Rant: A Brief History of Self-Publishing/Traditional Publishing

Rant: A Brief History of Self-Publishing/Traditional Publishing
I’m not much for rants. Writing them, not reading them, I enjoy Ruth’s rants. LOL. If you ever visit my blog you see that for yourself. But this is one of those times when I just have to say something.
I’ve been out of town for the last week and was going through the 90 emails still waiting for me in my I accumulated inbox (if you want to know why go to http://stephanniebeman.com), and I read a few of the posts Ruth made on the writing forums as well as the comments made on the forum. This idea that true or traditional publishing isn’t self-publishing is a load of bullshit. I’m so tired of hearing the same thing over and over again about self-publishing not being traditional publishing. Does no one know the history of publishing?

Publishing started out as the author of a work writing out their stories, formulas, scientific work, etc and sharing it with others, who copied the work. As early as the 3rd century AD there are books documenting everything from medicine to religion to perfumes to alchemy to food prep to history. Publishing houses didn’t even exist until the Romans started what would later be a model for publishing houses. They used slave labor to copy the dictation of stories for the libraries of the wealthy. Sound familiar?

Since the beginning, publications (newspapers, pamphlets, books, etc.) have been self-published because they were written, printed, and sold by the owner of the printer. Only in the last century has the roles of author and publisher truly been separate entities and self-publication became unusual and undesirable.

And history is repeating itself. For centuries people fought the censorship and oppression of the written word and ideas by printing their own books and pamphlets for the masses to read. Books that are considered classics now, were at one time self-published and even rejected by publishers unwilling to take the chance on those that were unknown, wrote about obscure or controversial topics, or because of their writing, their style, or their genre.

When did our society became so anal that freedom to express ourselves has to be deemed worthy by publishers out to make a buck? When did they become so prudish that innovation is squelched through threats and degrading remarks? When did storytellers and bards stop being welcome to table for a nights entertainment? Where would our world be if authors hadn’t decided to undermine the business model of publishers by continuing a long tradition of printing their own books? Where would we be if we bowed to those claiming to be credentialed authorities on any given subject matter and waited for their permission to contribute to public debate and literature?

Where would we be if authors such as William Blake, Virginia Woolf, William Morris, Walt Whitman, James Joyce, James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy), Stephen Crane, E.E. Cummings, Oscar Wilde, Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), Edward Tufte, Elynn Harris, Matthew Reilly, Howard Fast (Spartacus), D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Paine, Christopher Paolini (Eragon), Edgar Allen Poe, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, G.P. Taylor (Shadowmancer), Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Deepak Chopra, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Paul Evans (The Christmas Box), Zane Grey, Rudyard Kipling, Ezra Pound, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson (Chicken Soup for the Soul), Carl Sandburg, Gertrude Stein, John Grisham (A Time to Kill), and Stephen King decided not to self-publish? We would be without some of the most influential authors and their stories?

Rant done…for now. Wow, that was strangely liberating. I might just have to try this more often. LOL. Feel free to comment, I’d love to hear you opinion on the subject.

9 thoughts on “Rant: A Brief History of Self-Publishing/Traditional Publishing

  1. You know what I love? I come on here with opinions and you back them up with facts. The writing elitists (as I call them) have forgotten that those “great” authors once self-published. Did I tell you one well-known person of a certain site actually wrote, “No one has the right to publish”? It seems to me back then, no one had the right to tell someone else what to publish since authors were doing it themselves.

    I think it all boils down to fear and jealousy. They hate the fact that self-publishing works and that authors are making money and building a readership off of their own books.

    Most people are smart enough to figure out what they like to read or not read, and no publisher is going to change their mind on it. If people like a certain author, they’ll buy the author’s books because they like those books. Freedoms such as these terrifies the elites on so many levels. It means they can’t produce mass market books that read like any other book out there. Nope. They have to be original and stand out and promote their work. These tasks are too daunting to them, which is why those who refuse to get on the ball don’t sell as much as self-published authors who are aware of what it takes to get their name out there.

    The same person who said “No one has the right to publish” is the same person who told me, “But I don’t want to market. I just want to sit home and write all day.” when I told her that times have changed and every author, regardless of how they publish needs to promote their work or else no one will ever know about it. The days of publishers holding the authors’ hands are over. It’s sink or swim time. And for the record, I outsell that particular author who thinks her traditionally published books are better than my self-published ones. That just goes to show you that the readers are the final gate keepers to the publishing industry, not the publishers.

    Okay. Enough of ranting off your rant. LOL


    • Ranting lets you blow off steam, my friend. I just got tired at the Amazon forums the ‘No self-published book’ tags. It’s stupid. Who cares how the book is published if its a good book/story. Besides who are they to say who can publish a book.


  2. Well said! I’d like to add one more name to your impressive list of self-published authors. Jane Austen paid for her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, to be printed by Thomas Egerton of London. The beautiful thing about a good rant is that it has a cathartic effect on others as well. Thanks!


    • You’re welcome. And thank you for the name. I didn’t know that Jane Austen self-published. I do know there are more names that I didn’t place on the list, but I did try for the most well-known.


        • Sorry if that sounded a little abrupt. I was trying to write the comment with kids jumping on me last night. 😀 I do enjoy Jane Austen’s writing, and I’m glad she was among the list.


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