PR for People Monthly August 2017 - Page 36

the brain. Seizures, confusion, fevers and other symp-toms that reoccur frequently in the deaths of author-publishers in this study are closely associated with the four most commonly used by physicians poisons: mercury, arsenic, antimony and lead. The details of many of these deaths clearly indicates malpractice. A harder causality to prove is if the malpractice was motivated by the physicians’ greed or if a specific monarch and his spies ordered an assassination because a legal censorship battle in the courts had been unsuccessful. For example, all biographies of Lord Byron’s death describe similar symptoms and “treatments” to Scott’s and repeat that there were “spies” in Byron’s household as he was actively funding and leading a Greek revolu-tion in his final months. Benjamin Franklin also actively assisted a revolution after running a success-ful publishing business, but either because his revolution succeeded or because an ocean separated him from his monarch, he lived to achieve great things in his later years. Not all of these author-publishers died horrifying deaths, but even one unproven assassination is worthy of examination.

The misconception that self-publishing is something only the worst writers do is contradicted by the experience of some of the best writers in western literature, who were all desperate enough to see their great works in print to start their own publishing ventures. Their lives offer lessons about publishing that are essential for growing publishers, authors, librarian, and researchers that want to understand the essence of how recorded ideas can die or bloom depending on the power of the au-thor-publishers that yield them.

I have been making a living from a cooperative publishing company, Anaphora Literary Press, for the last nine years, so my perspective on publishing is colored by my own daily struggles. It is easier to set type in Adobe InDesign on a computer screen today than it was for Woolf or Franklin to set each individual letter and then hand press the words onto the pages. With print-on-demand, there is no need to print thousands of copies and store them in your basement as Randall had to do half a century ago. Occasionally, authors ask me if I could print their book “traditionally,” and I have to explain that the old way of printing and distributing books should be left in the past. Small, inde-pendent publishers cannot survive 50% or more in returns that “traditional” bookstores generate when they purchase more books than they could ever sell. This is not the bookstores’ fault, as they are also struggling in the modern book marketplace. Buyers only had local bookstores to supply their reading needs just a couple decades ago, and now an infinite variety of books can be shipped from online stores. Leonard and Virginia Woolf had to sell their innovative titles to individual small bookstores, and they barely stayed afloat if the books were returned, but because there were few books competing in this market they remained profitable for decades. The expansion of the giant publishers has pushed such small ventures out of the equation. Bookstore buyers no longer have a personal connection with authors that would prohibit them from purchasing new books before old titles have sold. Thus, bookstores exploit returnable titles causing many small publishers to fail, or opt out of returnability thus mostly foregoing the physical bookstore marketplace. Meanwhile, as these publishers sink, they imagine that they failed to spend adequately on advertisements, catalog mailings or book editing. Given this climate, I had to invent a publishing model that would guaran-tee a profit from each released book, thus eliminating the risk of catastrophic failure.

One of the reasons so many of the examined author-publishers eventually suffered bankruptcies or sold their companies is because they took on debt and risk in quixotic attempts to donate cheap books and give huge advances to writers. These efforts are admirable, but a closure creates many negative side-effects for investors, authors, bookstores, bankers, and others in this chain. Instead, the subsidized origins of the Big Four provided inspiration for my own publishing model. I ask authors to purchase 50 copies of their book at 25% off the cover price. Ideally, writers will be able to resell them to students or at readings at the full price for a profit. I have been working to increase sales of each title by mailing catalogs to libraries, improving metadata by including html tagging, sending emails with review copies to 10,000 librarians, reviewers and professors, and numerous other inno-vative approaches. This model helped me to expand by allowing me to take four years off from teaching college.

This year, I taught full-time once again, while also running Anaphora, and the resulting profits might provide for sustained fiscal independence in the coming years. Recently, I have been working on applying to become a GSA contractor to provide publishing services to government agencies. Some giant publishers make a significant portion of their profits via such generous offers. I have also con-sidered applying for the non-profit status. But, both government contracts and grants would be uncertain and fickle. Cooperative publishing funds from authors guarantee a steady stream of income.

Self-employment has allowed me to write over a dozen books, and a significant portion of the content for two of Anaphora’s triannual periodicals, Pennsylvania Literary Journal and Cinematic Codes Review. This explains why Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and the other writers were particular-ly authorially productive when they were running publishing companies. Combining authorship with the publishing trade is the only way for a writer to become self-sufficient in terms of not being cen-sored by other publishers, or relying on them or other forms of employment for sustenance. This study has helped me to understand this path, and hopefully it will similarly help the writers I publish.

A few key terms need to be defined before jumping into this study. I have frequently been asked by confused writers querying Anaphora, what separates “self-publishing” from “traditional” publish-ing. Most