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1. Write an esoteric book that no commercial press would use as a doorstop.
DO NOT spend a lot of time thinking about why you did such a silly thing — that way madness lies . . . besides, the damage is done.
2. Have some smart people read your book.
In the trade this is called "vetting." It's important, as you don't want to get caught with your pants down (if you do, I don't want to hear about it). No, you can't send it to your Uncle Ralph. If you are very particular about these things, you could arrange to have it "blindly vetted." No, you don't have to have your book turned into Braille. Just send it to someone who will send it to someone else without telling you to whom it was sent (complicated sentence, that). Swallow your pride. Take the reviewers' comments seriously. Revise.
3. Turn your electronic file into an e-book — a delightful two-stage process.
First, format the e-file as a book using your favorite word-processing program. It doesn't really matter which one, as they all do about the same things. I say "about" because the one that begins "MS" ate a book of mine once. And I didn't have to pay extra for the added functionality. What a deal. Anyway, you can learn how to format a book from The Chicago Manual of Style. It costs about fifty bucks and will drive you nuts. Or you can just GET A BOOK and copy its style. Table of contents, running headers, page numbers, index. You get the picture. If this takes you more than a day or two, you should probably be working for a university press.
Next, turn your book into PDF or HTML. Why? Because anyone will be able to read it once you put it on the Web. The former is pretty; the latter is not. The former is proprietary (you gotta pay); the latter is not (most word processing programs will do it). Either way, the process takes about a minute. You've got an e-book.
4. Publish your book on the Web.
This sounds complicated, but a monkey could do it (at least my monkey did . . . ). There are many ways to get server space and put up a Web page. Find one. Ask the tech guy with the ponytail and beard. You know, the one who wears sandals all the time. And balloon pants, they love balloon pants. He'll walk you through it. Upload your book. You are published, just like Hemingway.
5. Market your book.
Since your book will likely appeal to an audience that would fit in a VW bug, this won't be hard. Send it to people in your field and have them send it to people they know, and so on, and so on. Soon you will be getting your own book sent to you by folks in the know. Mailing lists are also good here. Announce the publication of your classic on the Albanian Discourse Analysis List. The recipients will all download it, if only out of a feeling of collegial obligation.
6. Have your book reviewed.
Reviews are more fun to read than books. That's why journals are full of them. So get the e-mail addresses of your favorite journals and sent the e-book along. If the journal is run by a print-only publisher (there are such things, really), then you will have the sublime pleasure of reading a review of your e-book on mulched trees. Ironic.
7. Have your book catalogued.
Libraries keep stuff a very long time. You'll be dead, but the library will live on (in theory, but it didn't work in Alexandria . . . ). So ensure that other folks who love esoterica can get your book by sending it to a library or two. Just send the acquisitions librarian a little note emphasizing the scholastic value of your book and the fact that it is FREE. If the library is run by folks who are younger than Gutenberg, then they will be able to create a universal MARC record for your book and store it on a server. Ah, immortality!
8. Print your book for fun and profit.
Some of you may be commercially minded (though if you went to graduate school in Sanskrit studies, you might have trouble convincing your family of that). If so, you can send your book to a "printing services provider." The PSP will put your book on a server and serve it up to all comers as an e-book or print it on paper and send it out. You pay a production fee (upfront) and they get a cut of every book sold. Their production costs are reasonable (ranging from free to over a thousand dollars for a deluxe package). It all depends on how much you want them to do: format your book, design a cover, get you an ISBN, list the book in Books in Print, advertise on Amazon.com, etc., etc. These people are clever, and they have thought of lots of bells and whistles they can charge you for. You can, I should say, do all these things yourself, but I've found that it's not worth the effort. Generally speaking, you decide the price of your book. Some PSPs are: xlibris.com (big and corporate), netcitypress.com [formerly http://www.netcitypress.com] (small but knowledgeable), indypublish.com (the poets' favorite), greatunpublished.com [formerly http://www.greatunpublished.com] (great name, good service), iuniverse.com (straightforward), and many others. I recommend you try 'em all. Send an e-mail message and see how fast you get an answer. There's lots of competition for your wordsmithery, so get on it.
9. Bask in glory, for you have defeated "the man."
Marshall Poe is the Allston Burr Senior Tutor of Lowell House and a lecturer in History at Harvard University. He is the author of several books and many articles in Russian history, most of which are available for download at www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~mpoe [formerly www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~mpoe/]. He is also the co-founder and co-editor of "Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History" (see www.slavica.com/kritika). He is currently organizing a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on Eurasian history. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Links from this sidebar:
NetCity Press [formerly http://www.netcitypress.com]
GreatUnpublished.com [formerly http://www.greatunpublished.com]