George Haven Putnam.

Authors and publishers: a manual of suggestions for beginners in literature, comprising a description of publishing methods and arrangements, directions for the preparation of mss. for the press, explanations of the details of book-manufacturing, instructions for proof-reading, specimens of typograp online

. (page 12 of 18)
Online LibraryGeorge Haven PutnamAuthors and publishers: a manual of suggestions for beginners in literature, comprising a description of publishing methods and arrangements, directions for the preparation of mss. for the press, explanations of the details of book-manufacturing, instructions for proof-reading, specimens of typograp → online text (page 12 of 18)
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sale of a thousand copies and no more, would,
as a rule, return to the publisher the first man-
ufacturing outlay, leaving as a deficiency the
expense of the advertising. If on this one
thousand copies the author has received a ten-
per-cent. royalty, the publisher's deficiency will
have been increased by the amount of $150.
He will have to accept this debit as an offset
to the pleasure of having come into business
relations with the author.

The contention has been submitted more
than once by members of the different authors'
societies that the publisher who understands
his business ought not to take, and as a
matter of fact does not take, any risk in his
undertakings. These writers arrive at the
conclusion, therefore, that in estimating the
probable profits from usual undertakings the
element of risk need not be taken into account.
This conclusion is based upon the assumption
that, after a little experience, the publisher can
become an infallible judge of a ''good book"
(the term being here used in the trade sense
to denote " a book that will sell "), as, for in-

1 88

autbors ant) publlsbers



Stance, a dealer in provisions can train him-
self to be an infallible judge of good pork or
of good eggs. I can only point out that no
such infallible publisher has as yet been pro-
duced. The history of publishing is a record
of erroneous judgments, and publishing falli-
bility is an unavoidable factor in the conduct
of publishing undertakings. The authors
whose books are successful complain of the
injustice of lessening their returns in order to
help to make provision for the losses of the
unsuccessful books. It seems to me evident,
however, that unless the author's share of the
returns from literature be made to assume its
portion of the losses incurred in placing litera-
ture before the public, the publishing ma-
chinery must assuredly within a certain period
disappear altogether.

This statement can perhaps be put more
clearly by the use of figures. We may as-
sume that a publisher begins business with a
capital of $100,000. On the successful books
of his first year's operations the profit amounts
to $10,000 ; on the unsuccessful ventures the
deficiencies aggregate $5000. The expenses
of doing his business amount to $5000. This
will mean that as a result of his undertakings
for the first year there were no returns in the
shape of net profits. His living expenses
would, therefore, for this year have to be
taken out of some previous savings, or would

General Const&erations


go to diminish his business capital. For the
second year he makes a profit on the ''good "
books of $20,000, loses on unsuccessful ven-
tures $3000, pays for the expenses of the
business $6000, and has, therefore, a balance
to the good of $1 1,000.

Assuming, however, for the purpose of this
example, that the profits from the books are
to be equally divided between the publisher
and their several authors, he would have paid
to the successful authors as a result of the first
year's sales $5000, in which case, at the close
of the first year, the capital would have been
reduced (irrespective of the publisher's per-
sonal expenses) by just that amount. For
the sales of the second year the authors would,
in like manner, be entitled to $10,000, there
would remain for the publisher's living ex-
penses $1000, and the capital would be re-
duced by just such amount as his expenditure
exceeded $1000. It is evident that, on such a
basis, the entire publishing capital must be
dissipated within a given term of years. It
is, however, part of our assumption that the
continued existence and operation of the pub-
lishing capital is an essential service to the
author. But if such capital is to be preserved,
and if further similar capital is to be attracted
into publishing undertakings, thus giving to
the authors the advantage of publishing com-
petition for their productions, authors must be

tenance of
ing Capital


Hutbots auD publtsbers



content to permit some portion at least of the
net losses from the unsuccessful books to be
deducted from the profits accruing from the
sales of the successful books, before these
profits can be considered as available for
division between themselves and the pub-

