Public Comment

ON MENTAL WELLNESS: How Self-Publishing Could Fill a Need

Jack Bragen
Sunday March 19, 2023 - 09:13:00 PM

Writing and self-publishing have become a common route for the ordinary, sometimes unpublished writer who needs to express oneself. This is because automated book manufacturing and publishing can be done cheaply with the new technology, and this can bring in a few dollars as well.

It seems that many people who have mental illnesses would really love to be writers, which they are--as I am, and it is a way to channel one's energies into something positive, when it seems that life lacks prospects of anything better.

I can write a book in about five months with no expenses, and I can publish it on for free except that I have to buy a proof copy, which costs under ten dollars. It costs more than that to get a copyright certificate, usually 65 dollars. Yet you should not skip this step, because people can rip off your work, or they can accuse you of ripping off theirs.

Society has normalized mentally ill adults being homeless and/or incarcerated. This is a grave disservice. Now WE can normalize becoming writers and putting our message out to the world. This is a way that we can finally be heard.

In the old school of writing, existing authors and publishers have striven to keep publishing exclusive--to them. This is rapidly coming to an end. The technology of Print on Demand has made it economical to publish something on your own. Millions are doing this.

In the past, we had the vanity presses, and people would pay several thousand dollars to publish a book, one that won't have significant sales. If you're good with computers and if your English is good, often helped by the automated proofreading in Word, you have most of the tools you need, to publish. 

I have some common-sense rules that I follow when I publish a book: 

1. I won't pay someone to do any of the tasks or to help with any of the tasks associated with the self-publishing. You could potentially pay hundreds or even thousands to be helped, putting costs through the roof, and eliminating the possibility of black ink. I do all the tasks myself. If I pay nine or ten dollars for a proof copy, that's okay. And a one-time expense of sixty-five dollars to protect my rights to the work is acceptable. Beyond that, I refuse to pay anyone anything. This allows a book to potentially become profitable within a year of publishing, or even within months. 

Speaking realistically sales could be a few copies a month at best. Therefore, it is important not to spend money that was intended for me to live on. The above is achievable when I am determined to learn how I can accomplish all the tasks. 

Tasks involved in self-publishing include writing and editing the work, getting it into the correct format, registering the copyright at and following the steps in the self-publishing "wizard" that will make the material available to the public. 

2. I won't pay someone to advertise or otherwise market the book. My promotion is limited to a mention of the book title in the one to two sentence author bio that most editors allow, at the end of an article. To otherwise get the word out about your book without spending, you can use word of mouth and social media. 

3. This comes from Donald Trump's book, "How to Get Rich" a book I read many years before Trump went into politics. He said, "Make a name for yourself and cash in on the name." That's the only thing I got from that book. Many people do this. Writing a book potentially accomplishes both at once. 

4. You must be careful about what you include within your work. You must not talk about people you know unless you have their written consent. I have sometimes included people without including any identifying information, which is different. If someone has the same last name as you, or if they are likely to read your work, you need to be very careful. Secondly, you must not include graphic violence or graphic sex. You are better off if you keep your writing PG rated. Third, you should be careful what you include about yourself since this material might go on the web and/or might be used against you. Even if it is just an embarrassment, maybe it is better to leave it out of the manuscript. 

5. Make certain that someone else has not already published a book with the same title as the one you're choosing. There are multiple ways of researching this. Additionally, if you make the title "different" enough, or if you include your name as an integral part of the title, most likely you are safe. 

Self-publishing could be the new, revolutionary vehicle through which the mental health consumer self-help and activism movement could start up again. It was taken away from us by means of stronger medications that shut people down, and through removal of funding from consumer run organizations. To self-publish, you need a computer, but you do not need to leave your house. It can bring hope and meaning to individuals who might feel lost and who feel overly institutionalized. And doing this without being guided and limited by people involved in the treatment system or in "advocacy" groups, but instead on our own, could be a new way we can assert ourselves and our true needs and desires. 

Jack Bragen is a writer who lives in Martinez, California.