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A Literary Love Affair

 

 

Self-Published Superstars
From Huckleberry Finn to The Bridges of Madison County and beyond! Compiled by Dorothy Mills and friends


Huckleberry Finn
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Twain decided to eliminate "the middle man" (a commercial publisher) and keep for himself the profits from a sale he hoped would reach 25,000 copies but actually exceeded 500,000. John Kremer says Twain "got tired of the foolishness of his previous publishers."

Jules Siegel writes: Twain talks about why he self-published in his so-called "Autobiography." To me, the story of this book is the story of why so many writers eventually self-publish or just give up in despair. Twain explained that he had one rule for writing the book (most of which he dictated). He did it only as long as he was interested in a subject or story and when his interest flagged he stopped. He wanted the book to be published exactly the way he wrote it -- in full and, specifically, not in chronological order. He never got the wish. The definitive edition by Harvard University Press was abridged and rearranged in chronological order by the editor, just like every other version. If they do this to Mark Twain, what will theynot do to us?

Source: Small Press Book Ring, www.austensharp.com

Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman

Walt himself published this famous work in many editions over a period of many years, as he constantly added poems to the book. Whitman was a printer and for a while was a country teacher, then became a newspaper editor.

Clue from: Laurie O'Brien, flapoet@aol.com; Small Press Book Ring, URL www.austensharp.com. John Kremer says that a hundred years after Whitman's death, his book continues to sell thousands of copies every year. Well, that may be partly because of college lit course requirements, but saying that doesn't detract from Whitman's appeal.

Betty Zane
Zane Grey

This book is part of an "Ohio River Trilogy" about early settlers (including his ancestors). After writing about his ancestor, Betty Zane, Grey produced enormously popular melodramatic tales of the West. According to the Zane Grey Web Site, www.zane-grey.com/infolinks, he's known as "the man who made the West famous."

Clue from: The Rosses, www.spannet.org/cc/mnt01sel.html

Source: Concise Columbia Encyclopedia.

Works of William Blake

His first book, Poetical Sketches (1783) was the only one published conventionally during his life, and with the help of his wife he illustrated and published everything else himself. He moved his poems around among several books. Besides being an English poet and artist who exerted great influence on romanticism, Blake was an engraver and added lavish colored engravings to his works.

Source: Concise Columbia Encyclopedia; clue from Laurie O'Brien, flapoet@aol.com

No Thanks
e e cummings

Innovative poet who published a volume of poetry with financing by his mother, listing on his title page the thirteen publishers who had rejected it! (What a great idea!) It became one of his classics.

Source: John Kremer, who lists a Self-Publishers Hall of Fame at his site, www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish.html.

Walden
Henry David Thoreau

An American standard about living the simple life and being an independent thinker. Thoreau published only two books in his lifetime, and neither was a financial success, yet Walden, his chef d'oeuvre, is said to be the best-selling book in American history, according to a Walden site, www.ectopia.org/ehof/thoreau/biblio.

Source: John Kremer and me

Beyond Good and Evil
Friedrich Nietzsche

Classic work of the great German philosopher, poet, and critic.

Source: Steven D. Hales, hales@bloomu.edu

Principia Mathematica
Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell

Cambridge University Press, is the publisher of record but. refused to print it unless the authors paid part of the publication costs. Russell remarked, "We thus earned minus fifty pounds each for ten years' work."

A two-thousand-page philosophical tome on mathematics published early in the century that, by the 1950s, had been read by only about six people. It costs $565.00 through Amazon.com. A few dozen have been sold.

This famous book has just been included on a Modern Library list of the century's hundred greatest nonfiction book, reports The New Yorker, May 31, 1999. So the authors lost money on one of the most important books of the century.

Other important writers who reputedly self-published include Gertrude Stein, Edgar Allen Poe, W.E.B. DuBois, Alexandre Dumas, Stephen Crane, Mary Baker Eddy, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair (a favorite of mine), George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Anais Nin.

Source: John Kremer's home page and Small Press Ring, www.austensharp.com.

Some Current Self-Published Literary Lights


Volk
Piers Anthony

Xlibris

With more than a hundred sci-fi and fantasy titles published traditionally, Piers Anthony turned to Xlibris when he found that a manuscript outside his usual genre--a historical/political work--didn't interest his regular publishers. He now also owns a large chunk of Xlibris.

Source: Julie.duffy@xlibris.com

The One-Minute Manager
Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Self-published and sold more than 20,000 copies before signing the reprint rights to William Morrow.

The book launched a series that sold millions of copies.

Source: John Kremer's site, Book Marketing Update, www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish.html. Email John at info@bookmarket.com, or read his book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books (Fairfield, IA: Open Horizons, 1998), now in its fifth edition.

By the way, John's annotated list, "Self-Publishers Hall of Fame," on his web site makes for inspiring reading. What great success stories about self-published authors! From reading them, it becomes obvious that what it takes to get your book noticed is a combination of creativity and determination.

What Color Is Your Parachute?
Richard Bolles

A runaway bestseller about our work life. Picked up by TenSpeed, it sold more than ten million copies!

Source: John Kremer

The Joy of Cooking
Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker

Originally self-published. Many new editions have been published by Bobbs-Merrill since the 1931 book came out. A revision was published only a year or two ago, and although I bought it as a gift, I still use my 1971 edition, which is excellent.