I have utilized, for the purpose of this ex-
ample, an arrangement on a profit-sharing
basis. The conclusion is, however, equally
well founded in the cases in which the
author's share of the " profits " or net proceeds
is paid in the shape of royalties, or of round
sums in commutation of royalties. The amount
of the losses or deficiencies on the unsuccessful
books, averaged on the results of the business
of preceding years, must be taken into account
as a necessary part of the cost of conducting a
publishing business, and as a necessary factor
in bringing literary undertakings before the
public. If the aggregate of these losses should
be left to be deducted from publishing capital,
such capital would, from year to year, be pro-
portionately diminished and must finally dis-
appear, and authors and their readers would
alike suffer from the destruction of publishing

The managers of the British Society of
Authors have given a large measure of at-
tention to investigations as to the cost of
manufacturing books, and the results of these

General Consiberattons


investigations have been printed from time to
time in The Author and also in a manual
which forms one of the official publications of
the society.

The figures presented are of course entirely
trustworthy in so far as they represent the re-
suits of painstaking inquiry on the part of
men whose word cannot be questioned, and
who have a very keen personal interest in the
subject-matter considered. The reports thus
published have naturally been accepted as fi-
nal authority by members of the society and
by many outside of the society, and the figures
in these reports have from time to time been
made the text or the occasion for sharp criti-
cism or animadversion upon the statements of
publishers who have given to authors a more
or less different impression of " the cost of pub-
lishing a book." It seems to me evident, how-
ever, that in not a few cases such comparisons
have not been based upon trustworthy data,
and have resulted in needless confusion and
not infrequently in injustice.

As indicated in a previous chapter, it is ab-
solutely essential, in undertaking to compare
two or more estimates of cost for the making
of a book, that the different sets of figures
shall certainly be based upon precisely the
same amount of material and the same charac-
ter and quality of workmanship. Authors who
have read in the manual of the Authors'

Ube Cost
of ipube


Hutbors anD publtsbers

Ube Cost
of print*

Society the cost of producing a i6mo or
i2mo volume containing a certain number of
pages, are likely to assume that the figures
should be precisely the same for any other
volume printed in the same size and contain-
ing the same number of pages. It is neces-
sary, however, to remind them of various
possible differences which will affect the com-
parison, such as the number of words contained
in the page, the width of the printed text, the
leading of the lines (upon which items depend
the number of thousand ems charged for in
the printing-office), the printing of the edition
from type or from plates, the quality of the
paper used, the quality of the material put into
the cover, the character of the cover stamp
(involving an initial expense for designing and
for cutting, and a later current expenditure in
the stamping of the covers), and a number of
other similar details.

Unless at the time the comparison is made
the investigators have before them the actual
volumes or actual material to be considered,
there is opportunity for misapprehension and
error of conclusion under a number of heads.
Every publisher and every printer has had ex-
perience with clients who come to them with
very pronounced conclusions, based upon very
guess-work information, as to what ought to
be the cost of certain editions of certain books.

1 do not mean to say that men who have

General ConstDerattons


had the special experience that has now been
acquired by the managers of the Authors' So-
ciety in investigating certain classes of book
manufacture, would be likely to be confused
in regard to any matters in which they have
acquired direct information. 1 do say, how-
ever, that authors who have not had this ex-
perience may easily be misled in accepting as
a finality, and as a proper test for the manu-
facturing cost of all volumes of the same size,
the figures presented by the society.

