The wilderness of self-publishing

In this week’s issue of The Eye, Lily Fishman discusses the benefits and drawbacks of self-publishing.

In order to find some of the craziest titles ever posted, I left behind the comfortable world of canonized literature we read in Lit Hum and the Nine Ways and journeyed into the world of self-published books at Lulu.com, an online self-publishing company.

When I saw Owning and Training a Male Slave by Ingrid Bellemare, I realized I really wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Owning and Training a Male Slave claims to be a “real life training manual,” and Bellemare advocates “slavery as the only true way to find lasting balance in a relationship.” As Bellemare says, “having a slave is like having an automatic dishwasher: set it up and make it do the work.” At that point, why even bother with a “relationship”? Just get a dishwasher!

Second only to the deeply disturbing absurdity of Owning and Training a Male Slave is You Just Might Be “That Guy”: 40 Guys Who Grind My Gears by Jamin Williams, which professes to take a “look at the 40 most annoying dudes on the planet.”

These apparently include guys who can’t name sports teams and guys who use extra-loud car mufflers. The funniest part is the cover, which depicts a man in a vampire cape flashing a peace sign and surrounded by arrows pointing out his annoying flaws.

At the same time, who’s to say these aren’t significant works? For example, what if L. Frank Baum had self-published The Wizard of Oz? Monkeys that fly? Color-changing horses? We might have thought that was off-the-wall, too. Maybe the true problem is that when we see a book is self-published, we assume its contents are ridiculous.

While we definitely don’t want to learn about male slavery, there are definitely plenty of valid self-published works that give voice to viewpoints long ignored by the mainstream. While they might not be the most polished, together they can show every facet, beautiful and ugly, of the human condition.


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