In 1986, I published a 50 page, staple-bound, photocopied collection of short stories I'd written, entitled The Forgotten Future. I only made a hundred copies, and most of them I just gave away, to family, friends, and acquaintances. I wasn't interested in making any money on the enterprise; I just wanted exposure. That people might read my stories was payment enough.
In order to lend a bit of credibility to what I was doing, I created a fictitious publisher for my book, called Empire Publications. The idea behind Empire Publications was to create a structure for self-publishing that anyone who wanted to self-publish could make use of. Each book was to have a uniform back cover, which looked like this:
Empire Publications is a cooperative group of writers and poets, who publish their work independently. They are more interested in getting their work into circulation than in making money. Rather than submitting and resubmitting manuscripts to magazines, the writers of Empire Publications put their efforts into their own books. Each writer sells his books at cost, after doing all of the writing, typing, editing, photocopying, collating, and binding himself. If he can't sell them, he gives them away.
The board of directors of Empire Publications hopes that you enjoy this book, and urges you to buy and read the company's other books.
Your donation furthers the cause of Art.
I had hoped that this concept might really catch on with other struggling artists, but only my friends John Cooper and Charles Dickson joined me in this. John put out a little volume of poetry, called The Sun that You See, and Charles released a series of tapes of musical compositions: Dreams, W.I.D.O.W.B., Honor's Thesis, and A Charles Christmas.
As for me, I published 8 books this way. The first as I said, was The Forgotten Future, and it contained 25 short stories. I released this at Christmas time in 1986, and made it my holiday gift to most everyone I knew that year.
This proved so popular that I put out another book the following year, called Open 24 Hours, again giving it out as my Xmas gift to everyone I knew. My second book only had 7 stories, but the first of them took up about half of the book. Entitled "Icehouse", this story became the chapters 2-33 of my 1991 novel, The Empty City. It also featured descriptions of an unusual board game, called Icehouse. Among the other stories in was the longish autobiographical story, "When I was a Little Guy."
In 1988, I published 2 books under the Empire Publications name. The first, The Cake that Baked Itself, was a kid's story, complete with cartoons I'd drawn, that I created for my niece Sarah's birthday. She was 6 that year.
The other book was called Saturn Cafe and became my third mass-produced Xmas gift. It contained 8 stories, several of which became chapters in the Empty City. I also included another autobiographical piece, about my early experiences as a Boy Scout, entitled "Henlopen."
In 1989, I started dating Kristin Wunderlich, and my tradition of creating something to give to everyone at Christmastime took on a whole new meaning. The Empire Publications name was still useful, though - our 1990 gift, The Enchanted Tiles, was published under this imprint.
In 1991, we published one more book under the Empire Publications name, entitled My Secret World (and other stories). By then, my original 3 books were no longer in print, and since I had used material from all 3 books in my novel, The Empty City, I didn't want to do a straight re-issue of these books. So, My Secret World pulled together the best remaining stories from these 3 books, along with a few new ones I'd written in the meantime.
Somewhere in there I also published a collection of recipes, called Cooking with the Emperor, and a compendium of shaggy dog stories entitled Dumb Jokes My Dad Likes to Tell. These are both way out of print.