To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question.
I started self-publishing creative works in 2012. I took that step after three decades of experiences with traditional publishing and with editing of one kind and another. It took ten years for me to publish my first two books with traditional publishers, but work on both books prepared me for self-publishing.
At the age of ten, I heard my father recite the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales as part of a speech for a Dale Carnegie course. In the speech, my father claimed that any time he felt low, he remembered his high school teacher recite those lines in an exaggerated rhythm with her large bosom bouncing up and down. That memory cheered him up. I found Chaucer’s rhythm intoxicating, and right after writing a dissertation on the rhythm of Lawman’s Brut (the first English work to treat King Arthur), I began working on a book on Chaucer’s meter. It took four years to write the book and four years to find a publisher. The small academic publisher I found wanted either a subvention from my institution for printing costs—or for me to provide camera-ready text. As things turn out, my department at Georgia College had begun to make camera-ready copy of The Flannery O’Connor Newsletter on a tiny Mac, and the secretary tutored me in desktop publishing and let me use her Mac to paste up my book. The book was finally published, it is cited in scholarly articles, it is in university libraries, but it never enjoyed enough sales to meet the minimum amount of $35 for a royalty check.
While I was writing my book on Chaucer, I was also developing a collection of essays illustrating various ways of teaching students about the dialects of American English. I convinced the Committee on Teaching of the American Dialect Society to sponsor the collection, and the chair of the committee, a long-time journal editor, signed on as a co-editor since I had no experience with editing. However, at the end of that ten-year process, I had learned more about editing and negotiating with authors and copyeditors than I ever wanted to learn. Although my little Chaucer book never earned a dime of royalties, the dialect book, which was published in a teaching series by the Modern Language Association Press, earned enough in royalties over two years to pay for all the bills associated with the birth of my first child.
To help with the expenses of raising a child, I assumed some duties in administration. My most interesting assignment was editing a faculty research newsletter. Since I knew something about desktop publishing, I abandoned the mimeograph format of my predecessors and produced an off-set publication with interviews and photographs. Soon I had a team of students working with me as interns. Also as part of my duties, I revived a student research journal and produced camera-ready copy for printing at the University of Georgia.
The one thing then led to another. After posting some observations about new words on the new email discussion group of the American Dialect Society, I was asked by the editor of its journal, American Speech, to become the editor of its column on news words, which had been published with regularity since the beginning of World War II. I edited that column with the help of dozens of students for eleven years.
But in the meantime, I had begun working on a verse translation of Wace’s Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman verse translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s legendary History of the Kings of Britain. This book was also a ten-year process. It took four years for me to translate Wace into English verse. Finding a traditional academic publisher took two years; getting that publisher to issue a contract took another two years of revisions and additions. In the frustration of dealing with a publisher that kept delaying and requesting more, I threatened to publish the translation on a web site through which I could get $1 per copy. However, my department chair calmed me down and begged the dean for subvention money. Finally, 175 copies of the very beautiful and very expensive book were printed. I won two cash prizes for the book at Georgia College, but I never received one cent of royalties. I am thankful that the translation is frequently used in scholarly articles and books, but the process of getting this book to press soured me on traditional publishing.
And now we get to self-publishing. In 2004, I took a trip to Texas to see family and revisited the Alamo for the first time in nearly two decades. I re-read the very moving letter of William Barret Travis (the young commander of the Alamo surrounded by the sizeable army of the battle-hardened Santa Anna), bought some books about the Alamo, and began writing about the subject in my car one Sunday morning while my kids were in Sunday school. I imagined I was the dying James Bowie telling stories about his life to other Alamo defenders on the night before they all died. I wrote in Chaucer’s rhyme royal stanza. I pecked at this poem for another six years, and when I had nearly two hundred pages of material, I sent out samples to university publishers in Texas. An editor at Texas Christian University loved the sample and the idea of multiple narrators but feared that the press would lose money on an epic poem. She asked me to re-write the book as a prose novel. My crazy lifetime dream had been to write an epic poem. The dream was all but shattered. I froze. I quit writing for months. And then I saw that a local high school student had published a novel in Kindle form for her senior project. I investigated Kindle publishing. It was easy. There was a template for the paperback. At that time, the Kindle version could be published as an html copy of the Word document. All fired up, I finished my epic, The Texiad, in three weeks and got it published in Kindle and paperback shortly thereafter. On the Kindle dashboard, I could see that I had sold 36 copies on the first day. I was going to get royalties at the end of the next month and every month thereafter. I could promote the book with free copies. At one point, over 5000 people had downloaded free copies of my Kindle book. I had become an epic poet.
