Over the weekend I read this interesting article in The New York Review of Books by Jason Epstein. He was reviewing a book Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty–First Century by John B. Thompson.
Epstein is a famous figure in U.S. publishing. In 1952 he launched the trade paperback format. In 1963 he was a founder of The New York Review and in 1979. In 2007 he cofounded On Demand Books.
In his review he was talking about the whole industry. As he writes, “Far more than any other mediu, books contain civilizations, the ongoing conversation betwen present and past. Without this conversation we are lost. But books are also a business….”
So, the article really is about books and the digital revolution, and he makes this point, however, (in a footnote) that is interesting:
“Self-publishing has an illustrious history. Milton published Areopagitica himself and Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. When he could not find a publisher for his first novel, Maggie, a Girl of the Street, Stephen Crane published it himself. James Joyce in similar circumstances published Ulysses with the help of Sylvia Beach and her Shakespeare and Company bookshop. The Joy of Cooking was first published by its author and so were such recent best sellers as Richard Evan’s Christmas Box and Tom Peters’s In Search of Excellence.
So, when in doubt: Self Publish!