Sinclair published the book in serial form in 1905, for Appeal to Reason, the socialist newspaper that had supported Sinclair's undercover investigation the previous year. This investigation had inspired Sinclair to write the novel, but his efforts to publish the series as a book met with resistance. An employee at Macmillan wrote,
I advise without hesitation and unreservedly against the publication of this book which is gloom and horror unrelieved. One feels that what is at the bottom of his fierceness is not nearly so much desire to help the poor as hatred of the rich.
After rejections by five publishers who found the work too shocking, Sinclair paid for the first printing himself. Doubleday, Page & Company published a shortened version of the novel on February 28, 1906; it has been in print ever since. Sinclair dedicated the book "To the Workingmen of America".