Blog Post

A Response on Artist Pages and Self-publishing


It looks like we’ve survived Hurricane Sandy…I thought I might with a few available minutes respond to some of the emails I received in the last two weeks related to self-publishing, the problems related to artist homepages, and the role of designers/artists in digital publishing.

It is interesting to note that all three emails I received from HASTAC members used the phrase “stigma against self-publishing.”  First, I should point out that the idea of self-publishing has a much worse taste in the mouth of academia than in other realms.

Self-published genre novels, business manuals, and self-help books have made up at least ten percent of the best-seller lists from USA Today the past two years.

In the literary world, it has been quite common to experiment with self-publishing.  My not so small list of well-known self publishers includes Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Virginia Wolff, e.e. Cummings, William E.B. DuBois, Gertrude Stein, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sand- burg, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound . . .

Point being, like everything else there will be a constant ebb and flow with how we receive, read, self-published material. 


(Please note that the examples above are largely referring to print.

What do we do with electronic material, things posted on the web?

What does this mean in the literary world?

What does this mean in academia?

Perhaps, at some point, someone wants to address the services provided by (the overall idea of self-publishing through) the following sources:

Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Google, iBook Author, Lulu, etc., etc.)


My thoughts are the artistic codes differ from scholarly ones.  (To those who sent me the emails, maybe you can chime in on this.)  We are all interested in publishing from the following dimensions: legitimization, dissemination, and access/preservation.  But what each means and perhaps how we categorize the importance of each might look drastically different. 

Two emails that mentioned the importance of digital artists’ websites—both noted the problems related to work published online on their own websites.  I don’t know of an easy solution that doesn’t require you to withhold these works a few weeks (or longer) until it is solicited or accepted for publication elsewhere.  But I don’t see a reason why, after a few months, one couldn’t repost the work onto their own website.  After first-rights go to the publisher, they revert back to author/artist, correct?  

Perhaps another idea is to initially publish only part of the work or the work with limited functionality on the artist page, as a sort-of preview or proof-of-concept. (The writer’s equivalent might be a blog that has sections that will be revised and published in a book; a chapter or poems that will be collected in a larger work, or the MediaCommons Project that posts peer-to-peer reviews of books under review at university presses.)

Hopefully, this response will get the ball rolling a bit more…(The clowns are in...bring in the artists!)

I do have more to say on the role of the artist/designer in digital publishing for a later date.


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