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NOTE: This is for my English class. Let me know what you think. -Robert


sa•miz•dat: Pronunciation: 'sä-mEz-"dät; Function: noun; Etymology: Russian, from sam- self- + izdatel'stvo publishing house; Date: 1967: a system in the U.S.S.R. and countries within its orbit by which government-suppressed literature was clandestinely printed and distributed; also: such literature; also synonymous with “self-publishing”. (Marriam-Webster)

In the world of internet publication, from personal web journals to corporate financial statements, each person has the ability to share uncensored ideas and communicate freely with the world for the very first time. The advances in desktop publishing allow the writer, photographer, artist and poet to print and share their work in a manner never before thought possible, as any person with access to a computer or Xerox machine may produce and print a manuscript. To undertake a self-published project, each aspiring writer must begin to understand that anyone may produce a book, that publishing is not only the domain of large commercial publishers, and what considerations may be necessary to prepare the finished product for retail outlets.

Everybody, regardless of their education, ethnic background, and culture has a subject that they are knowledgeable or passionate about. People do not have to be talented writers to share information; they must only have the desire to communicate what they know with others. Many potential publishers have subscribed to the “starving artist” belief system, often overlooking the modern ability to manufacture their work in different formats and mediums. Many people believe that genius is required to become a well known writer or artist, but forget that Walter Disney didn’t know how to draw, Ani Defranco didn’t know how to sing, and William Wordsworth didn’t know how to write. What sets these famous names apart from the unpublished and unknown is their wish to share their passion with others, and their willingness to publish their own work. The variety of literature, art, and information is endless, and the ability to share them with others is now accessible to nearly everyone in the Western world.

For too long have writers believed that, in order to be published they must submit their writing to established commercial publishing companies, and that only the best manuscripts are chosen to be printed. The reality is that publishing is a business, and profit is the fundamental purpose of all commercial projects. Publishers do not take risks, and often only publish for established, credible writers. Publishing houses must follow trends, and will regularly ignore otherwise good writing for popular topics. Bill Henderson, editor of “The Publish It Yourself Handbook”, comments that, “Commercial [publishing] houses seldom take a chance on a book unless it promises to show a profit.” Marion Crook, co-author of the self-published work “How to Self Publish and Make Money” agrees, stating that, “Large publishing houses have strong commercial reasons for publishing: the book must appeal to many people, it must reflect the current social values, [and] it must be promotable.”
A self-published writer must be willing to compile, edit, proofread, print, market and distribute the work by themselves. Foster J. Dickson, Production Manager for New South Books, says, “I tell people often -- and I believe it -- that writing is about art and publication is about money.” He further warns future self-publishers of vanity publishing companies, who will often only succeed at separating a writer from their money. He recommends that the future publisher obtain as many quotes from printing companies and “print on demand” agencies, and have a lawyer or literary agent look over the contracts before authorizing them.

Presently, the price of manufacturing a two hundred page soft-cover book at your local Xeroxing copy company, at ten cents a sheet is approximately $7.00 in Canada if you include binding and a laminated color cover. Vanity publishers offer a price anywhere from $4.00 to $25.00+, depending upon the services offered. Many medium sized printing companies will produce a book for approximately $10.00, depending upon the size of the order and the variations in format and quality. A limited leather bound edition with hand-made silk-bond paper will certainly run over $250.00 to produce, but the author may also be able to sell the edition for well over four times that number to serious collectors, if the content reasonably matches the exterior, but this is not really economical to the small-press publisher.

Considerations which often confuse the novice publisher are ISBN numbers, UPC codes, and Copyrights. The ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is a universal book numbering system. The National Library of Canada webpage adds that, “…by assigning a unique ten-digit number to each published title, the system provides that title with its own, unduplicated, internationally recognized identity.” The price of an ISBN number from the National Library is approximately $25.00, but a minimum block of ten must be purchased. When an ISBN number is issued by the National Library of Canada, two copies are requested for their archives. (National Library of Canada) Although registering the ISBN is not necessary to privately publish a book, most bookstores use the number to catalogue the titles they carry, and will not carry a book without it. Many larger bookstores also require UPC, or Universal Product Codes, which help them to track inventory and reorder merchandise, but this is not necessary for the small publisher, as most bookstores also have the ability to create their own directly from a computer program. If a UPC code is used, the most common is the “EAN-Bookland” format, which includes a Price Code, the ISBN number, and a separate code for the Currency used, such as Canadian or US dollars. Every work is automatically copy written at the moment of its creation, and permission must be used in order for anyone to make a copy of the material. Copyrights in Canada are free and automatic, but legal verification may be required if the ownership of a work is ever called into question. The most convenient way to do this is to have a copy sealed in an envelope by a Commissioner of Oaths and placed in a safety deposit box, where it will remain indefinitely as evidence.

Self-Publishing has a long history if innovation and invention. It has been the driving force of political movements, campaigns of propaganda, and the voice of the people since literacy became common amongst the world’s citizens. In the eras of fascism and totalitarianism, Samizdat exists parallel to officially sanctioned printing and publishing, creating literature that has not been subjected to censorship. Publishing has weathered political and religious domination, and has revealed fantastic worlds of fiction and imagination. Great poetry has been written and self-published by small press publishers, and will continue to play a great part in the fashioning of human intelligence.

Works Cited:

The Marriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 24 Nov, 2003.

Signposts: A Guide to Self-Publishing. 29 Nov, 2003

Dickson, Foster J. The Tricky Art of Self-Publishing. The Writer’s Resource Center.
29 Nov, 2003. <>

The National Library of Canada, 30 Nov, 2003

Henderson, Bill. The Publish It Yourself Handbook: Literary Tradition and How-To.
Yonkers, N.Y. :Pushcart Book Press, 1973.

Wise, Nancy and Crook, Marion. How to Self Publish and Make Money. Kelowna,
British Columbia: Sandhilll Book Marketing Ltd., 1997

"Perfection of self is the highest philosophy, one which most will never aspire to, nor admit to if they had." -Anon.

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