The story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley has withstood the test of time since 1843. The classic novella written by Charles Dickens, cuts to the heart of even the most jaded, and brings a ray of hope that the Christmas “spirit” is alive and well.
Dickens drew on his childhood memories living in poverty and incorporated the colorful characters of his neighborhood into his writing. After watching his father end up in debtor’s prison he vowed that would never happen to him. His hard work as a writer coincided with the prosperity and opportunities available during the industrial revolution.
Because of the innovations created during the industrial revolution such as the steam powered rotary printing press, and innovations in transportation, writers were able to keep up with consumer demand both in England and abroad.
Shortly before Christmas in 1843, Dickens found himself in debt, so he wrote a small book that he hoped would stave off his creditors. But his regular publisher turned the book down. So he took what little money he had left and self-published the book. He then hired an illustrator, oversaw the book cover, and did all of the marketing himself.
“A Christmas Carol” turned out to be a huge hit. And since Dickens put his own money into it, he kept 100% of the profits. Besides being an innovator in self-publishing, he invented the concept of publishing in serial form. His novels and novellas were the original soap operas of their day. He used the serial publishing technique to test out new characters and plotlines, based on audience feedback. He knew how to keep them in suspense, and did it with the use of the cliff-hanger.
He was also an innovator in sponsorship for writers, putting ads into his novels for brands looking for unique ways to market. His sponsorship ads sold umbrellas, jewelry, glasses, and insect powder.
To this day “A Christmas Carol” has never been out of print, and it’s timely message of giving from your heart never goes out of style.