Many people, even those who read a lot, still think self-publishing is a vanity press activity – you pay a business to design and produce your book. The business gives no thought to its quality. How things have changed in the last ten years. Self-publishing, or Indie publishing, has become a legitimate avenue for authors to bring a professional product to a vast reading public. Kobo Writing Life briefly traces the rise of Indie publishing.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF INDIE PUBLISHING
September 2, 2020
Happy Labour Day weekend to those in North America! As we approach the end of an incredibly challenging summer, we thought we’d distract ourselves from the present and have some fun by looking at the history of indie publishing.
As modern-day independent publishers, you’re in great company. Many renowned authors––from Stephen King, to Jane Austen, to Virginia Woolf––have gone ahead of you, and by now we’ve firmly established that authors can successfully take control of the publishing process and hold their own in the industry.
So where did it all begin? In the beginning, there was spoken word, and for centuries, we passed stories through generations orally. The advent of publishing began when those stories were transcribed onto papyrus and parchment, creating the very earliest iterations of books.
In 1439, Johannes Gutenberg created the first printing press, and society changed forever, as for the first time the written word was accessible to the masses.
Fast forwarding way ahead to the 1800s (in which Jane Austen published Sense and Sensibility via a vanity press); to the 1900s (when Virginia and Leonard Woolf founded Hogarth Press and published their own work), all the way to the 1961, when Margaret Atwood self published her first title, a collection of poetry.
We’re going to speed into the digital era in the year 2000, when everyone and anyone had a LiveJournal, and could share their writing far and wide. By the year 2000, we were starting to see the first stirrings of a publishing revolution after Stephen King struck fear into the hearts of publishers everywhere when he announced that he would be publishing his book The Plant directly to readers on the internet.
By 2010, the first eReader devices had entered the market (shout out to the earliest version of the Kobo, launched in 2010––we’ve come a long way, baby!) and online retailers had grown in popularity. Suddenly, authors had direct access to millions of readers all over the world, and began to publish in droves. Kobo Writing Life launched in 2012 and has continued to expand and evolve.
In 2020 so far, we’re weathering a global pandemic and provided an unprecedented number of free books to support readers at home; we’ve launched our subscription service Kobo Plus in Canada; we’ve attended virtual conferences and adapted our business for this new normal; we released the 200th episode of the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, and we’re about to do our first ever KWL-only audiobook promotion.
While 2020 is shaping up to be the most unpredictable year of modern time, we’re looking ahead and focusing on continuing to support our authors and continuing to make Kobo Writing Life even better.
Yours in Writing,
The Kobo Writing Life Team