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Trevor Blake: Self-Publishing Evolution

I self-publish as a means to teach myself new skills and topics.  The following is an expansion on one section of that mission statement, organized around the mistakes I made and how I fixed them.

My self-publishing began in 1979.  Most of those items are lost.  My mistake with the work from 1979 to the beginning of OVO was to not keep a dated copy of each item for myself.  That problem has been resolved by several file cabinets full of my own work.

OVO was a photocopied zine delivered through the mail between 1987 and 1992.  During these years I taught myself basic small business and office skills.  My most important mistake here was not trying earlier than I did to improve my work.  The earlier issues were sloppy and aimless.  This mistake was remedied by tighter editing and asking my peers how they did their work.  OVO 20 JUVEN(a/i)LIA (October 2011) is representative of OVO as a printed work.  The expense of photocopies and postage limited the success of my zine publishing.

In 1992 I began publishing on the internet.  This relieved the expense of photocopies and postage.  My online publishing was inspired by Michael S. Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg.  I published freely-available text on intellectual specialized subjects online.  I began transcribing essays by George Walford in 1992.  I published an FAQ about the Multi-Trak synthesizer in 1996.  In the mid-1990s I published an essay on getting online for free.  In the late 1990s I scanned the OVO back catalog and put it online.  In 1997 I started My Brain, a collection of links to news stories of interest.  This would now be called a blog.  In 2001 my blog pleasant was the tenth to to buy ad-free service at blogger.  I have published nearly twenty-thousand posts at ovo127.com and thousands more elsewhere. My two most important mistakes here were thinking everyone else online would be publishing intellectual specialized texts, and wasting time online.  I cured myself of the former by falling into the later.  I learned by my own failure to differentiate between  ’can publish’ and ‘should publish’ that online publishing was not as inherently lofty as I’d imagined it.  For years my posts were unified only by what I thought was interesting, or what I might use some day.  I did not know how many others were doing the same and I did not predict that this indexing of the internet would become an activity in itself rather than contributing to new work.  I lost sight of my inspiration to create original intellectual content, instructions, and reprint public domain works.  Instead I laid down a long and wandering trail of bread crumbs from one enchanted cottage to the next.  I reigned in my wandering by devoting years to criticizing Judaism, Christianity, Islam and theocracy.  My most important mistake here was reporting on religion and adding comments instead of producing original content.  As I found others doing better reporting on religion, I let go of my mistake and turned back to original content.

In 2002 my friend Dan Howland published the Journal of Ride Theory Omnibus.  Dan told me about print-on-demand publishing.  Print-on-demand relieved expenses of photocopies and postage in a new way.  In 2005 I published OVO 15 SPERM, fourteen years after the previous issue of OVO.  The work of preparing a physically printed magazine and the finished product were satisfying.  In 2011 I published Portland Memorialswhich constitutes OVO 19 PORTLAND.  My print-on-demand titles include  OVO 16 ANTICHRISTOVO 20 JUVEN(a/i)LIAPortland Memorials and The Dreadlock Recollections by Kerry Wendell Thornley.  My most important mistake here was over-estimating how many newspapers and magazines would review a print-on-demand book. I made a large investment of time and money and saw no return.  I have remedied this mistake by lowering my expectations for print-on-demand.

In November 2011 I published my first work for the Kindle, the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography.  This was followed by Portland MemorialsAngles on Anarchism by George Walford, The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller, The Dreadlock Recollections, Raoul Vaneigem Selected Works 1962-1979, Dora Marsden: The Freewoman and the Egoist Volume One, and Big Gurl by Th. Metzger and rachMiel.  Current sale of my Kindle titles is greater than the combined sale of my zine and print-on-demand titles.  For now, Kindle is the best way I’ve found to publish for profit, the web is the best way to publish at low cost, and print-on-demand is the best way for me to buy my own books to give away.

Sometimes I am published by others.  In 1987 I was published in a book for the first time and I published the first issue of OVO.  My most important mistake here is not working hard enough to have this happen more.  Perhaps next year…

Self-publishing has been a way to teach myself new skills and information.  I have identified and stopped repeating a few mistakes.