The more important consideration, how-
ever, is the fact that the outlay incurred in
putting a volume into type and in printing, ac-
cording to some given model, a first edition
and subsequent editions, does not represent
the cost of " publishing a book." This fact is
also, I admit, referred to from time to time by
the representatives of the society, but, although
I have read The Author from the first number
of its issue, I cannot recall that its writers have
at any time given evidence of a comprehensive
and accurate understanding of the actual cost of
carrying on a publishing business. It seems
to me a truism that this cost, whatever it may
amounttoforeachyear or for each term of years,
represents the cost of publishing the books
issued during that year or during the term of
years considered ; and that to arrive at the
cost of the publication of each one of the hun-
dred books or of the thousand books produced


tbors' Sos



Hutbors ant) publisbers

Ube Cost
of BJubs

during such term, the entire cost of carrying
on the publishing machinery must be divided
among them. This cost includes various
items referred to in previous chapters apart
from and in addition to the actual expense of
producing, according to a proper standard of
book manufacture, the editions of the books
in question. The item of advertising is one
to which reference is usually made in estimates
presented in The Author. In these estimates,
however, it is not usual to make allowance
for continued or renewed advertising outlay
and the references as I recall them appear to
be limited to the actual space purchased in the
advertising columns of literary journals. The
very considerable expenditure which in the
publishing office is also classed (and properly
classed ) under the heading of advertising,
which is required for catalogues, for printing
and mailing descriptive circulars, for distribut-
ing Press copies and (in the case of educa-
tional books) for instructors' copies , is usually
overlooked. 1 have before said, however, that 1
am in accord with the author in the contention
that in the publishing arrangement in which the
author is to be debited with any portion of the
advertising outlay this debit ought not to in-
clude any charge for space in periodicals which
are published by, and are entirely owned by, the
publishers of the book, or at least thatthecharge
for such space should be at a nominal rate.

(3eneral donstDerations


The expense incurred in presenting books
through travelling salesmen to the booksellers,
librarians, and library committees throughout
the country must be taken into account. For
this item as for many others, the calculation is
quite different in the United States from that
which holds good in Great Britain. The terri-
tory to be gone over is very much greater,
calling for a larger number of travellers and
for longer and more expensive trips. While
in Great Britain, the bookseller finds it to his
advantage, as a rule, to go up to London, the
great publishing centre, several times a year,
the booksellers in the United States have given
up any regular practice of making semi-annual
or annual calls upon eastern publishers. They
expect the representatives of these publishers
to come to them, twice in the year or oftener,
and to bring for their inspection specimens of
all the books for which their attention is de-
sired. It is not only the case that the salaries
of these travelling salesmen are very much
larger for the United States than for Great
Britain, but also that their travelling expenses
apart from salaries are much heavier. It costs
on an average not less than $10.00 a day to
keep a traveller going east of the Rocky
Mountains, and in the territory west of the
Rocky Mountains the expenses may easily
mount up to $15.00 a day. While, in Great
Britain, a day's railroad journey will bring a


in Great


an^ in tbe




Hutbot5 anD publisbers

Ubc Diss


of "fflew


traveller within reach of three or four towns
where he may properly expect to find cus-
tomers, in various districts of the Southern
and Western States a traveller may spend an
entire day in the journey to a single town, and
if, when the traveller arrives, the bookseller
happens to be absent or to be in a bad
temper, it may be necessary to take the back-
ward journey on the same line, thus spending
twenty-four or thirty-six hours' time and
''mileage " with absolutely no result.

An author not infrequently finds ground for
question or complaint if he learns from friend-
ly correspondence that his book is not to be
found on the counters of booksellers in this
or that town throughout the country. The
author does not, however, fully realize the
very considerable expenditure that is incurred
by the publisher in bringing the book to the
attention of as many booksellers as can be
reached by his travellers, while it is also not
always appreciated that the placing of the
book upon the counter depends not upon the
publisher but on the decision of the man who
owns the counter.

A further item of publishing expenditure is
incurred in the printing of volumes for which
sale is not found. The manufacturing cost of
the remainders of the editions carried in the
warehouses of the publishers is of necessity
as much a portion of the cost of publishing

