Public domain photograph of American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) This image was made in 1887 in New York, by photographer George C. Cox. The image is said to have been Whitman’s favorite from the photo-session; Cox published about seven images for Whitman, who so admired this image that he even sent a copy to the poet Tennyson in England.

This is a much expanded version of an old post. In light of so many working on novels for [inter]National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), it seems a good idea to explore this topic again.   

To self-publish or not: It’s an important consideration. Some people are against it. They seek out agents and publishers and we can’t blame them. There’s validation and credibility there. Maybe though, we should weigh our circumstances and the nature of our book before making a decision.

I have an elderly friend who has struggled for years to get a book published by an academic press. She’s a good writer and it’s a good book, expertly researched.  Because her subject will appeal to the unique interest of a narrow population, an easily targeted audience, I suspect she might find her perspective readers and they her without too much trouble.  This would bring her enormous pleasure and no doubt would please her prospective audience as well. As it is, she’s not open to self-publishing. The gift of her book is languishing in a file drawer where, given her circumstances and the nature of her book, it is likely to stay.

No matter how we feel about self-publishing books and those publishers we once called “vanity press,” one thing’s for sure, if we are blogging and/or posting our poems on Facebook, we’re already self-publishing. And why not? If we don’t believe in ourselves, who else will? (I rarely post a poem to Facebook, not because I think it’s bad but because the visual aesthetic – or rather lack of – doesn’t appeal to me.)

Frontispiece from Common Sense first edition, 1776

We writers have long and principled tradition of self-publishing that didn’t wait for blogging technology or Amazon self-publish, CreateSpace or Lulu. The American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and the first edition of his Leaves of Grass always comes to mind when I think of self-published work. There’s also the English-American “pamphleteer” – Thomas Paine (1737-1809) – who anonymously self-published Common Sensean American pro-independence monograph. It was a best-seller in its day.

Self-publishing is a tradition that spans the globe and started long before Paine and Whitman. Self-published books have been known to sell well, to get picked up by publishers and to win awards. My only suggestion would be to find a good editor to work with you. We all need an editor – a second set of eyes – to ensure logic, flow, and accuracy.

Here for hope and inspiration is a partial list of books that started out self-published:

  • No Thanks, e.e. cummings
  • Still Alice, Lisa Genova
  • My Blood Approves, Amanda Hocking
  • Dust, Hugh Howey
  • Eragon, Christopher Paolini
  • Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
  • The Celestine Prophecy, An Adventure, James Redfield
  • The Riyria Revelations, Michael J. Sullivan
  • Ten Tiny Breaths, K.A. Tucker
  • Damaged, H.M. Ward

Started self-publishing after being traditionally published:

c Barbara Freethy / from her Amazon Page

“In 2011 I decided it was time to start publishing my own books. The digital revolution had made that possible with retailers like Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Google and Kobo opening their doors to authors. I formed Fog City Publishing and became my own publisher. It’s been a thrilling few years since then. I’ve sold over 7 million books since going out on my own. I hit #1 on the NY Times Bestseller List  with my novel Summer Secrets and since then twenty-two other titles have hit both the NYT and USA Today Bestseller Lists. In July 2014, I was named the Amazon KDP Bestselling Author of All Time! Did I say it’s been a thrilling few years?”  Barbara Freethy (Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance, and Romantic Suspense / four star reads.) Read more HERE.

Barbara Freethy on Facebook




The women and men at their devices …
In fine Whitmanesque publishing tradition
Put out newfangled electronic edition
A word symphonic record to leave behind
Carefully tweaked, tempered and timed
Baring witness to love, history, and crime
All good-natured, well-reasoned, and rhymed

© 2018, text and poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; frontispiece from Leaves of Grass (1883) and the cover of  Common Sense (1775) in the U.S. Public Domain; Newstand Chapbook illustration by J.C. Leyendecker circa 1899, Public Domain.






Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”

* The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton


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