“Self Publish, Be Happy” is a 21st Century Manifesto for Artists & Authors Alike
Photo: Cristina de Middel, The Afronauts, from Self Publish, Be Happy (Aperture/Self Publish, Be Happy, 2015). © Self Publish, Be Happy.
Rumi said, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” This is where it all begins. The power to create the world in which we want to live, to exact a future that is happening now, today, using all that exists at our fingertips. The Universe conspires to remind us of this: D.I.Y. Do It Yourself.
With the major advancements in digital technology, self-publishing has returned to the forefront of our cultural consciousness. Over the past decade, self publishing has changed the landscape of the art book, introducing a new and vital means to produce and distribute work independent of the industry and its attendant challenges.
British writer, publisher, and academic Bruno Ceschel understands the need that has emerged, a need for young artists to join the conversation and become a part of the community. He founded Self Publish, Be Happy in 2010 after inadvertently discovering a tremendous demand for new outlets for publishing—though the idea came to him by way of happenstance. Ceschel had curated an exhibition of self-published artist books for A The Photographer’s Gallery, London, and in doing so, generated a response that was large enough to propel the website he had created to share the work into a platform to showcase the latest releases of self-published authors.
Ceschel observes, “Digital has caused a renaissance of printed matter. Self-publishing is not a way to make money. That is a burden. Self-publishing requires you to spend money which paradoxically free you from being concerned about profits. That is the restriction of the traditional publishing house. The people who do it today are very young. They are born into the digital generation. They are used to the computer and the online world. Self-publishing is their response to it. They are finding a complement to it in book form; they now have a physical object in reality and can share it with people. Books give them a different way to communicate.”
With the success of his endeavor, the demand has only increased, inspiring Ceschel to become an author himself. Self Publish, Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto (Aperture/Self Publish, Be Happy) surveys 50 key examples of self-published success stories in a wide array of themes and genres. Each entry is accompanies by tips and testimonies from the authors, providing personalized insights into what is a deeply transformative process. The creation of a book is more than just the telling of a story; it is the desire—even need—to produce an object that enlivens, inspires, and elucidates all sorts of spaces that we would never otherwise know, had the author not been driven to manifest their obsession by any means necessary.
Ceschel, whose background is in magazines, joined Chris Boot in 2013 where he learned the process of publishing and saw the tyranny of the trade firsthand. Most books are simply not economically viable, and an industry built on this offers a tightrope held at great heights. It’s a challenging business model from any angle you look. Self Publish, Be Happy avoids this by forgoing the model itself. It exists on its own terms, as defined by Ceschel. It is less a company and more a curated space, a digital doorway that transports us into another world of books and art as they are being lived today. Liberated from the burden of profits, the artist is free to do as they wish.
Ceschel’s brilliant manual and manifesto, Self Publish, Be Happy, reminds us that we hold the power to our success, should we be inclined to take the risk and go the distance. Self Publish, Be Happy is more than the title of a book: it is an ethos, a call to action, and way of being that speak to people from all walks of life, the single common denominator being a wish, want, desire, and need to produce a book.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.