Self-Publishing: Two Takes

This week on The Rumpus featured a Steve Almond essay laying out his rationale for self-publishing two books that wouldn’t easily be categorized. Almond also discusses his practice of only selling them at readings, and the result of that:

[T]he weirdest part was that I sold out at every reading. I’d love to believe that this was because people were just blown away by my incandescent prose. But I think it had more to do with a kind of communal feeling. Readers liked the fact that the book wasn’t available everywhere.

I haven’t read either of the books that Almond refers to here, though my interest is definitely piqued. I did, however, recently read Warren Ellis’s Shivering Sands, a collection of essays that Ellis made available via Lulu. It’s a similar case to Almond’s, in some ways: most of the pieces here were already written, and time was taken to make the book look distinctive. In this case, Ariana Osborne’s design echoes the look and feel of the work she’s done on Ellis’s recent graphic novellas, which makes sense — even with the author’s name on each blanked out, it would be clear that Shivering Sands and Aetheric Mechanics come from the same pen.

It’s the literary equivalent of a b-sides and rarities collection and, well, I always gravitated towards those. (One of my first exposures to R.E.M. came via Dead Letter Office; the habit stuck.) A few weeks ago, Ellis added an update with the first two months’ sales figures, which make for interesting reading.

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