Oettinger and Associates, Inc.

Common Sense

by Callie Oettinger on January 6, 2017

I started off 2017 digging into two publishing rabbit holes.

The first one is related to a guy named Paine. He wrote a pamphlet that went viral a few hundred years ago and is still being read today.

Not long after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Thomas Paine hit U.S. soil. He worked, got political at pubs, and wrote. Paine toiled away on a series of letters to be run in local newspapers. After finding himself way over word count for letters, he decided to publish a pamphlet instead, titled “Common Sense.”

Here’s what your high school teacher didn’t share about “Common Sense” and Paine:

When it came time to publish, Paine went to a printer/publisher/bookseller — a guy named Robert Bell. Bell struck a deal with Paine. He’d print the pamphlet, help promote it, and then split the profits with Paine. If there weren’t any profits, Paine would “make good” with Bell on the printing. Kind of a mash-up of today’s traditional and self-publishing worlds.

Bell printed the pamphlet and then advertised it in local newspapers. Demand increased and “Common Sense” took off. Its popularity lead Paine to add an index and other commentary in advance of the next print run.

Before the reprint, however, Paine heard about the death of General Montgomery and the struggles in the north, and decided to buy mittens for the soldiers. It was winter. They were in camps. No heaters. So . . . Off Paine went to Bell, to obtain his share of the profits.

Bell said there weren’t any profits.

No profits? How was that possible? There was a demand for a reprint, thus there had to be profits.

If this article was the movie Goodfellas, this would be the time to cue a voice-over from Ray Liotta, giving the full skinny on exactly how things went down. [click to continue…]

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