On the 12th Blog of Christmas I Blogged about “A Christmas Carol” – The Self-Published Masterpiece
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Those delicious words open the Dickens classic. Prior to the publication of A Christmas Carol, Christmas was barely recognized. Although it was a holiday it didn’t have the romantic vibe that it has today. Mr. Dickens and his novel changed all that. And, if he’d waited for his publisher to release the book it may never have happened.
Charles Dickens wrote his masterpiece in six weeks. Somehow he was able to channel the story and get the words on paper (or parchment probably) in less than two months. At that time he was suffering financially. His wife was pregnant with their fifth child and the wolves were closing in on their door. His previous novel had not sold well and when he submitted his new manuscript (after having it beta-read surely), to his publishers they were slow to warm to it. I’m not sure how rejection letters were sent out in 1853 but his publishers indicated that they were not interested in publishing the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s epiphany. Anxious to have the book released by Christmas Dickens went the print-on-demand route and self-published. He hired his own illustrator and contracted his publisher to print the books. And, he did the legwork himself. Then, in those very, pre-Konrath days he lowered the price to five shillings – a price that most folks would be able to afford. He wanted his book to be read and perhaps he even thought that readers might enjoy his other works if they liked his Christmas tale.
The book was a success. He sold six thousand copies by Christmas Eve. He was earning decent coin but because he’d laid out his own money he needed sales to continue. That’s when the pirates showed up. Even back then there were pirates of the sort we deal with today. His book was plagiarized and the pirated copy, although altered in areas, sold well also. Dickens quickly took the culprits to court. The plagiarists argued that they had improved on the story. I was exposed to Dickens and his marvelous words as early as primary school back in Scotland. I don’t believe his words can be improved on. They just can’t. The judge agreed and barely stopped short of calling the pirates blasphemers. He ruled that if you rob a man, even if you tell him he is being robbed, it still amounts to robbery. In his verdict he said that the work had been stolen and ordered the pirates to pay Mr. Dickens. The plagiarists swiftly declared bankruptcy and Dickens was responsible for all of the court costs including those of the pirates.
Fortunately, the book continued to sell well and in another canny marketing move, he allowed theatre companies to perform productions of the work without any compensation back to him. By the following Spring A Christmas Carol was in it’s seventh edition. In the coming years two things happened. Dickens began readings of his work that took him all over the world. This was not a common occurrence for an author in those days. During those public appearances he usually read from his Christmas masterpiece. And, most of his earnings ended up coming from those same readings. And, as we all know, the joy, mystique, and romanticism of Christmas became an annual occurrence.
So, the next time you’re referred to as a self-published author wear it proudly. Remember Mr. Dickens and how he worked day and night to release his independently published novel before Christmas. And, remember the innovative ways he found to market his work – A Christmas Carol, the self-published masterpiece that redefined Christmas.
I’m very pleased to have participated in the 12 Blogs of Christmas with Sarah Lane, Dianne Greenlay, Laurie Boris, Heather Haley, Helga Zeiner, M.L. Gardner, Roberta Kagan, Wendy McClelland, Jamie Lee Scott, Jennifer Ellis, and RJ Crayton. I hope you enjoyed their articles, and if you missed them just click “Blog” at the top of the page and you can keep reading about Christmas.
Merry Christmas from my family to yours!
Oh, and from Dec. 24-27 my Christmas romance Believing Again: A Tale Of Two Christmases is on sale in the US and UK for only 99 cents.
You can pick it up right here.