 Probably the best all-around general reference cookbook now available. Contains most standard North American dishes, along with new ones as they become popular, and every recipe is tested.

Source: Clue from Pat Bell, catspawpre@aol.com, citing a Fax On Demand (FOD) from Dan Poynter. Doesn't everybody use this wonderful book, at least as a reference?

Bridges of Madison County
Robert J. Waller

Appealing story of love and loss that all happens within four days. Picked up by Thorndike and made into a popular film.

Source: Jett Vercruse, jett_vercruse@goldminesw.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com

Chicken Soup for the Soul
Jack Canfield and Mark V. Hensen

Inspirational speakers share recipes for spiritual healing. Picked up by Health Communications, inspired a whole series directed at specialized markets like women.

Source: Jett Vercruse and www.BarnesandNoble.com

Mutant Message Down Under
Marlo Morgan

Description: Shopped her self-published book around as nonfiction (including to Stillpoint Publishing of Walpole, NH, where I was editing part-time) before placing it as fiction with HarperCollins for $1.7 million. It made the best-seller lists.

Source: John Kremer and me.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive
John Muir

The book sold millions to the "small is beautiful" crowd and he founded a company that bears his name..

Source: John Kremer and me.

The Afterlife Diet
Daniel Pinkwater

The author claims that after the first printing sold out within three weeks, the publisher "abandoned it," according to the book description at www.Xlibris.com. However, I can't find any listing for the book at the Library of Congress catalog, and I've inquired at the LC about this.

Pinkwater describes the book as "the first commercially published fat novel, or Schmalzroman." He writes primarily for children (Fat Men from Space, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency), but has also written for adults. A weekly contributor to National Public Radio's Weekend Edition. Recently published two books through Xlibris.

Source: julie.duffy@Xlibris.com

The Celestine Prophecy
James Redfield

James first sold the book out of his basement. Then he sold reprint rights to Warner for $800,000, says John Kremer. This New-Age thriller book became Number One on the best-seller list and paved the way for a successful sequel.

Source: Bonnie Bucqueroux, bucquero@pilot.msu.edu

You Can Heal Your Life
Louise Hay

Louise self-published this book, then sold the rights, but went on to establish her own company, Hay House, which has published all her other books and which John Kremer lists as one of the top 101 independent publishers, it's that successful.

Source: John Kremer

The Handbook of Higher Consciousness
Key Keyes, Jr.

New-age self-help book. He self-published all his other books, too, and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Source: John Kremer

50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth
John Javna

Hit the environmental awareness movement just right and sold more than four million copies.

Source: John Kremer

Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
Wess Roberts

Self-published, and after four printings and an endorsement from H.Ross Perot, approached New York Publishers again. Warner Books ran with it, and it became a bestseller.

Source: John Kremer

The Elements of Style
William Strunk, Jr.

Strunk self-published this guide for his classes at Cornell University. Especially in its later revision by E.B. White, it sells thouands of copies each year. Writers still depend on this thin but excellent little instruction book that enjoins them to write simply and clearly.

Source: John Kremer and me.

Envisioning Information
Edward Tufte

Took out a second mortage to publish it because he wanted to retain complete control of the design and quality of the editions. He wasn't convinced that his usual academic publisher would do justice to the work.

"Wonderful" book on the design of information, declare Liz Horton and Michael Morin, ba202@freenet.buffalo.edu. Tufte sold more than a million dollars worth of a group of related titles and invested much of it in two subsequent titles, still published by his own company. These books are "remarkably well made," says Alan P. Hayes, shgraphics@berkshire.net, with contributions by Liz Horton and Michael Morin, ba202@freenet.buffalo.edu.

The Read Aloud Handbook
Jim Trelease

Self-published, with orders fulfilled from the author's garage, until brought to the attention of Viking/Penguin by Bee Cullinan, a professor of children's literature at New York University. Ann Landers championed it, too.

For parents, teachers, and children, including a treasury of books that are nice to read aloud.

Source: John Lansingh Bennett, jbennett@lakeland.cc.il.us and Leslie Cefali, ljcefali@aol.com; review at www.BarnesandNoble.com.

Your Erroneous Zones
Wayne Dyer

He published this himself, at first, on a cross-country tour of local radio stations and hawking it out of the trunk of his car.

With a title taking off on "Your Erogenous Zones," Dyer exploited the self-help market.

Source: Bonnie Bucqueroux.

Others who contributed information about successful self-published books include Jett Vercruse, jett_vercruse@goldminesw.com and www.goldminesw.com; Rod Carveth, carveth@mail.hartford.edu; Michele Janine Johnson, mdjcpa@usit.net and www.petalsoflife.com; Mark Shenefelt, mshenefelt@standard.net; Christine Reusch, reusch@Frh.edu; Charles Stough, copyboy@dmapub.dma.org; John Lansingh Bennett, jbennett@lakeland.cc.il.us; Elizabeth Penrose, Julian9EHP@aol.com; Don Porter, dporter@sbtinfo.com; Paul T. Jackson, tresres@gte.net;

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The Painful Pleasures of Self-Publication

By DOROTHY  JANE MILLS
READ

For 15 books, she did as told. Some of them are still making money -- but not for her. Book #16 is her own business.

Her 15 Books
Tips for Self-Publishers
Self-Published Hits