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Jane Austen – one of the world’s most successful indie authors

People think of self-publishing as a phenomenon of the digital age, but Jane Austen was blazing a trail as an indie author over 200 years ago. In fact, three of the four books published during her lifetime were self-published. Her books have inspired millions but the stories behind the work and her journey to publication are just as inspirational.

She persevered, no matter how long it took

Jane had incredible staying power. She didn’t give up—even though it would be nearly two decades from her first starting Sense and Sensibility until it was eventually published in 1811. It was the same with Pride and Prejudice—sixteen years passed from the first draft to its publication when Jane was 37.

She didn’t let rejection deter her

Like most indie authors, Jane experienced bitter rejection before deciding to go it alone. In 1797, her father sent a draft of what would later become Pride and Prejudice to the publisher Thomas Cadell asking how much it would cost him to publish the book and what Cadell might pay for copyright. Cadell returned the manuscript, unread, with the words ‘Declined by Return of Post’ scrawled on the letter. The equivalent of today’s standard, impersonal rejection email.

She was willing to take a risk on herself

Thirteen years after her father’s first attempt to get one of her works published, a publisher finally agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility on her behalf. The publisher was willing to put the book out, provided they didn’t have to take any of the risk. If it failed to sell, Jane would have to reimburse the publisher for his costs. This must have been a terrifying prospect for Jane, a woman with no independent income who survived on the generosity of others. Even so, she took the deal. This steely ambition made sure she got her work out into the world, even if she had to spend a few sleepless nights worrying about how she’d pay back the publisher if it was a failure.


Like Jane, we are also indie publishers. We’re proud to have brought so many wonderful writers’ words to print in our literary anthologies of personal essays inspired by literary greats. Our latest - Cocktails with Miss Austen – brings together voices from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas in a global conversation on the world’s most beloved author. You can check out the book


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