No agent, no publisher? Don't be discouraged, self-publish

April 19, 1998
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@

Let's say you've finally taken the time to sit down and write the book you've always known has been buried deep inside. You've shopped it around to agents and publishing houses and have gotten absolutely nowhere. No one, it seems, wants to publish your book. What are you going to do, quit?

Don't give up, says Jeanne Pietrzak at Graphic Gold in Davis.

"It's very difficult to get published by the big guys," she admits, "but if you are energetic and if you have a marketing plan you can bring a pipe dream to fruition. You can't get discouraged and you can't give up."

Of course, you also need money to turn that dream into reality. But over the past nearly 20 years Pietrzak has helped many area authors from Lake Tahoe to Fairfield with their projects.

"We will do as much or as little as people want," she said. For instance, 2,500 copies of a softcover 240-page book with a full color cover approximately 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 will cost about $5,600. And if a poet wanted 100 copies of her first 50-page chapbook with one color on the front cover, it might cost $1,200 or $2,000 for 300 copies, Pietrzak estimated.

"I don't want to paint a rosy picture for anyone because it's your dollar," she said. "But if you have the drive and are willing to do the hard work...and can market your book to someplace like can be successful."

Two Davis residents whose work was accepted by major publishers, but who decided to self-publish, are Doris Earnshaw and Bern Kreissman.

"In 1993, I offered my 'Women Speak' books featuring women in politics and government at the state, national and international levels to the University of California Press," said Earnshaw. "The editor was enthusiastic, and told me how much royalty money I could expect," she added. But when the process got under way and months and months went by without a book appearing, Earnshaw decided on the self-publishing route to keep editorial control and to speed up the process. "As a result, I lost professional advice and marketing power, but gained independence, which has its own charm," she said.

"Marketing was my weak spot, but selling was something I had to learn like anything else. I am happy to say that I am now in the clear financially, and can pay off the bank loan on the second book. The break came last year with a book adoption for a college class in Tacoma, Wash. Suddenly, instead of selling a few at a time to a distributor at a 40% discount, I shipped 100 copies at just 20% off to one college. I am learning as I go.

"My advice to others: Keep your own personal income separate from the business finances, and don't rely on the business to support you. I am not very good at business, but wouldn't have missed the fun of this adventure for anything. I have heard from a teacher in Japan who is using 'American Women Speak' in her English classes, from a home-schooling mother in Novato, a Ph.D. doctoral candidate in Pennsylvania and many others thanking me for the efforts I am making. That is the real reward."

Bern Kreissmann is equally as happy with his self-publishing ventures.

Bear Klaw Press was born in 1990 when several major publishers expressed interest in his "California: An Environmental Atlas & Guide."

"Unlike a book of poetry or essays, the atlas with its scores of maps was very expensive to produce, but the big publishers wanted camera-ready copy. I would bear all the costs and they would return a royalty, which was a ridiculous situation," he said. "A friend with a successful self-publishing firm with a warehouse, distribution facilities, and record and tax maintenance software, offered to take on all that dog work, everything except marketing if I wanted to self-publish. (Falcon Press, the distinguished outdoor publisher now handles marketing for BKP.) Thus, Bear Klaw Press was born.

"The atlas was an absolute blockbuster with rave reviews in every newspaper, magazine, and academic journal. You can find a copy of the book in every environmental office in the state and multiple copies in every library (they kept getting stolen)," he said.

The next three guides and manuals published by Bear Klaw came out of Kreissman's lifelong experiences as an environmental leader and a backpack and snowshoe leader.

"Each of the books has paid its way, though none have been a financial gold mine," he said. "Publishing has opened an entirely new life for me, exhilarating and trying, and has enriched my retirement years from UC Davis in a manner greater than I could possibly have foreseen in 1990," he added.

"People interested in self publishing should be aware that the really onerous part of the enterprise comes after the book is delivered by the printers. Warehousing, mailing, distribution, advertising and other forms of marketing, record maintenance, particularly tax records, can be back breaking if they are not planned for in advance. Despite these drawbacks, self publishing is growing pell-mell, with thousands of publishers, scores of associations, several professional membership organizations, and even annual conventions.

"Bear Klaw Press has published my own writing to date, but we are prepared to publish any work that deals with the environment and/or the outdoors in a conservationist friendly manner, and that shows the potential for paying its own way," he added. BKP may be contacted at:, and may be viewed at:

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books [ Click Here ]

To Order "American Women Speak : Voices of American Women in Public Life ((Women Speak Ser.; No.20) Vol 2 " (Paperback) from Amazon [ Click Here ] links.
To Order "California Women Speak : Speeches by California Women in Elected Public Office" (Paperback) from Amazon [ Click Here ] links.
To Order "California : An Environmental Atlas and Guide (Bear Klaw Press Environmental Guide Series, No 1) " (Paperback) from Amazon [ Click Here ] links.
To Order "Eating Hearty in the Wilderness With Absolutely No Clean Up : A Backpacker's Guide to Good Food and 'Leave No Trace Camping (Bear Klaw Press , V. 2) " (Paperback) from Amazon [ Click Here ] links.

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