Dan Poynter, author and self-publishing pioneer, died on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 77.

Well known in the book business for his 1979 work The Self-Publishing Manual, Poynter was one the earliest advocates of quality self-publishing. He produced scores of books, seminars, reports and articles on the subject long before digital technology transformed it into an easy-to-adopt option for authors.

After beginning his career in the aviation industry as a parachute-designer, Poynter stumbled into the publishing business. When he went looking for a book on the then-emerging sport of hang gliding and couldn't find one, he decided to publish his own book on the subject. That effort led him to write his groundbreaking title on self-publishing.

Poynter founded Para Publishing in 1969. The company focused on technical books and manuals about about sky-diving and parachute design. The house's list eventually expanded to include books on a variety of topics, including self-publishing and writing. Although Para Publishing grew to include multiple staffers, Poynter often described the business as “the world’s largest one-man publishing company.” In 1986 he launched the newsletter Publishing Poynters and subsequently wrote more than 100 books on writing and publishing.

He was a founding member of the Publishers Marketing Association (now called the Independent Book Publishers Association) and in 1992 that organization awarded him its Benjamin Franklin Person of the Year Award for Lifetime Achievement. Poynter received numerous other awards for his work in publishing. He also received honors for his passion: skydiving. (He was inducted into the National Skydiving Museum Hall of Fame.)

Poynter has been hailed a visionary and mentor by a new generation of digital publishers. A number of these digital publishers, including Smashwords’s founder Mark Coker and the Independent Book Publishers Association, have posted tributes to Poynter in the wake of his death.