Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Okay, Go Ahead! Self-Publish and See What Happens

"As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move. . . similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle."- Honore de Balzac

I'm sitting up in bed in this nice hotel in Washington D.C., in my jammies, drinking hotel coffee, eating Zone bars, watching politics on TV (multi-tasking, yes), and drooping badly under the slog of a bad head cold. You needed to know that, right? But let's again think about self-publishing.

Yesterday I held forth the opinion that self-publishing is the "kiss of death" for would-be ligitimately published writers, but I didn't explain why, so here goes: First, when you go public with your writing you want it to be the best it can be because the first things people read are going to leave a lasting impression. If you write a book and you haven't taken the time to master the craft of writing and you've sent the manuscript out to fifty publishers and they all reject it but your mother or your spouse says it's a "wonderful book, dear," it probaby isn't. It's important to remember that if you are a very good writer--and you need to be a very good writer--a publisher will eventually pick you up. They really are not plotting you.

And there's the key so let me stress the point: You need to be a very good writer to get published by a real publisher. How does one become a very good writer? The first and obvious answer is you become a very good writer by writing and writing, and writing and writing and writing. The rest of the answer is that you get to be a very good writer by sending your stuff out to magazines and publishers and putting up with rejection. You get to be a very good writer by re-writing the rejected stuff or putting it on the shelf and starting over. You get to be very good writer by going to writers' workshops and sharing your writing and listening to constructive criticism and dealing constructively with that criticism instead of becoming angry. You don't become a very good writer by quitting on receiving your first rejection slip and then paying someone to publish the rejected manuscript for you--i.e. self-publishing.

But let's say based on your mother's and spouse's opinion, you decide that all publishers are jerks and there is a plot against you (I have a self-publishing friend who really believes this) and the only way to get your wonderful, potentially best-selling book published is to do it yourself. And looking around, by golly, you see all sorts of organizations out there who agree with you. They, too, think it's a wonderful book (though they probably didn't bother to read it and how could they? They get thousands of manuscripts every month from people just like you) and they will publish it for you if you'll just hand over some cash. You do this, and out from the sausage grinder of the self-publishing industry comes--so exciting!--your book. You tell all your friends on FaceBook and Twitter that your book has just been published and they assume it was published by, say, Avon or Hyperion, and you don't bother to tell them that you paid to have it published.

Of course, anyone in the publishing industry will know that you self-published. When you send a manuscript in to a publisher you always include a resume that lists what have you written and who published it. So, later, when you try submit a manuscript to a ligitimate publisher and you list on your writing credits just self-publishing houses, you take a chance of not having your manuscript even looked at seriously. It's better to have no listed publications than to list self-published credits because, unless the book took off and became a best seller on it's own, self-publishing is meaningless.

So then Mr. Know-It-All, you might ask, when is it a good idea to self-publish? Here are a couple of scenerios: You have written a book of family memoirs intended just for relatives or you have written a history of your home town or county and your target audience is purely local. Obviously a big time publisher is not going to be interested, but you have written something important for local consumption and you want to have it printed and bound and available "on demand." Now is the time to look into self-publishing because it only has to be good-enough writing and any money you spend can be recouped by selling locally. I recommend this route without hesitation. And who knows, maybe your manuscript is that one in a million that will draw the attention of big publishers and.....but, let's not go there.

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