Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a classic book that high school teachers everywhere eagerly want their students to read and rave about, but the story of its publication makes for an interesting story on its own.
Shortly prior to the time when Pride and Prejudice was published, it was primarily promoted through word of mouth. Because the world at the time was very much a man’s world, so to speak, Austen relied on her brother, Henry Austen, to spread the word about her new book.
Not everyone at the time could afford a book to read for pleasure, but Henry Austen, with his profession as a banker, was able to mingle with circles who could. His access to these circles allowed him to have Pride and Prejudice read by a distinguished group of people. By word of mouth alone, the book had developed quite a positive reputation.
Seeing the success of Jane Austen’s previous work, Sense and Sensibility, the bookseller and publisher Thomas Egerton stepped in and offered to purchase the copyright to Pride and Prejudice from Jane Austen for 110 euros. His offer relieved her and her brother from having to promote the book themselves. They agreed, and the book was published.
Over a thousand copies had been sold by July of 1813, a mere five months after it was published. The book was so well-received that Egerton went on to publish the 2nd edition later in 1813 and the third edition in 1817. As a result of Egerton’s deal with the Austens, he actually ended up making much more off of Pride and Prejudice than Jane Austen herself.
All in all, Pride and Prejudice went on to sell 20 million copies centuries later. Though Jane Austen did not win any awards for her writing within her lifetime, she remains a very influential writer to this day.