Wednesday, March 16, 2011


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 and gaining respectable sales-figures.

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 Bernard Shaw T.S. Eliot, and Margaret Attwood.

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 publisher was interested, so Waller published 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 the fact it is among the worst-written books ever. Yet, it 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. (Go figure!)

Richard Paul Evans' 87-page parable about parental love, The Christmas Box, was 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. Realizing he was on to something, Evans tried to find a publisher. But 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 perennial seller.

Wildly successful courtroom novelist John Grisham used to peddle copies of his first effort, A Tine To Kill, out of the back of his car before catching the eye of New York publishing giant Doubleday. But even 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 Melinont, 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 before its huge success by taking a chance on J.K. Rowling. And we all can give it a try, as advances in technology today have made it so easy to organize producing 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 boot in every store he could until finally gaining the attention of a major firm and hi. novel has sold two million copies. Reilly said something particularly astute about one detail all self-publishers should remember. "I've noticed that self published books don't have publishing house 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 to detect what is a real book and what is not." Self-publishers should keep that gem in mind when getting their book-cover designed.

The growing acceptance of many such books has launched the modern publisher revolution, so-called "crossover titles," where previously self-subsidized books are being bought by big-name publishing houses. Self-pub­lished new authors could take heart from this new phenomenon, as your own book could well become the next block­buster bestseller.

No comments: