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Original DIY: A History of Artists Distributing Their Own Work

Jim Gaffigan recently announced that he will be producing his upcoming comedy special without the help of a studio, having been inspired by Louis CK’s similar venture from a couple months ago. While this is now considered unusual, at least outside the increasingly inventive world of music distribution, back in the day many creative types chose not to rely on industry backing to get their material out to the public — and sometimes it even worked out for the better. After the jump, we’ll show you some of the biggest self-produced works from the 18th century through the present, from books to comics and even feature films.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

Probably one of the most famous examples of self-publication’s success, Common Sense had the largest sale and publication of any book in America at the time. The 46-page pamphlet pushing American independence went through 25 editions in its first year alone, and is partially credited with inciting the Revolutionary War. So, you know, no big deal.

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