Why is this book self-published?
The short answer is: no publisher thinks it is marketable. They can't see how to sell enough copies to cover expenses, so they won't take it.
Well, check back each quarter: For the fourth quarter of 2002, Secular Wholeness sold 30 copies to people in 9 U.S. states and in Australia. Per a recent article in the NYT, the average self-published book retails 88 copies in its lifetime. We're well past that...
Several publishers liked the proposal well enough to request the whole manuscript. Two different editors actually called me up and spent half an hour on the phone explaining how, although they found the book interesting, readable, and (quote) "awesomely" researched, they couldn't take it. Quite the nicest rejections this free-lancer ever got.
Publishers don't market
The sad truth is, small publishers work on a shoestring, and large publishers are but starved divisions of big conglomerates. In neither case is there budget or staff for marketing. Publishers only accept books that can sell themselves -- books where:
No modern publisher will accept a book unless at least one, preferably more of those "hooks" is present. Even then, few books get more marketing effort than a listing in a quarterly ad in Publisher's Weekly.
Alas, Secular Wholeness has no marketing hooks whatever. But the story isn't all gloom... (read on)