Publicizing Roughing It

After the success of Innocents Abroad and MT's two eastern lecture tours, there was a lot of interest in his "new book," whatever it might be. And throughout most of his career MT was a devout believer in the advantages of advertising and publicity. But he was anxious about the reception of Roughing It: as he wrote David Gray, a friend who edited the Buffalo Courier, he feared "it would be considered pretty poor stuff, & that therefore I had better not let the press get a chance at it."

What pre-publication publicity the book got, however, was almost certainly controlled by MT himself. Three of the six blurbs below left were written by Gray, almost certainly at the request of MT. He also had friends on the Advertiser and former colleagues at the Territorial Enterprise, while the American Publisher, a promotional monthly put out by MT's publisher, was being edited at this time by his brother, Orion Clemens. These brief notices help tell the story of how slowly the shape and focus of the book evolved.

The items below right were all produced by the American Publishing Company. They help us appreciate how Elisha Bliss (and probably MT as well) understood the relationship between what MT had written and what contemporary readers were willing or eager to buy.

One of the MT letter's in the Barrett Collection allows us to see MT in action as his own publicist: he wrote it 20 April 1872 to James Redpath, his agent for the lyceum circuit, asking him to "jam" a notice about the popularity of Roughing It into the Boston Advertiser -- SEE LETTER.


In another Barrett letter, written a year after Roughing It was published, MT offers Bliss his own explanation for the book's relative failure, and sums up the lesson he has learned about the value of an "early journalist boost" and "prompt notoriety" for his books. He's writing The Gilded Age at the time, and promises Bliss he'll make sure its publication gets plenty of attention -- SEE LETTER.

MT IN HIS TIMES Homepage Roughing It Homepage MT IN HIS TIMES Bibliography