The article says, “By the late 1980s, he was living in the Bay Area and commuting to the Sharper Image, the San Francisco retailer of consumer gadgetry (since bankrupted), working as a bored-senseless copywriter. Mr. Payne said he began writing “Youth in Revolt” as a kind of psychic safety valve. “After you’ve written about 23 cordless phones, the novelty kind of wears off,” he said.” [Boy, have I heard this from a number of writers who have worked describing everything from shoes to amps.]
It continues, “Still, the book, which took three years to write, was rebuffed by publishers. So Mr. Payne used a small nest egg, designed a hand-drawn cover with plenty of décolletage, and printed 3,000 copies, which he distributed to libraries and bookstores in Berkeley, where he was living at the time. Once again, it was not a roaring success. “Some put it out on the shelves,” he said, “and some threw them away.” In 1994, however, Mr. Payne’s version of the book landed on the desk of Bruce Tracy, then an editor at Doubleday Books.”
I think self-publishing is usually a route to nothing. But if you ever do it, I think it’s best to do it yourself - start your own imprint, etc. Think carefully about shelling out money to something like Author Solutions.
You can read the whole NY Times article here.