FOR THE PRICE OF A BAG OF CHESTNUTS SHAKESPEARE BECAME KING
An acquaintance of mine, Jody Seay, recently released a memoir about growing up in Texas. It’s called “Dead in the Ditch.” I haven’t finished reading it but I’ve enjoyed the journey so far and have smiled along the way. A mainstream publisher might have been interested in the work if Jody had thrown a vampire into the middle of her hilarious snake tale. But she didn’t waste time trying to find out. She published the book herself.
Self-publishing has changed over the past few years. Laser printing has reduced the cost of producing a book to pocket change. The advantage of self publishing, as opposed to main stream or indie publishing, is that the author keeps 100% of the sales.
One woman sold her electronic books for 99 cents and at the end of the year ended with a profit of $200,000. Obviously, she could write. Not everyone who self-publishes can, but I suspect the market sorts that out.
Some writers are determined to wait to be discovered by a big publishing house. It could be an endless vigil even if they write “good stuff.” Maybe these authors-in-waiting would be willing to look at alternatives if they knew how Shakespeare became famous. A hundred years after his death he could have faded into oblivion if Jacob Tonson, who bought the rights to the plays, hadn’t found himself in a publishing war with Robert Walker. Walker pirated the works and sold them for a song. Tonson tried to stop him but found he couldn’t, so he sold his pamphlets for less than Walker’s. The later retaliated in kind and because of the price war between these two men, people who’d never seen a Shakespeare play could read one for the cost of a bag of chestnuts. (Robert Neuwirth, “The Pirate Economy,” Harper’s, 9/11)
Simply put, if your book isn’t out in the world and available at a fair cost, then the leaves of your manuscript will turn brown faster than those on the trees. As in all matters human, it seldom hurts to show courage and stand on your own two feet.