7.0463 Rs: Self-Publishing (2/115)

Thu, 10 Feb 1994 18:41:09 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0463. Thursday, 10 Feb 1994.

(1) Date: Wed, 2 Feb 94 21:42:23 PST (21 lines)
From: cbf@athena.berkeley.edu (Charles Faulhaber)
Subject: Re: 7.0453 Opinions: E-text, Advertising, Publishing (1/335)

(2) Date: Fri 4 Feb 94 00:46:55-PST (94 lines)
From: Ken Laws <LAWS@ai.sri.com>
Subject: Self-Publishing

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 94 21:42:23 PST
From: cbf@athena.berkeley.edu (Charles Faulhaber)
Subject: Re: 7.0453 Opinions: E-text, Advertising, Publishing (1/335)

Self-publishing is going to become increasingly more
prevalent, because it's so easy. The reason it will
continue to be viewed with suspicion by the academic
world is precisely the same.

Few of us are capable of writing a really good book first
crack out of the box. And the succession of readers
provided by a good press --from anonymous readers to
style editors-- help turn mediocre books into good ones
and good ones into great ones. They also prevent
a lot of bad books from being published, which is
probably as it should be. If we wrote half as much
and thought twice as hard before we did, we'd all
be a lot better off.

Charles Faulhaber
UC Berkeley
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------105---
Date: Fri 4 Feb 94 00:46:55-PST
From: Ken Laws <LAWS@ai.sri.com>
Subject: Self-Publishing


I just read Steve Palmquist's infomercial for his self-publishing
venture. It clearly shows the difficulty of screening out ads
based on whether the writer reads HUMANIST. I believe that you
would have equal problems with screening on the basis of profit
motive. (I happen to be a for-profit proprietor who is not
making enough "salary" to afford print advertising. Compare that
with a non-profit that spends millions on junk mail. Perhaps we
are equal threats on the net, but I should think that the product
and the way it is presented would be more important than the legal

Commerce prompts people to do things they would not otherwise do.
It prompts them to write books that the public might actually
want to read (e.g., the works of Twain), and it prompts them to
hawk their creations in public places. You can't have one without
the other, but there does seem to be value in local ordinances
against posting handbills on every flat surface.

FWIW, I strongly support Steve's recommendation of self-publishing.
I haven't tried it myself, other than my online newsletter, but
I've read a bit about it. At its worst, self-publishing is the
ultimate vanity press -- and with poor layout and typography as well.
But anything can be done badly. With proper training or peer
support, self-publishing can be done well. Consider, for instance:

Remember Edward Tufte's "The Visual Display of Quantitative
Information"? Tufte is a Yale graphics professor who hocked his house
in 1983 to self-publish the book. Forbes estimates his pre-tax profits
at about $750K by 1987, on 61K copies. He's now sold 140K copies (for
$1.7M total?). Tufte's sequel, "Envisioning Information," was published
in 1990 with $700K from the first book. At $48 list, 60K copies so far
have probably brought him $1.2M. His next book, "Visual Explanations,"
will be out by 1995. [Forbes, 11/23/92, p. 18.]

I'll close with some more tidbits from the same issue of my Computists'
Communique, V3 N7, 7/27/93. (But first, let me mention that my experience
with Strangelove Press has been much better than Steve Palmquist's.
I asked for the net-advertising issue and it was sent to me. I didn't
learn a whole lot, but Michael Strangelove seems to be doing OK for
a humanities major caught up in the Internet publishing explosion.
His previous claim to fame was a survey of resources for religious

Self-published books include Strunk and White's "The Elements of
Style" and Richard Nelson Bolle's "What Color is Your Parachute?"
Two self-published books are now on the Times best-seller list (4/93);
others are doing well in regional or specialty markets. Marilyn and Tom
Ross of About Books (Buena Vista, CO) are self-published authors who tells
others how to self-publish. Major wholesalers accept very few of the 100
self-published submissions they get each day, but self-published books
often do well through direct mail, gift shops, sporting goods stores,
800 numbers, or as premiums for other products. [Esther B. Fein, NYT.
SJM, 4/26/93.] I highly recommend the Ross's book, "The Complete Guide
to Self-Publishing" (Writer's Digest Books).

Tracy LaQuey Parker says that network publication of her book chapters
(in ASCII) has increased sales. Addison Wesley and the Online Bookstore
(obs@world.std.com) have received orders from countries where they had
never done business before. This could be a special case, though, as
her book is about the internet. [Stu Weibel (weibel@oclc.org), VPIEJ-L,
4/20/93.] Brendan Kehoe had a similar experience: network copies of the
first edition boosted sales of the second edition. His first draft had
already circulated on the net, and Prentice Hall had been nervous about
allowing it to remain available for FTP. "Don't let anyone copy it, just
let them look at it." [brendan@lisa.cygnus.com.] Harald Lux has seen
several studies finding that net access to technical abstracts does not
affect journal subscriptions by end users, but does lead to more journal
subscriptions by for-profit institutions. [lux@dmrhrz11.hrz.uni-

Minitel's LISIERE Publishing service has put writers in contact with
their audiences since 1991. More than 200 authors and poets are online,
and more than 10K people read them (and sometimes write to the authors or
become authors themselves). One limitation is that Minitel currently
supports only fourteen 40-column lines per page. Service rates in France
and much of North America are about $.24/minute or $14.40/hour; 2/3 goes
to the author or publisher. Call (212) 399-0080 or (914) 694-6266 for
access software. [Jack Kessler (kessler@well.sf.ca.us), PACS-L, 4/16/93.]
The enabling technology is in the billing, as for phone service or dial-up
information services.

-- Ken Laws