Book Notes: A follow up on what constitutes self-publishing

Courtesy of the University of Tennessee Press

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Courtesy of the University of Tennessee Press

Plus a look at the role of newspapers during the Civil War.

In this week’s Book Notes I ponder my past actions, the Decatur Book Festival seeks authors for this year’s shindig, a new book examines how the local Atlanta press covered the Civil War and Charis Circle makes a big announcement.

What I meant to say: I have been taken to task over last week’s Bookshelf column for my use of the term “self-published.” In retrospect, I was simplistic in my use of that label.

I use that term to describe books in which the author paid some or all the costs of producing their book, which, at its most basic level, is not incorrect. It’s the same criteria many newspapers, magazines and literary contests use to distinguish the difference between publishing models.

But as I said in my column last week, times are changing, and I should have acknowledged the many different types of self-publishing. There’s what some people disparagingly call vanity press, companies that simply print whatever an author pays for. And there are self-published authors who hire their own editors and designers and publish online with a print-on-demand option.

And then there are hybrid presses like She Writes Press. The author contributes to the cost of the production process, but the company vets the books it selects for publication and puts them through a rigorous inhouse editing, designing and proofreading process just like traditional publishers do.

The hybrid press is a relatively new, emerging industry that blurs the lines between traditional publishing and self-publishing, and as such prompts differing views on whether it constitutes self-publishing or not. Regardless of where I fall in that discussion, I was remiss in not spelling out the distinction.

Speak up: The AJC Decatur Book Festival presented by Emory University is seeking authors who want to speak at this year’s festival, which kicks off with a keynote speech on Sept. 30 and takes place Oct. 1 at First Baptist Church of Decatur. To be considered, featured authors must have a new book published after March 2022 available for purchase from traditional retail outlets, they must be written for a general audience and available in print. Self-published books are welcome as long as they are professionally edited; available to booksellers for a discount and returnable; and the author has a functioning website. This year there will be three literary tracks: adult fiction, adult nonfiction and children/youth. For details go to

Cvil War reports: On May 16, 1862, an editorial in the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer newspaper proposed arming enslaved African Americans to help the Confederacy battle Union forces.

“(W)e must ‘fight the devil with fire,’ by arming our negroes to fight the Yankees. There is no doubt that in Georgia alone we could pick up ten thousand negroes, that would rejoice in meeting fifteen thousand Yankees in deadly conflict.”

That numbskull notion is just one of many revelations found in “The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer Covers the Civil War” (University of Tennessee Press, $40) by former AJC reporter Bill Hendrick and Stephen Davis, author of several historical accounts of the war.

This scholarly but accessible book surveys the editorials and news reports printed by the city’s most influential newspaper during the Civil War era, examining the accuracy (and lack thereof) of its journalism and assessing its blatant support of the Confederacy. It also juxtaposes the newspaper’s coverage with other publications to provide context.

Although the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer was powerful enough to shape public opinion, its attempt to change the course of history was clearly futile. Those 10,000 Black Confederate soldiers never materialized, but the Union managed to enlist 186,000 Black soldiers who helped them win the war.

Land ho: Charis Circle, the nonprofit social justice programming organization based at Charis Books & More feminist bookstore, has announced it was bequeathed 24 bucolic acres in rural west Georgia by the late Sorrel Hays, an accomplished pianist and composer. Known as Swallow Hollow, the property has a three-bedroom house, a caretaker’s cottage, a woodworking studio and a recording studio. Plans are to use the property for a feminist artist’s retreat and cultural workers support space.

“We believe the future of our collective liberation requires spaces where we can make art free from the constrictions of capitalism and the interference of fundamentalist politicians and gatekeepers who seek to keep us small,” E.R. Anderson, executive director of Charis Circle, said in a statement.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter at @svanatten.