Friday, October 08, 2010

As I have said often before, non-fiction "self-help" and informational books are the most likely types to be successfully self-published. Useful practical knowledge is always in demand and so the genre is easier to sell. But this should by no means discourage fiction authors from bringing out their own novels.
After all, a myriad of literary classics were originally self-published; such as, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Ulysses, Huckleberry Finn, War and Peace, Spartacus, The Wizard Of Oz, and Remembrance Of Things Past. Famous authors who first went the self-published route include Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Walt Whitman, Anais Nin, Upton Sinclair, Zane Gray, George Bemard Shaw, and T S. Eliot. Beatrix Potter first wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit to entertain an ailing child, then submitted her illustrated story to several publishing houses. All refused to go along with her idea of a small format to fit little children's hands, so she self-published it, and her stories went on to become perennial favourites to this day.
Contemporary poet Rod McKuen published his own Listen To The Warm, and personally sold 40,000 copies before his talent was recognized by Random House, which has since sold over a million copies. University instructor Robert James Waller wrote a book from his heart, The Bridges of Madison County. No publishing house was interested, so Waller printed it himself; selling copies to stores on consignment with a money-back guarantee. Response was so positive, nobody wanted a refund. After the book rose up the bestseller lists, movie rights were acquired to star Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
You probably know that James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy became one of the best-selling books in recent history (despite it being possibly the worst-written book ever.) Yet, Celestine began as a modest self-printed item that Redfield and his wife gave away as free samples to hundreds of New Age-type stores. After a book salesman brought it to the attention of publishing giant Warners, the firm purchased world rights for $800,000, and it stayed on Publishers Weekly's top-fiction list for 64 weeks.
Richard Paul Evans' 87-page parable about parental love, The Christmas Box, was originally self-published just as a gift for his family. He printed only 20 copies, but word-of-mouth soon caused people to ask local bookstores for it. Believing he was on to something, Evans tried to find a publisher, but in vain. After repeated rejections, he self-published, starting with 3,000 copies. After he'd sold 700,000 copies personally, Evans' book eventually wound up in a bidding war won by Simon & Schuster, and it is now a multi-million copy continual seller.
Wildly successful courtroom novelist John Grisham used to peddle copies of his first one, A Time To Kill, out of the back of his car before catching the eye of New York publishing giant Doubleday. But even well-established authors are sometimes still forced to go it alone. Though Jill Paton Walsh was already a recipient of several prestigious literary prizes, no publisher in Britain would accept her religious allegory, A Knowledge Of Angels, so she published it herself and it was promptly short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1994.
The award-winning dramatist Snoo Wilson had three previous novels published by big imprints, but could find no takers for his The Works of Melmont, a fictionalized version of the life of Robert Maxwell. So Wilson decided to publish it himself. He said, "There is a part of me that sees self-publishing as an admission of failure, but then Harry Potter got turned down by lots of publishers. And advances in technology today have made it so easy to produce a book."
Australian best-selling thriller writer Matthew Reilly started out as a self-publisher at the tender age of 19, because his first novel, Contest, was turned down by every publishing house he approached. He personally placed copies of his book in every store he could, until finally gaining the attention of a major firm and his novel has sold two million copies up to now.
Reilly said something particularly astute about one detail all self-publishers should remember, "I've noticed that self-published books don't have imprint logos." He held up a copy of his latest success, Scarecrow, and put his finger over the publisher's logo on the spine to demonstrate. "See, it looks weird. People use visual clues too detect what is a real book and what is not!'
The growing acceptance of such books has launched the modern no-publisher revolution, so-called "crossover titles," where subsidy books are being bought by big-name publishing houses. Self-published authors everywhere could take heart from this new phenomenon, as your novel could well become the next blockbuster title.

No comments: