Few people are aware that one of the most famous and inspirational books in the English language was originally self-published, and didn’t do as well as the author intended. Charles Dickens began to write A Christmas Carol in September 1843, and completed the book in six weeks with the final pages written in the beginning of December. Unfortunately he was feuding with his publisher over the meager earnings on his previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. Because of that, Dickens declined a lump-sum payment for the tale and chose a percentage of the profits in hopes of making more money. He then published the work at his own expense. It was as expensive then as it is now to publish quality print books and high production costs netted him only £230 (equal to £19,128 today) rather than the £1,000 (equal to £83,164 today) he’d hoped and needed, as his wife was once again pregnant. A year later, the profits were only £744 and Dickens was deeply disappointed.
Formatting was as tough in those days as it is now and Dickens was unhappy with the first edition of the tale. It contained drab, olive colored endpapers that Dickens felt was unacceptable. The publisher, Chapman and Hall, quickly replaced them with yellow endpapers but those clashed with the title page which was then redone. The final product was bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages and was completed only two days before the release date of 19 December 1843.
I take comfort in knowing that the man who wrote the most powerful story of redemption in my personal library was an indie author too. Self-publishing is much easier nowadays, but nevertheless it too is fraught with costs and formatting difficulties. I have one last little formatting issue to solve in the Tower of Bones on page 361, and then I will be able to okay the final print version of it. Wonky formatting is the curse of my life!
This is the time of year when I watch every single version of A Christmas Carol that can be found. Alastair Sims, George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Mr. Magoo and now Jim Carey occupy the small screen and remind me of what is really important in life – love and family. Even Mickey Mouse has warmed the cockles of my heart in the role of Bob Cratchitt.
And now, I must go wrap presents by the flickering light of my television, as once again the Ghost of Christmas Present leads Mr. Scrooge to see what he should have seen all along – that Christmas Spirit is a year-round emotion, and has less to do with cash flow and Black Friday Shopping and more to do with charity of spirit.
If you are feeling charitable, I would recommend these fine charities:
There are so many worthy charities, and any gift you make to them will benefit millions of people. I live in the lap of luxury, and I know it. I have a good roof over my head, a reliable income and a healthy family. I am grateful for all these blessings, and if you are similarly blessed, I encourage you to make some donations to your local charities as a way of giving thanks!