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Self-publishing. The very phrase itself inspires blood-curdling screams in many.


It’s all about jumping through hoops.

I seem to collect such distinctions: “homeschooler”, “single dad”, “philosophy grad”, “one-time Renault owner”. I thrive on embracing that which marginalizes. I just can’t do what I’m s’posed to do.

My works so far have been self-published, and my upcoming novel Eye of the Diamond-T will be as well. It’s important to note that I probably could have found a publisher for it. I chose not to.

A while back I met a prominent reporter from a major daily newspaper. It was the great sort of encounter where you start talking to someone sitting next to you at a bar and he turns out to have some critical information. He had a publishing story to share.

He’d been a successful journalist for a long time when he finished his first novel. A major New York publishing house didn’t hesitate to pick it up, gave him an advance, put it out for reviews — all of the standard things that happen when you get a mass-market publishing deal with a major house. The book was made available through standard distribution channels to major bookstores and retailers. He was hoping the publisher would support some promotional activities, but they didn’t really. He was ok with that. He and his friends worked on promoting it through channels that a major media person can use.

The first edition sold about one thousand copies at a 10% royalty. There was no second printing, nor any move to paperback. I don’t think he made back his advance. The publisher basically shelved his work after it failed to set the charts on fire immediately after release.

After a couple years of frustration, he fought to get his publishing rights back. They finally released him from the contract. He turned to Amazon/CreateSpace and republished his work, this time with a heavy emphasis on social media marketing. Within months he was up to 6000 sales and was still counting. He couldn’t have been happier and said he wished he hadn’t bothered with the major pub house contract at all. Most first-time novelist like the validation of being “published,” but he certainly didn’t need that.  He wasn’t quite sure what a publishing house is for at this point, at least not in relation to writers of genre fiction. Technical manuals and scientific works still might need the element of peer-review that comes from being “published,” though sometimes that’s a farce as well.

Author, speaker, fellow serial failure and self-publishing convert James Altucher said it best: Just get your art in front of the public. Do it yourself. Everything needed to edit, design, publish and promote is available online. Just make it happen.

No one is coming to help. Just do it.

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BTW: You can see the end product of my self-publishing odyssey at

Words and Images ©2014 Bill LaBrie