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Publishing 27 Years Ago

While going through the garage at my parents' house, I discovered a February 1987 issue of Writer's Digest. Wow. It's packed with retro (and occasionally shady) delights. I knew I had to scan and share it with you. Behold: writing and publishing 27 years ago, when I was 3 years old.

SELL YOUR BOOK. Also your love poetry.

Indie publishing in 1987.

 I dig the "Please call me, I need some answers" check box. Totally legit. They're "probably most recommended", after all.


Prizes! According to an online inflation calculator, $1000 1987 dollars is approximately $2000 in today's dollars. A hand-lettered certificate? Priceless.

So many ads like this -- entire pages of text about a super scammy premise (like take photos --> buy shopping mall for $25,750,000 (that's $52,000,000 in 2014 dollars!)). I think of it like those "1 weird trick" ads: if you've read to the end, you're probably kinda interested, i.e. gullible.

Ah, the days when "unpublished talent" could sell a novel on two sample chapters.


The magazine also included this heartwarming story of religious tolerance and Sandra's fashion sense.

Aww, it kinda reminds me of Wall-E! (I anthropomorphize everything.)

No, my mom did not make a note in this magazine. It made you look, though, right? Norman is TRICKY.

Ads! How often do you think responding to these things worked out well for people? It's not like you could research literary agencies on the internet. How did a 1987 writer differentiate the scams from the legit services? (Not via Writer's Digest.)

More ads. 

There were also several pages of manuscript typing services, listed by state. So necessary back then, so totally extinct today.

And the back cover, which I totally would have fallen for as a kid, and then begged my mom to buy Hearts on Fire: A Treasury of Poems on Love, Volume IV for $50 ($100 in 2014 dollars!) because OMG, they picked me! they were publishing my poem! and then received the enormous book, realized it was filled with incredibly crappy poetry, i.e. every single entry they received, and learned a valuable lesson oin publishing and deception.

Anyway! I have no idea whether your odds of landing a book deal were better or worse 27 years ago. But publishing definitely seemed more cumbersome. While there are probably just as many scams and side-eye-inducing publishing services nowadays, at least researching them is a quick Google away. No SASE required.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hug the internet.

Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. Haha, that was so fun to see! Crazy to think how much has changed.

  2. One of my poems made it into those $50 books when I was in 3rd grade. My teacher gave me a certificate that said, "Youngest Person to Publish in School." I was so proud!


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Item Reviewed: Publishing 27 Years Ago Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard