Self-publishing is for losers. It’s for people who can’t write a book good enough to sell. Or it’s for old people writing their memoirs to hand out at the family reunion. Good kindling, right? Tell that to Minnesota author Vince Flynn, whose political thriller “Term Limits” was rejected by a crushing 60-plus publishers. He printed 2,000 copies himself, hand-sold them one by one, and by the time the boxes in the back of his car were empty, he’d secured a six-figure book deal to expand his next print run and write the next book.
Sometimes, it works out that way. Before there were big publishing houses, there were local print shops, and many of the books we now consider classics started out with a trip to the printer. More recently, “The Joy of Cooking,” “The Celestine Prophecy,” “What Color Is Your Parachute?” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul” sold millions, after publishers first deemed the manuscripts duds, and the authors self-published. That’s part of what motivated Brian Duren to self-publish his thriller, “Whiteout,” after he couldn’t sign with a big publisher. But he’s promoting his book just as if he did.
“I don’t know how responsive bookstores are to hosting events by self-published writers; I only know how responsive they have been to me,” says the writer, who is touring bookstores at a pro’s pace this summer, beginning with Magers and Quinn and Common Good Books. He spent more than 10 years writing the book, and when he hit a dead end with the publishing world, he decided he needed to see this book in print, one way or another, just to get it out of his system so he could concentrate on his next book. So he hired a publicist and hit the road.
His publicist, Linda Strommer, says bookstores aren’t usually so receptive to hosting events for self-published authors, but “Whiteout” has received very strong reviews, and Duren, who teaches as an adjunct faculty member at a number of Twin Cities colleges, is developing a following. “I’d like to think the quality of ‘Whiteout’ has been the principal reason for the book’s success,” says Duren.
So why didn’t a publisher pick it up? Perhaps because the story, a murder mystery buried under three decades of snow in a Northern Minnesota resort community, moves at a meditative pace, with much of the action taking place in the past. Or perhaps Duren’s writing style is too quiet and literary for a genre that’s become known for fast cuts and whipsaw plot turns. Maybe the crux of the tale, involving a near-incestuous relationship and its poisoning effect on a family, was too touchy.
Duren didn’t linger over rejection. Instead, he went to Beaver Pond Press, a Minneapolis self-publisher that prints professional quality books and helps writers market their work. Another local press, Brio, offers similar services, and the Internet offers dozens more, as DIY becomes an increasingly reasonable solution for writers like Duren.
Now he has boxes full of books that he sells at readings, through local bookstores, and on Amazon, just like published writers — which, ultimately, is still what Duren hopes to become.
2 p.m., Aug. 22, Northern Lights Books, 307 Central Park Drive, Duluth, 218-722-5267.
7 p.m., Sept. 9, The Bookcase, 607 Lake St. E., Wayzata, 952-473-8341.
Noon to 4 p.m., Sept. 12, Bookin’ It, 104B Second Street S.E., Little Falls, 320-632-1848 or 1-800-809-1848.
4 p.m., Sept. 16, University of Minnesota Bookstore, Coffman Memorial Union, 300 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis, 612-625-6000.
1 p.m., Sept. 19, Best of Times Bookstore, 425 Third Street W., Red Wing, 651-388-1003.
11:30 a.m., Sept. 29, Normandale Community College bookstore, 9700 France Ave. S., Bloomington, 952-487-7010.