Indie Publishing According to Walt Whitman

Prior to the 1830s and 40s, when the cylinder press, the steam press and other technological innovations caused revolutionary change in publishing, the business of printing books and newspapers in America was often a one-person enterprise, with a single individual doing or directly managing all the tasks (writer, editor, printer, distributor, etc.) now departmentalized or outsourced in modern publishing.

The poet Walt Whitman got his start apprenticing at some of these small publishing outfits (such as the offices that printed the Long Island Patriot) just prior to the revolution; he continued through his life to believe that his role as author ideally included the other jobs required for manufacturing and selling a printed product.


Walt Whitman: Indie Writer

Whitman’s stance toward authorial control and the historical context from which it arose is explicated in David S. Reynolds’s superb, engaging Walt Whitman’s America:

‘”My theory is that the author might be the maker even of the body of his book–set the type, print the book on a press, put a cover on it, all with his own hands: learning his trade from A to Z–all there is of it” (quoting Whitman). Appalled by the impersonality of modern publishing, (Whitman) would declare that authors needed to be rescued from publishers. Self-publishing was not uncommon among nineteenth-century American authors–Longfellow, Prescott, and others tried it at various times.’

So, Indie Writers, take heart! You are in the company of some of America’s most revered and respected authors.


“Strange, funny, and poignant, the story deftly wields this eccentric parable to examine a variety of philosophical, religious, and existential questions, such as the dichotomy between deeming the world as evil and worthy of punishment versus viewing life as a demonstration of God’s goodness. Witty, serious, and original, this stunning tale should attract anyone who delights in an intellectually stimulating read.” – Kirkus Reviews





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