Dreaming About A Book of One′s Own | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 06.06.2005
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Dreaming About A Book of One's Own

A writer without a publisher is a dreamer with a shattered dream. This is where self-publishing comes in handy. It may cost some money, but Proust and Tolstoy did it too.


Excuse me, but I don't see my own book here!

"Don't read, write it yourself" seems to be the new motto for an increasing number of pen-struck Germans. Manuscripts are piling up on the desk of Tina Bröckel, assistant editor at Eichborn publishing company.

"We receive between 200 and 300 packages a month, both novels and non-fiction," said Bröckel.

Five years ago, the number ranged between 100 and 200.

A lifework used for recycling

Publishing companies may not be able to do justice to all that passion and joy for the written word. But they are still looking for new bestseller authors to put out on the market.

"The chances of being discovered through an unsolicited manuscript are very slim," said Alexander Roesler, head of the Suhrkamp publishing company.

It is particularly difficult for fiction.

"That happens once every few years, at best" he said.

The situation is a little bit better as far as non-fiction is concerned. Some publishing companies are trying to take control of the book flood before it actually happens.

"No handwritten texts, no disks and no emails please!" read the instructions on the Website of the Fisher publishing company from Munich.

"A summary, a sample chapter and a table of contents will suffice. Entire manuscripts only upon request."

Some publishing companies write back only if they receive a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Others try to respond regardless of whether the material was accepted or not.

Avoiding disappointments

For the diligent would-be-poet, a rejection or the long wait for a positive word on the submitted work come as severe disappointments. That is already part of the deal when people chose to go the conventional way through large publishers. But there are alternatives, too. In addition to the Internet, where one can get published on one's own site or in a web journal, one can also choose the self-publishing option.

One such service-oriented publisher is the privately owned "Frieling & Huffmann" company from Berlin, which publishes between 180 and 200 books a year. Here, hobby authors can rest easy because their book project does not have to follow the topical focus of a particular publisher. In this case, it is the publisher that follows the author.

Naturally, stylistic assistance and content corrections are provided when something is hard to understand. But if the content is serious and legally allowed, Huffmann will publish it all. A small edition of 500 to 1000 copies costs between 3,500 and 10,000 euros.

A proactive stance with a tradition of its own

Marcel Proust

In search of lost time, with his own money: Marcel Proust

Nobody should be ashamed of publishing their book at their own expense. After all, several great writers in the history of literature earned their reputation this way. Leo Tolstoy had to reach deep into his own pocket to get "War and Peace," one of the most famous novels in world literature, published. The French writer Marcel Proust also had to finance himself his famous novel cycle "In Search of Lost Time."

With such role models, one should not let one's literary dreams evaporate on the desks of busy editors. They are looking for a needle in a haystack anyway.

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