I then got very busy re-writing may favorite medieval romances as erotic tales with surprising twists. Sir Gawain succumbs to seduction and has to marry the Green Knight’s “wife,” who is actually an old elf woman made to look young by magic. Chrétien de Troyes’ Guinevere is transformed into a dominatrix who goes into ecstasy watching Lancelot bleed. Free Kindle copies of The Humiliation of Sir Lancelot were downloaded 800 times on the first day. I took “Eliduc,” one of The Lais of Anglo-Norman poet Marie de France, and turned it into a much longer and detailed story–and turned the other lais into rhyming songs that Eliduc sings to the accompaniment of the harp. Europeans are fond of these romances.
At about the same time, I got involved in play writing, and I published copies of the short plays that had been performed. Nobody much buys plays, but bound paper copies are very useful for actors and directors who are staging a play–and who might want a great souvenir signed by the author.
In my last years at Reinhardt, President Mark Roberts and I started the Reinhardt University Press by opening an institutional Kindle Direct Publishing account. Through that account, we began publishing Sanctuary (the interdisciplinary arts magazine) and James Dickey Review. We also published a student athlete’s history of Reinhardt University football. Sanctuary and JDR provided my first experiences with editing creative writing. They were time-consuming additions to an already busy schedule of teaching and administration, but they were fun. All of my previous experiences with editing and formatting made the work possible.
So, when it came time to publish Trout and Other Mythical Beings, the decision to self-publish was an easy one to make. I have been self-publishing and self-editing for nearly a decade. But I am trying something new with self-publishing this time. In consultation with a former student of mine who makes his living selling Western romances, I have decided to pay for advertising. I am not much of a gambler, so the principles of advertising make me very uncomfortable, but my wife, who has worked in marketing, has been advising me to have patience with the process and the risk. So, I am on a new adventure in publishing.
TO PURCHASE TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS:
Get your paperback copy of TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS by visiting Bear Book Market at 21 North Grove Street, Dahlonega, GA, via Bear Book Market’s online store at Bear Book Market, from the author by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Kindle E-book.
Want to meet the author, attend a reading, and hear some banjo playing? You do. You sure do! Here’s your opportunity: Etowah Valley MFA Program Summer Residency Reinhardt University Waleska, GA July 10, 2021, 8:00 pm: Trout and Other Mythical Beings: A Reading from the Arthur Wayne Glowka. Directions
More about Arthur Wayne Glowka:
Arthur Wayne Glowka (born in Weimar, Texas, in 1952) grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in the shadow of the Alamo, and heard heroic tales about its fall from an early age. The Irish nuns who ran his elementary school directed him to books about King Arthur and Robin Hood, and his study of Spanish in high school has led to a lifelong fascination with Latin America and Spain. He studied English at the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., 1973; M.A., 1975), where he fell in love with medieval tales told in their original languages. Before pursuing his doctorate in English at the University of Delaware (English, 1980), he spent two years away from formal study to fish and to plunder libraries and used bookstores for books on fishing and a wide variety of other subjects. His scholarly publications have treated metrics, the legendary history of Britain, Geoffrey Chaucer, dialectology, lexicography, and Flannery O’Connor. He has served as an editor for academic journals, most recently James Dickey Review. His creative publications include an epic about the Texas Revolution (The Texiad), a series of medieval romances retold for contemporary readers, plays, and a novel (Trout and Other Mythical Beings). He was Professor of English at Georgia College (1980-2007) and the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt University (2007-2020). He retired from teaching and administration in July of 2020—but not from writing, woodworking, music, and hiking.