The Oath of a Freeman
We encourage you to write your own oath as an independent author, publisher, editor, and/or reader, and you can see Daye’s original text below.
"I, being (by God’s providence) an Inhabitant, and Freeman, within the jurisdiction of this Commonwealth, do freely acknowledge my self to be subject of the government thereof and therefore do here swear by the great and dreadful name of the Ever living God, that I will be true and faithful to the same and will accordingly yield assistance and support thereunto, with my person and estate, as in equity I am bound: and will also truly endeavor to maintain and preserve all the liberties and privileges thereof, submitting my self to the wholesome laws and orders made and stabilized by the same; and further, that I will not plot, nor practice any evil against it nor consent to any that shall so do, but will timely discover and reveal the same to lawful authority now here established, for the speedy preventing thereof. Moreover, I do solemnly bind myself, in the sight of God, that when I shall be called to give my voice touching any such matter of this state, (in which freemen are to deal) I will give my vote and suffrage as I shall judge in my own conscience my best conduct and tend to the public weal of the body, without respect of persons or favor of any man. So help me God in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Here’s to Independence!
Celebrating Indies in Publishing, Bookselling, and More
Our country celebrated it 238rd birthday this July, but the United States’ history of independent publishing is even older. The very first piece of writing ever to be mass-produced in the United States was titled, appropriately enough, The Oath of a Freeman. It was printed in 1639 by Stephen Daye in a printing shop set up at Harvard University (then called Harvard College) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Daye was not a writer, or an editor, or a bookseller, but rather a printing technician—which means he had ink stains on his fingers and knew how to set up, run, and fix a printing press.
It seems fitting that The Oath of a Freeman was published by an independent publisher. So, for those out there who think that independent, small-press, self-, and mircopublishing are new phenomena, think again.
Walt Whitman first published his poetic masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, himself in 1855. Mark Twain took the same route with his classic tales of Southern American boyhood, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Ben Franklin was a self-publisher, as was Thomas Paine. Other writers of note whose first work was either self-published or brought out by very small presses include Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, e.e. cummings, Carl Sandberg, D. H. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, Beatrix Potter, Allen Ginsberg, Dorothy Allison, John Asbury, Julia Cameron, James Schuyler, John Grisham, and Sherman Alexie.
Independent publishing has only grown and evolved here in the U.S. since its start in the 17th century. Flavorwire, a reporter on all things media, has even said that there are publishers out there proving this is the “golden age of indie publishing” (you can check out the article here—and you’ll see more than one familiar name from the IPPY awards!).
We all know there are challenges in our industry, whether they be shrinking space in bookstores, price cuts by Amazon, or just the sheer volume of books out there for consumers. But indie and self-publishers have been around for 375 years, and we’re not going anywhere. Don’t take my word for it though—read on for quotes from the publishers, authors, and booksellers who embrace, celebrate, and continue the tradition of independence.
Our joy is finding those little tucked-away gems, and a lot of those come from independent publishers. Those are the books that we want to get behind. Those are the books that set us apart. I think independent publishers are the strength of publishing.”
Becky Anderson, Anderson’s Bookshop of Naperville, IL
The authors we sign have a knack for writing visual, compelling narratives whose characters and story lines are quirky and timeless. There is no commercial crassness to what we do. We live to tell another story with unconventional plots and heroic misdeeds. It’s this strain of inventively fresh, honest and offbeat entertainment that is often missing from today's bestseller lists.”
Dan Cafaro, Founder and Publisher, Atticus Books
I didn’t want to go the traditional route. I didn’t want to work for someone else or write books under self-imposed pressure to maximize a publisher’s profit. I want to write books that are fun to read and if they aren’t successful I’ll just write something else.”
John Locke, author, member of the Kindle Million Club (and the first independent author to join that list)
Literature and reading books is a way for different groups of people to communicate and understand each other. It’s really important that everybody tells their own story and listens to the stories of other people. That’s probably why I’ve always been interested in publishing, and definitely why I started and keep doing Publishing Genius—so that people can have sympathy and community with each other.”
Adam Robinson, Founding Editor, Publishing Genius Press
There are amazing, generous authors there willing to help writers through every step of self-publishing. I'm afraid luck is a part of the equation, too. I wish it wasn't. No matter what luck is involved in self-publishing success, it feels good to have the opportunity to get my books out to readers. If the book is good…it will find its audience.”
Kathleen Shoop, bestselling Kindle author
Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com. Follow her at @LillianJaine.