Thursday, February 05, 2004
Self-Publish and Be Damned? Not Always
WSJ: By Andy Kessler

You can write an op-ed today that runs tomorrow, set up a Web site that sells toys in a day or two, get a million signatures and recall a governor in a couple of months. But for some reason, it takes two years to get a book published.

Last January, I wrote a book about my days as a Wall Street analyst -- fun stories about working with the suddenly infamous Jack Grubman, Frank Quattrone and Mary Meeker. After three weeks of flailing away, I sent an early draft to an agent (my second of many), who promised to make some calls.

'Feedback says it's too topical,' she quickly let me know. 'What?' I asked, my voice going up an octave. 'Well, even with a rush, the earliest you can get this out is spring of '04, more like fall '04. You might want to consider a long magazine article.' This is agent-speak for go away.

What did I want from a publishing house? An advance against future slim royalties -- i.e., lending me my own money. What a deal.

I had been warned against self-publishing. You can't get reviews, you can't get shelf-space, and you can't get respect. One hundred thousand books are published every year, so you need an imprint to stand out from the noise. Being naive, and used to being treated like Rodney Dangerfield, I decided to publish my book anyway.

I finished writing it on Jan. 31, 2003. The Web helped me find everything else I needed. In February, I had it edited by two women in Texas, while a couple in Florida put together the cover, dropping in a Jeff Danziger illustration. ISBN numbers, bar codes, Bowker databases and Library of Congress numbers, no sweat. I found a printer near Boston that could turn out thousands of copies in two weeks. A printer in Michigan took four weeks but, for two bucks each, produced tens of thousands of stitched-binding, store-quality copies. Ready or not, I was now in the publishing business. I opened an Advantage account on and had 'Wall Street Meat' for sale on March 17. Not even spring of '03. Ha."

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