
  • 50% royalties for each sale
  • you retain 100% ownership of your work
  • you set the price of your ebook
  • FREE ISBN for your ebook
  • valuable writer’s resources – Events, Awards and Classifieds
  • FREE Classified Ads
  • valuable writer’s links and networking tools

There is no cost to up load a work on It’s FREE. PRICE YOUR WORK You can choose the amount you wish to sell your ebook. Give it away free or sell it for the price you set. You can change the pricing of the book at anytime. Set a new price and promote your book for a “this week only special.” Then change the price again. You have the flexibility. All pricing is in U.S. dollars ISBN Do you have an ISBN? You can enter your own ISBN or we will provide you an ISBN for FREE. Your work will also be archived at Library and Archives Canada, ( ), a Canadian Government Department as a permanent record of your work. ROYALTIES Royalties of 50% are paid for each sale of your work. Royalties are paid 4 times per year and you must have sold at least $25 to receive a royalty payment. Sales continue to accrue, until you receive $25 in royalties and at the next pay period you will be issued a royalty payment.

-- Edited to Add:

Chris Gerrib brings up a good point about the “inspirational” aspects of the article in question. Chris very clearly explains the fact that Mark Twain started his own “imprint” in order to publish the memoirs of a friend, not his own work. Edgar Alan Poe paid a printer to run off copies of his first manuscript, and I think all this leads into the definition of self-publishing, which is blurry at best. If you pay a publishing house like Wheatmark or Xlibris or any one of the many so-called “vanity” presses, are you really self-publishing? Some say yes, and some say no. Some say the word “self” implies autonomy, that you are doing it all yourself. You might pay a printer and a distributor and maybe even a publicist, but everything else belongs to you from formatting to cover design. Some argue that if your ISBN doesn’t list you or your imprint as the publisher of record with Bowkers, then you are not self-published, you are subsidy published. I don’t know what difference it really makes to the reader. DIY or Subsidy Press really boils down to intent, involvement, technical skill, Legal Rights, and money. Would Poe have paid a Wheatmark versus just a printer if such technology existed at that time: Who knows? But whatever your definition of Self-published is, we should be mindful of media spin.

I completely agree with Chris on this matter, but the article, I think, was deliberate, as they were plugging a new self-pub service. So, the semantics can be argued and also very deliberately obfuscated based on intent. We all know what the intent of the article was: to sell a service using inspiration as the hook. So again I say, all Indies need to do their research, and as far as the inspirational media spin, take it for what it is.

Anyone who has experience with this company, we would love to hear from you. -- cannegardner


Chris Gerrib said...

Cheryl - that "Mark Twain went self-publishing" is highly misleading at best. After Twain was hugely famous, he started a company to publish the memoirs of his personal friend, Ulysses S. Grant.

It went broke, and Twain nearly lost his house over the deal.

Most of the other "examples" listed as "famous authors went self-published" are similarly misleading.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I added some additional commentary to the post based on your comment Chris. Thanks