Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mark Twain--Self-publisher and Marketer

Mark Twain is remembered as one of America's greatest writers. People often forget that he was also a genius at marketing himself and his books. When he published his first books, he felt that the publishing houses of his day took advantage of him by taking the lion's share of the proceeds from his creative work. Twain took a step that is common in our day, but was groundbreaking in his; he decided to become his own publisher. Since he was living a century before digital publishing became available, he did this by making arrangements with a printer and starting his own publishing house.

Because he lacked the capital of an established house, he sold his books by subscription, essentially selling the books before they were printed and collecting at least part of the revenue upfront. Twain recruited commissioned sales people across the country to go door to door selling his books. He gave his representatives detailed instructions on selling his books and even how to sell special editions in more luxurious bindings. You can find these instructions by Googling "Mark Twain-how to be a successful agent." When Twain learned that another publishing company was taking advantage of his dear friend Ulysses Grant, Twain stepped up and offered him a much more favorable deal for his memoirs. This turned into one of the most lucrative publishing ventures of the 19th century.

I often talk to fellow writers that tell me they've published a book (or several), but then apologize for self-publishing it. They act as if this is "cheating" and it somehow diminishes their accomplishment. My response is that, "If self-publishing is good enough for the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, it should be good enough for any writer."

If you want to learn more about writing, publishing or just want to spend time with other creative types, join the Ligonier Valley Writers today. You can reach the LVW at

Thanks for reading this post.

Jim Busch


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