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Life Arts    H2'ed 6/7/09

How I Became a "Bestselling" Author

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The two parties raised $3,000 for charity and, in fact, made me a bestselling author, at least for a day. Marguerite had made my wish come true in ways neither of us imagined when the idea was conceived.

In the weeks that followed, congratulatory notes poured in. People were actually reading the book. Some of the notes only thinly masked the sender’s amazed disbelief that he or she had actually enjoyed reading my work. My wife’s aunt, outspoken and often bluntly critical of others, actually ordered extra copies to give to her circle of friends. Other friends offered to record readings of their favorites so that I might publish a CD version. I basked in my moment of fame.

For many of my friends, the event transformed the way they see me. The intimacy of reading my work brought them closer to a hidden side of me that they had not suspected was there. I continue to bask in the light of this new dimension to friendship. Fiction is always painted with the palate of the author’s own experience. So it’s hard not to read autobiography into even the most fanciful of pieces. The characters can’t think thoughts or say words that weren’t born first in the author’s head.

I suppose all of this is little more than latter-day vanity press. However the book is available on Amazon and anyone in the world can order it.  But, unless it becomes a viral word-of-mouth phenomenon, it will likely remain something read only by those who know me. But, in my little pond I am now the proverbial big fish, a fat and happy one at that.


Notes on Self-Publishing

The emerging publishing-on-demand industry has added a hitherto unavailable path to authorship. Previously and author had to pass work through the filters of an agent and a publishing house to make it into print.  In traditional publishing, book selection is determined less by literary merit than by commercial prospects. 

A few authors have resorted to the vanity press and purchased a quantity of books which usually end up collecting dust in the attic because only the products of large commercial publishers are promoted and distributed through chains like Borders and the book wholesalers that supply the independents. owns two subsidiaries that publish books on demand. One is a do-it-yourself publisher, Create-Space. The author uses their website to upload the text and the cover, and a proof is returned without the text ever being read by the publisher.  The other on-demand subsidiary is BookSurge, a fee-for-service publisher where writers can get copy editing and book design services. Both subsidiaries list the final product on as well as providing a storefront web page where the author can sell directly to the public. also offers programs to authors to list and sell books on consignment. Consequently, an author who is able to do his or her own promotion can bypass the literary agent and the commercial publisher, as I did. The book does not need to be commercially successful to be profitable to the author and the on-demand publisher.  Community groups publish calendars and cookbooks they sell as fund raisers. Viet Nam vets publish memoirs bought by their network of war buddies. Professors publish textbooks for their classes.

It is no longer a vanity to self publish. It allows writers to exploit the niche markets close to home.

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Richmond Shreve is a retired business executive whose careers began in electronics (USN) and broadcasting in the 1960s. Over the years he has maintained a hobby interest in amateur radio, and the audio-visual arts while working in sales and (more...)

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