Samuel Branch

An open letter regarding my choice to publish through print-on-demand.

To All Interested Parties,

There is a question as to why any writer worth their salt would choose to publish through a print on demand company rather than pursue publication through the more “reputable” avenue of a publishing company. As a matter of record, I have been self-employed and self-supporting as freelance writer for some time now. I believe that the willingness of my clients to continue providing me with work is testament enough that I have some writing chops.

More importantly, the view of any form of self-publishing (print-on-demand is the most recent incarnation of self-publishing, just cheaper) as somehow beneath a real writer is a relatively recent phenomenon. Self-publication is a time honored tradition among writers and academics. It also represented the norm, rather than the exception, for several hundred years. Some figures you may have heard of that self-published include T.S. Eliot, Alexander Dumas, Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain. I feel as though I'm in fairly good company with this group.

Then there is the widely recognized, though still unofficial, reality that it is virtually impossible for a first time novelist to place their manuscript with a publishing house. The publishing industry has become quite incestuous and, unless you know someone, the odds are squarely against you. This does not mean that lightning does not strike occasionally, but I have yet to be hit by lightning in real life and have decided not to hold my breath in my literary life.

The hard truth is that publishing, like every business, is most concerned by its own bottom line. The mid-list is dying a slow and painful death as publishers seek to maximize the performance of their bestseller authors. I do not perceive my short novel to be the type of work that is going to explode onto the New York Times Bestseller List or alter the cultural consciousness. It is not meant to change the world or enlighten. It's not that kind of novel. It wasn't written to be that pretentious.

This novel was a labor of love, started mostly on a whim as part of the National Novel Writing Month Contest, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. I owe a debt of gratitude to that contest, as it started me back down the path of fiction writing, which I had been ignoring for some time. I wrote it to be something fun to read. It is meant to entertain. As such, I have worked to avoid the forced symbolism, inept metaphors and overwrought language that plague so much of so called “literature.” I decided in favor of producing something I would want to pick up and read on a Saturday afternoon, pass on to my friends, and then pester them about whether they had read it yet. It's not the kind of novel publishers are looking to buy.

In deference to the digital age, I am offering the novel in both a paperback and Ebook format. The Ebook is several dollars cheaper because there is no overhead or printing costs. Honestly, I will make more money if you all buy the Ebook version. I will make more on that than if I were being published by a “real” publisher. However, my love of holding a book goes back to childhood and I would not blame a soul for cutting into my profit line in favor of a real book.

I hope you all enjoy my small offering to the world of literature and maybe you'll come back to visit with Samuel Branch again, on a Saturday afternoon.


Eric Dontigney