Copyright © 2014 by Don A. Singletary Sing Systems
How did Mark Twain’s first book, The Innocents Abroad, make it to print? Twain afforded an extravagant lifestyle most of his life, but it was his first book that launched the career of the man William Dean Howells called “the Abe Lincoln of American literature.” How does a struggling new writer make $16,500 ($225,000 equivalent) on his first book?
Clemens grew up poor. It is actually quite common for many wealthy people to cite fear of poverty or fear of failure as a major motivation for their working so hard to become successful. Sam L. Clemens had a father, who in spite of being a lawyer, a justice of the peace, and an educated man – could never quite provide any financial security for his family. The lack of money, debts, and frequent moving plagued the family. Young Sam was only 11 when his father died -
When he met (future wife) Livy, his language was coarse, his dress and manners were far less than her social class demanded, and his self-
And so his courtship with Olivia Langdon began while he still had very poor prospects for earning enough to marry; he survived by producing news items for papers and producing short stories such as travelogues. These circumstances could have found him in some degree of desperation, or put another way – he was highly motivated to find a quick success for himself.
Even the idea of creating his first successful book did not originate from Mark Twain. He had received a letter from Elisha Bliss, who had read and liked his newspaper travelogues on the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). On 21 November 1867, Bliss requested that young Sam Clemens write a book on those travels ‘for subscription publication’ at Bliss’s American Publishing Company. Traditional publishing companies had offered Twain nothing.
Subscription publishing was considered a ‘low class’ method of publishing – many new authors who did not yet have the following to be picked up by major publishing houses, elected to try ‘subscription publishing’. This was the fastest growing new method to publish-
The new subscription publishing made these books affordable to every class of citizen, and the new low postage rates and the new, cheap steam-
The present day POD (print on demand) and eBooks are the leading edge of modern publishing. They are taking money from the pockets of traditional big house publishers. As was the case with Mark Twain -
Just as the cheap postage and the new high-
Of all the Print-
Without ever touching human hands, the computers list the books for sale -
There are no guarantees an author’s book or eBook will sell -
Mark Twain had no offers from traditional publishers because he was yet unproven; the large publishing houses offered him nothing. He might have settled for failure in spite of his tremendous talents. After his subscription publishing successes, that cost him nothing to initiate, he became a famous best-
Clemens did have the important support of his friends and family, and he had an offer to use new technology and the opportunity to publish – and he took it! Of course, not everyone who tried it, did as well – but they did have a fair chance and did not depend on the tedious process that seems to operate at the whims of traditional publishing business for their chance.
While researching & writing my new book on the life and times of Mark Twain, I was pleased to find out that he self-
Now, 150 years later, we have new high-
This story and dozens of others are appear in Don A. Singletary’s new book, The Second Coming of Mark Twain, an historical-
By Don A. Singletary
To see a pictorial tour of the Twain family’s Hartford, CT home click here.
Here is a link to a picture gallery of Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, CT Notice his special Billiard Room up top on the third floor. Click Here.