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A Brief History Of The Self-Publishing Industry

4 Mins read

If you are an author and thinking of self-publishing your book, you should know more about the history and how the self-publishing process has overcome traditional publishing. It is a common belief that self-publishing is a new concept. But it is not the truth; the self-publishing process was invented centuries ago. 

You can say that; the publishing process has evolved with the new technologies. But, the history of self-publishing started from the early printing methods when everything was done manually to the digital age where you can hire a book publishing company that does all the work for you. 

Nowadays, in self-publishing, an author edits and publishes their work without the help of a traditional book publisher. This allows the author to retain complete control over the publishing process, no manuscript rejection, royalty rates, and publishing costs. The method has been followed for centuries and is evolving into a billion-dollar industry. It empowers the author at each step of the publishing journey and sells their book the way they have envisioned. 

Let’s see how the self-publishing industry has evolved, overtaking the traditional publishing industry. 

The History Of Self-Publishing

The self-publishing process was introduced ages ago and is still progressing with time. 

Oral History

Before the writing process, every word and knowledge was memorized. There were tribes who memorized the knowledge about everything. This practice of memorizing was called oral tradition. In European cultures, these people were known as the bard. While this process was incredible, it was not efficient in the long run because it took a lot of time to memorize everything. The problem was that all the information was lost if that person died. This is why human civilization started to create a written language, to collect knowledge in a better way. 

Written Language Became Common

Written language was widely used by human civilization. The ancient Sumerian culture invented the initially recorded forms of the written language. Moreover, the evidence shows that the early Chinese dynasties and ancient Egyptians also came up with their writing, making scribes commonplace.

The scribes were the people who were trained professionals and knew how to read and write. Hence, they established a writing system. Besides scribes, scientists, philosophers, and politicians have also contributed to the writing system. 

Monastery Publishing Agencies 

During the Dark Ages, barbarian invasions declined the Roman Empire. As the cities were destroyed, the libraries were also set on fire. A huge part of the information was smashed in seconds. This is when monasteries came forward and preserved the knowledge about European culture. 

As the roman empire started to see its downfall, the monasteries began to collect manuscripts, books, and other documents. This information was kept as a treasure, and people devoted their day and night to writing these books. Numerous monasteries specialized in making Bible copies. However, some monasteries started to write about other documents, such as books on history, science, and philosophy. Thus, it was realized that copying massive documents and books was challenging and took years to complete.

The Printing Press Invention

The greatest change in the history of book publishing was the invention of the printing press. Before the printing press invention, writers used to write copies with their hands, which was a slow and tiresome task.

The first printing press was made by a German man in the year 1439 named Johannes Gutenberg. With the help of the printing press, books were produced at a good speed and also enabled the writers to publish their books in large amounts. This gave rise to traditional publishing agencies. 

Establishment Of Traditional Publishing Houses

Publishing houses were soon set up after the invention of the printing press. These publishing houses are known as traditional publishing agencies because they have ruled the publishing industry for several years. 

Over the past years, authors had to work with these publishing houses when they wished to publish their books. Traditional publishing companies usually do the entire process for free without taking any money from the author. However, the companies then take a big percentage from the sales of the books. These companies also take all the rights and royalties of the book. They also particularly take a longer time to publish a book. But, traditional publishing companies still dominate the publishing world. 

The Intervention Of Self-Publishing Companies 

With the domination of traditional publishing for ages, authors started seeking new ways to publish their books without giving them to traditional publishers. The process of self-publishing became mainstream in the year 1979 when desktop publishing was introduced. With the help of this method, authors were given a chance to self-publish their books on their own terms. 

The intervention of digital technology shook up the traditional publishing industry. Before this digital technology, authors worked with traditional publishing agencies and had a large number of published book copies. This option became risky for the authors because book printing costs a lot of money, and if the readers did not buy them, they had their books stockpiled. 

When the books did not get the potential sales, the author and the publishing house faced a great loss. Therefore, with self-publishing, authors now have full control over the publishing process and the right and royalties of their books. In this way, authors have ownership of their publishing journey. 

These authors now do not need to work with dictatorial editors; they can publish their books in their own way. They also don’t need to have multiple printed copies of their book. Hence, because of digital technology, books are only printed once the authors pay. The evolving digital technology has also given rise to self-publishing companies. These self-publishing companies have experts who specialize in helping authors to publish, market, and distribute their books. 

To Sum It Up!

If you are thinking to hire a self-publishing company for your book, you should know about its history. You should learn about the amazing transformation of the writing and publishing process, how self-publishing was introduced to the authors, and how it gained recognition. With this information, you will embrace the process of self-publishing even more. 


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