(Benetal ConstOerattons 197

the book as is the cost of producing the copies soobs
sold. It is as impossible for the manufactur- »^^ntct
ing clerk to be infallible in deciding concerning
the number of copies of any current publica-
tion, which are to be printed, bound, and kept
in stock as it is for the publisher himself to be
infallible in the selection of the works to be
issued. The original edition may have been
too large, or, in connection with some sudden
cessation of the demand for the book and of
the public interest in its author, the sale may
have suddenly dropped off at a time when
some later edition had just been delivered
from the binders. Every publisher has in his
warerooms stacks of volumes which repre-
sent some such sudden diminution or cessa-
tion of demand. During a certain period it
has possibly not been practicable to print
the books fast enough to fill orders, and the
manufacturing department has been urgently
pressed to hasten forward the production of
their supplies. Suddenly the public taste
changes, other books absorb the interests of
readers, and not only do new orders fail to
come in for new supplies, but the booksellers
who have found themselves overstocked re-
quest that they be permitted to return copies
which have been left on their hands, copies
which have previously been accounted for to
the author as sold. If, while the book was in
demand, the publisher should, through any de-


Htttbors anb ipubltsbers

bers " of

lay in printing further supplies, be unable to fill
orders even for but a brief time, the author
would undoubtedly find cause for complaint.
But it is not practicable to keep the market
supplied without incurring the risk of some-
times having over supplies left on hand, a risk
which for a long series of books becomes a

If manufacturing fallibility, that is to say,
the impossibility of estimating with precision
the exact extent of the continued sale that can
be depended upon, forms a necessary factor
in the calculation, publishing fallibility, that
is to say, the certainty that in any given num-
ber of books a certain proportion will produce
a loss instead of a profit, constitutes a still
more considerable factor.

It will be understood that the several items
in the cost of publishing before referred to
are considered here, not with reference to the
debits or credits under the different forms of
publishing arrangements, but simply as con-
stituting factors that must be taken into ac-
count in any comprehensive and trustworthy
estimate of the actual expense involved in
producing books, in bringing books before
the public, and in keeping them within reach
of the public. If a hundred authors, men of
capacity, writers having important material to
bring before the community, for which ma-
terial the community was willing to make

General ConstDerations



payment, should associate themselves to-
gether in a publishing association, they would
have to take into account each one of the fac-
tors or elements in the cost of publishing
which have been here specified. These fac-
tors would include: publishing fallibility, that
is, publishing risk; manufacturing fallibility,
that is, the cost of over-supplies or ** re-
mainders"; indirect advertising or "pushing,"
in addition to the actual cash outlay for ad-
vertising space, and a number of further items
making up the expense account of publishing
machinery and publishing management, items
which, in an essay like the present, cannot well
be specified in detail. If the members of such
an authors' publishing association should fail
at the outset of their undertaking to take into
their calculations these various factors, they
would certainly find themselves confronted
with some very unsatisfactory figures later,
when they came to make up their first year's

In bringing to a close these few suggestions,
which have been penned to facilitate, as far as
practicable, the work of the author in obtain-
ing information and in effecting his publishing
arrangements, I have only to repeat, first, that
they are addressed particularly to writers
whose experience is still to come. Authors
who have already seen their names on various
title-pages, who have become hardened, so to



Htttbors anb publtsbers




to ]t?oung

speak, to publishers and critics, may find in
these pages some statements that do not en-
tirely accord with their own experience. We
can merely claim for our suggestions that they
have been carefully considered and are as sub-
stantially accurate as any general statements
can be, while admitting that, like all general
statements, they are subject to not a few ex-

It is my opinion that, in one way or another,
all literary work that deserves to live (in addi-
tion to a good deal that does not) succeeds in
making its way into print, and in getting itself
placed before the public. I do not believe that
our American prairies conceal any Charlotte
Brontes, to whom the opportunity for ex-
pression and fame has been denied, or that
a careful search through American villages
would develop any "mute, inglorious Mil-
tons," rusting away their undeveloped lives.
Opportunity for expression can, with a little
patience and persistence, be secured by every
writer who has anything to say to his fellow-
men (and also, unfortunately, by a good many
who have nothing) ; and every literary aspir-
ant may indulge in the hope that if posterity
has need of his impressions, the particular
'* sands of time" on which these have been
placed will become stone to preserve them.

