History of Indie Publishing

by Genevieve Fosa

In the 1700s, when the notion of publishing was still developing, and libraries were hardly ever thought of, except by a few scholars, a publisher consisted of someone who had the enterprise and the funds to purchase a printing press. He generally did this in order to publish newspapers and pamphlets. Sometimes he would take commissions to print books. Monthly magazines did not become popular till the mid-1800s.

Selling his wares often depended on hiring salesmen to carry the goods into the village and beyond, hoping to reach as many people as they could. These early salesmen and authors did not have to compete with either television or the internet, so people depended on these publications for their entertainment. Many people enjoyed reading out loud to their families.

Some enterprising printers added storefronts to their enterprises, where they could sell the fruits of their presses. These were the first bookshops and reading rooms. These printers were by and large selling to their local communities. Writers who became famous had to be able to pay for the printer’s services, and then sell their books. I am certain that many books languished and were forgotten, because their authors did not realize that along with writing, they had to go out and entice people to read their work. This was why publishing stories and poetry in newspapers that already had a circulation was so attractive to many writers.

If we are to take a leaf from some of these enterprising, self-publishing writers and translate it to today’s world of internet and POD publishing then our website becomes our storefront, and our blog pieces become our salesmen. The more prominently we can place our essays, the farther our salesmen will reach. At least that is the theory. Everywhere, I read about promoting one’s writing, I read about blogging, not only on your own website, but on other people’s websites.

And what is the next way to build up a following of people who are interested in what you write? Oh, yes. Write the best work you can, and revise, revise, revise. Read every book you can find to learn what it is a substantive editor does, what he looks for in order to help the writer fill in those dreaded plot holes, through which entire stories have fallen into the nether-land of forgotten ideas and dreams. Now, this sounds like a subject for a novel. With all this reading, you will learn how to assess your own work.

Doing everything connected with your writing, and then getting up to sell what you have written is a full time job. If you mean business as a novel writer, your day job will not be your top priority. If you are supporting a family, your spouse will have to help out. And, if you ask your family to sacrifice for you, you had better mean business about your writing. Treat your writing as a business, not something you only do when you have a few spare moments. Building up every angle of your business is an ongoing project, and can easily take ten and twelve hours a day to get everything done.

In the meantime, keep on writing.

What do you to keep on writing, promoting, and getting up in the morning?

2 thoughts on “History of Indie Publishing”

  1. Nice piece, Genevieve. Indeed, looking back to when novels first began and recognising there’s nothing new under the sun, truly puts marketing into perspective. Thanks a bunch!! (nice to see your work here, too)

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