Why I self-published
March 24th, 2009
Peter Grauer’s exhaustive account of American bandit Bill Miner’s years in British Columbia—in the venerable do-it-yourself tradition of George Nicholson’s coastal classic Vancouver Island’s West Coast, reprinted a dozen times since 1962—ranks with the self-published debuts of historian Derek Hayes, ethnographer Adolf Hungry Wolf and unconventional poet bill bissett.
Based on six years of research, Grauer painstakingly recalls how Constable William Fernie and his four First Nations trackers—Alex Ignace, Eli La Roux, Michel Le Camp and Philip Toma—tracked the fleeing Bill Miner and his two accomplices for five days after their botched train robbery, enabling the Royal North West Mounted Police to capture the so-called Gentleman Bandit near Douglas Lake.
Not to be confused with print-on-demand titles that are mostly naïve, vanity projects, Grauer’s Interred With Their Bones, Bill Miner in Canada, 1903-1907 (Partners in Publishing / Sandhill $35) is a 643-page definitive work, complete with a bibliography, sources, an index and high-quality illustrations.
Grauer believes a mainstream publisher likely would never have agreed to publish his labour of love because, ironically, it is too comprehensive and too expensive to produce.
Also, Grauer says he wasn’t keen to endure the “interminable” waiting period between acceptance of a book project and its eventual publication.
We have asked Peter Grauer to explain his pathway into print.
Why I self-published by Peter Grauer
Initially, while I contemplated the route I should take, the overwhelming emotion was that of fear.
It was that fear that smacks of unreasonableness; fear of rejection, fear of amputation, fear of confrontation and ridicule, and the fear of failure.
I was an unknown first-time author, and the thought of ever enticing a mainstream publisher from coastal Lotusland, or anywhere else in Western Canada, to deign to look at, never mind publish, my book was deemed to be almost fruitless.
To have had any editorial control over the end result would have been a ludicrous expectation. Besides, I was convinced that publishers were unapproachable by first-time authors. I could not see myself facing what I presumed to be the inevitable and personally debilitating rejection notices or requests for condensation. I was not prepared to “pay my dues” when I was convinced of the worth of what had been produced.
Other authors I talked to and corresponded with have expressed their unfailing disappointment in dealing with mainstream publishers. Their most-often quoted criticism was the perceived rape of their work by unskilled and uncaring editors. This was quickly followed by the almost complete lack of monetary reward, despite reasonable sales, and a lengthy wait until publication.
I was adamant that I wanted to maintain editorial control over the content of my work, and the integrity of the work as a whole. I was convinced that it would take over 600 pages to tell this story, and I also wanted to help influence the publishing of my book, including design, distribution and marketing.
Expert advice from professionals, friends and fellow writers, as well as my own convictions, convinced me that I should exert some ownership over such minutiae as book dimensions, font size and type, paper quality, cover graphics and design as well as cover weight and surface treatment. These decisions, as well as the actual cover design with its fold-in flaps, were conceived in conjunction with the book designer well in advance of the actual time of printing.
I wanted to be able to control the number, quality, size and placement of all of the photographs in the book, as well as to incorporate original artwork. This writer was more resigned to the financial failure of the book as the result of his own efforts, rather than to suffer the effects of possible lacklustre marketing or indiscriminate editing on the part of a mainstream publisher.
There is no doubt that the decision to self-publish was eased by the knowledge that a professional book designer and a retired copy editor both volunteered to practise their various skills for the writer, as they believed in the value of the project. The masterful handling of these responsibilities by all the individuals noted in the copyright page of the book was critical in easing the decision to self-publish.
The anguish and worry that resulted from the decision to self-publish has largely been alleviated by a resulting book that has earned many positive comments from store owners and readers alike. Sales are continuing to be strong and steady, and the response of readers to the comments section of author’s website (www.billminer.ca) has vindicated my persistence in maintaining the integrity of the book.
Essay Date: 2007