As has been indicated in the foregoing
pages, I am further of opinion that such diffi-

General donsiCierations

culties as have arisen between authors and
publishers (and I am glad to say that with
the clients of American publishers difficulties
have been but inconsiderable) have, in the
main, been caused by a lack of understanding
on the part of the authors of the actual con-
ditions belonging to the work of publishing
books and to the circulation of erroneous as-
sumptions and misleading impressions con-
cerning these conditions. It is, therefore, a
ground for congratulation that, under the
initiative of authors' societies and authors'
guilds, a larger measure of attention than ever
before is nov/ being given by authors to a
personal study of the details of the work of
manufacturing books and of placing them be-
fore the public. I trust that to the informa-
tion that is thus being brought together under
the direction of these authors' societies may,
in the near future, be added the results of the
experience of authors' publishing associations,
on both sides of the Atlantic, in the direct
management of publishing undertakings.
If, further, there may come into existence,
by means of literary Courts of Arbitration,
a body of decisions to be accepted by both
authors and publishers as guides and pre-
cedents, covering all classes of questions and
issues arising out of publishing relations, the
opportunities for an untrustworthy publisher
to take undue advantage of the confidence of



Hutbors ant) publtsbers



his clients should be reduced to a minimum,
while there will be no excuse for the continu-
ance of reckless and unfounded criticisms and
accusations on the part of ignorant, ill-in-
formed, or heedless authors.

If this manual may be fortunate enough to
prove of service in helping to bring about
these desirable results, the purpose of its pub-
lication will have been accomplished.

®n Securing CovvviQbt



Text of the Statutes in Force July i, i8p^.^

Section 4948. All records and other things relating to
copyrights and required by law to be preserved, shall be
under the control of the Librarian of Congress, and kept and
preserved in the Library of Congress ; and the Librarian of
Congress shall have the immediate care and supervision
thereof, and, under the supervision of the Joint Committee
of Congress on the Library, shall perform all acts and duties
required by law touching copyrights.

Sec. 4949. The seal provided for the office of the Libra-
rian of Congress shall be the seal thereof, and by it all records
and papers issued from the office, and to be used in evidence,
shall be authenticated.

Sec. 4950. The Librarian of Congress shall give a bond,
with sureties, to the Treasurer of the United States, in the
sum of five thousand dollars, with the condition that he will

' From the Revised Statutes of the United States, in
force December i, 1873, as amended ly thg Acts of June
18, 1874, August I, 1882, March 3, 1891, and March 2,


law of



Hutbors anO publisbers

■jj;ijg render to the proper officers of the Treasury a true account

law of of all moneys received by virtue of his office.

Copierigbt Sec, 4951. The Librarian of Congress shall make an

annual report to Congress of the number and description of

copyright publications for which entries have been made

during the year.

Sec. 4952. The author, inventor, designer, or proprietor
of any book, map, chart, dramatic or musical composition,
engraving, cut, print, or photograph or negative thereof, or
of a painting, drawing, chromo, statuary, and of models or
designs intended to be perfected as works of the fine arts,
and the executors, administrators, or assigns of any such
person, shall, upon complying with the provisions of this
chapter, have the sole liberty of printing, reprinting, pub-
lishing, completing, copying, executing, finishing, and vend-
ing the same ; and, in the case of a dramatic composition,
of publicly performing or representing it, or causing it to be
performed or represented by others. And authors or their
assigns shall have exclusive right to dramatize or translate
any of their works for which copyright shall have been
obtained under the laws of the United States.

Sec. 4953. Copyrights shall be granted for the term of
twenty-eight years from the time of recording the title
thereof, in the manner hereinafter directed.

Sec. 4954. The author, inventor, or designer, if he be still

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryGeorge Haven PutnamAuthors and publishers: a manual of suggestions for beginners in literature, comprising a description of publishing methods and arrangements, directions for the preparation of mss. for the press, explanations of the details of book-manufacturing, instructions for proof-reading, specimens of typograp → online text (page 12 of 18)