Originally posted April 7th, 2010 by Davus
Although I am what is called "established" as a writer, I am unknown to the inner world of publishing and resorted to self-publishing rather than spend months and years sending my manuscripts to publishers, who, when they have accepted submissions, asked me to cut the length because they disliked the expense of printing a longer book. I know other writers who feel they are getting on in age and cannot wait years for publishers who have accepted their manuscript but wait for an opportune time or put it in a long line to wait its turn. Also my writings have been anti-establishment in some cases or championing the unfamiliar in others or elucidating the unrecognizable-by-mainstream-thought by others—in other words non-commercial by instinct and choice.
My compulsion to write this about self-publishing, in self-justification, comes from my wife’s enjoyment of Robert Gover’s On the Run with Dick and Jane which I chanced upon. She wants more of his writing. I met him in the early 60s in an apartment of friends on east side Manhattan at a small party in which his agents were present. He had just published The One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding and told me that every publisher in the US had turned it down, that his agents found a French publisher where it became a best seller and thereby put pressure on an American publisher to issue it. It became a cult classic.
The stories of authors being turned down by publishers scores of times are legion—and the success of their books when published are just as legion. But one never hears of the publishers regretting their bad decisions. I had the utopian idea that a publisher acted for all publishers in assessing a manuscript and that it was the fault of the manuscript if it was rejected, thus I did not persist. I went for years before I wrote something that found a publisher because of its topicality. Eventually with the advent of word processing and digital publishing and the confidence in my writing gained from the few of my books issued by established publishers. I issued my mss from my own press, which was much more fun than having a mss taken over by a publisher.
Distribution is a problem for small presses but if you are not commercial to begin with [and rarely is a commercially written book a work of art] distribution is of small significance. Moreover, with ebooks and the decline of bookstores, self-publishing will become even more worthwhile. We may reach our readership some day.