Prairie Mary on self-publishing

Mary Scriver (Prairie Mary) is self-publishing her book Twelve Blackfeet Stories — see this link at, where you can buy the paperback for £8.27 (I mention the price to point out that it is hardly prohibitive for a relatively specialist topic), and also see Mary’s other works . About this one: "Roughly twelve generations of Blackfeet Indians have existed since 1776 until now. Here are twelve loosely linked stories, one for each of those generations. These are about Amskapi Pikuni people, the Montana subdivision of Blackfeet. The stories are modern-style fiction, not legends. The stories are meant to be unexpected, slantwise. They are good for discussions."

I received news of the publication via OWL (Dave Lull), and posted about it on Librarian’s Place. Since then, Mary has made some pertinent comments about self-publishing. I’ve read Susan Hill, and others who have not only dismissed but even scorned this form of publishing (see this Petrona post and comments: "unpleasant cargo"). I recommend that those people, and anyone else interested in the topic, read Mary’s comments over at Librarian’s Place. Here are some of them:

Like so many other things, we have a tendency to define something a particular way and then judge it from that point of view, rather than saying to oneself, “I’m going to look at this from at least six points of view.” For instance, can one use to make a family album that everyone can share and that can be financed by the reader? Can one use to simply get printing done rather than doing it locally? Can one use as a way of demonstrating to agents or publishers that one is capable of carrying a concept to completion and showing them how that might work out? Can one use in combination with as a way of getting a book done, generating small bits over time, maybe even randomly, then compiling all the best parts? Can one use to create classroom textbooks and materials? Can one use to build a readership within a very specific and specialized group of readers? I think the answer to all those questions is yes.

I think so too, and appreciate Mary providing me, at any rate, with her forward-looking perspective.

6 thoughts on “Prairie Mary on self-publishing

  1. I certainly would never ever encourage anyone to self-publish as their expectations are so often too high and the dashing of them is distressing. Of course there are other aims than success in the market-place in self-publishing, which is not what I was talking about. But still, it is a very hard road to go down and often financially disastrous.
    I have not, though, ever SNEERED at anyone who self-publishes – nor would I.

  2. We could probably spare ourselves some confusion about self-publishing if we remember that is a PRINTING site — it’s PRINT on Demand, not PUBLISH on demand. Publishing means editing, distributing and promoting. provides links to OTHER people who will do those things or one can try to do it oneself. Success depends on a number of factors, none of them controlled by
    What the publishers have been trying to do (as nearly as I can tell) is to get the agents to do the developing and editing that publishers used to do. Some publishers are using PRINT on Demand themselves — in fact, I’ve noticed publishers now offering two tracks: one the old-fashioned kind of publishing and the other what THEY call self-publishing, which appears to be sort of publishing-lite. They give the author a bit of support but the author picks up the bill.
    Distribution is a real meanie, partly not because of the actual delivery of books but because of the need to maintain a warehouse (with taxable contents), but Amazon about has it down. THEY will do print-on-demand! The publisher tells Amazon how many orders they have at the moment of publication, sends along the code for the book, and Amazon prints the copies and ships them out. (This is parallel to the computer techies who are stationed around the country at UPS nodes and who fix shipped computers there instead of sending them all the way back to the factory.)
    Promotion is the most hard-ball of all. Google and Amazon make find-able almost everything in print (at least if it has an ISBN or a blog that pops up on Google) but the puzzle is how to get the public to notice it enough to put the title into a search engine. This is where the big money means big returns — IF luck is good. But a private individual doesn’t usually have the contacts, the balls, or the resources to create advertising as interviews, end-row displays, traveling salesmen, newsletters, and (soon to appear at Powells) video interviews.
    I myself was appalled at the percentage that publishers pay authors these days. I knew that art gallery operators were raising their percentage all the time — 20% used to be standard. They tell me now some galleries want more than 50%. My publisher (granted, it’s academic) will pay me 5% of the NET profit of the publisher. Writers are now “product producers.”
    Therefore, I have very little to lose by printing through and doing my own promotion through special interest groups.
    As Susan Hill is trying to get us to see, this is a far cry from being a scribbling wretch in a garrett who writes something brilliant that turns into a pot of gold. I myself had believed in that myth until I got into the actual process and it is a hard setback for an old lady on the edge of poverty. So now we go to the second backup myth — well, as soon as I write it.
    Prairie Mary

  3. Thanks, Mary — very informative. Now all I have to do is to write the book. Seriously, it is refreshing to read such logical arguments as yours, thanks for sharing with us, and thanks for taking the time.

  4. I would like to introduce a book that could be a valuable resource to would-be authors on this blog.
    Publishing for Small Press Runs is a pioneering book promoting quick and affordable short press run book publication using the latest digital technology for producing covers and text. This 372-page guide currently is being used as the course text for a class at the University of New Orleans. For more information, see, Books, Publishing for Small Press Runs.
    For an AuthorViews video, see

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