Seventeenth and eighteenth century musicians faced a slow economy and many chose not to publish their compositions with the traditional publishers of their time. Some publishers paid for neither paper, ink nor the hours the composer spent producing a piece of music that often lived on after they were gone—passed down from generation to generation.
Numerous musicians chose to self-publish their music to promote their work as composers. They retained ownership of the metal plates and were able to print further impressions whenever extra copies were needed. Many of the composers are known to us today and include George Philipp Telemaan, Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
Today we—as writers—have e-books and print-on-demand and many authors have chosen to self-publish just as writers and composers did in earlier centuries. Eighteenth century authors often faced problems when they offered their writings for publication. The majority of booksellers chose recognized authors rather than take a chance on an unknown writer and risk their currency and reputation. Without a patron or sponsorship from an established author and rejection of an unknown’s work a constant, a number of authors chose to self publish.
In 1901, The Tales of Peter Rabbit received a few rejections, and Beatrix Potter self-published. The firm of Frederick Warne & Co. who at first rejected the stories soon picked up the book and turned it over to the youngest brother—Norman. The company published 22 additional books during the next 40 years and in 1906 Beatrix and Norman became engaged. Tragically Norman passed away before the wedding.
Marcel Proust paid to have his masterpiece published 101 years ago. Swann’s Way remains a literary classic.
Written and self-published by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931, The Joy of Cooking has sold well over 18 million copies. The jacket was designed by her daughter Marion. Later versions, edited by her family, can be found in kitchens all over the world today.
Non-democratic nations have often banned publication of books written by prominent writers who opposed a regime’s ideology. Fans often manually reprinted a copy that would be considered illegal—another form of self-publishing and a way for a book to reach the reader.
How many of you have or intend to self-publish and how many have chosen traditional publishing?