Self-Publishing a Century Ago
Self-publishing is hardly a new idea, as evidenced by an editorial we published 100 years ago. The piece addresses the question of whether “the bookseller should be advised [by the publisher] when a work is an author’s book, i.e., a book published in whole or largely at the author’s expense.” What it also reveals, however, is how common it was then for traditional publishers to publish subvented titles in addition to wholly publisher-funded ones, something that rarely happens now in mainstream publishing.
“The practice of allowing the author to pay in whole or in part for the publication of his manuscript is by no means confined to certain of the smaller and less-known publishing houses. All publishers, unless we are much mistaken, have authors’ books on their lists. There is nothing underhanded in their publication, for of certain books the reputable publisher says quite frankly, ‘These books are not of such a nature as to make a wide appeal, and consequently, however worthy they may be, we cannot afford to publish them without the author’s assistance.’ ” —From “Authors’ Books,” The Publishers’ Weekly, June 3, 1916
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