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

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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 7 of 18)
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in accordance with the standard of literary
quality upon which his own literary repute
may be supposed to depend) of the several
obligations set forth in the contract. In addi-
tion to the direct payments to be made by
the publisher as consideration for the literary
production, or for the use of such production,
the publisher has agreed to provide for certain
expenditures in manufacturing the book, in
advertising it, and in placing it and keeping it
in the market. Before entering upon the un-
dertaking, he has, according to usual routine,
made up certain calculations showing what is
the total of the outlay to be provided for, and
of the labor that will be required from himself
and from his assistants, and against these
items he estimates (of course, at the best but
approximately) what returns can be secured
from the sales.

If he did not believe, with the figures of this
calculation before him, that there was at least
a fair prospect of securing from the sales a
sufficient return to offset the amount of his
outlays, and to give him, above this amount,



Hutbors anb ipublisbers






enough profit to repay him for the use and for
the risk of his capital and for his own personal
service, the undertaking would, on the whole,
seem to him an undesirable venture, and
would not be entered upon. As a matter of
fact, however carefully these preliminary cal-
culations may be gone through with, a very
large proportion of publishing undertakings
do, as before stated, fail to secure sufficient
returns to cover the amount of the actual out-
lay, irrespective of any interest for the use of
the capital or of any compensation for the
publisher's services.

As before explained, in the cases in which
the author has to receive a fixed or guaranteed
payment for his production, his interest in the
result of the sales (whether these be satisfac-
tory or the reverse) is but indirect. Under
the royalty arrangement and the other forms
of arrangements in which his compensation is
made contingent upon or proportioned to the
sales, his business interest is as direct as that
of the publisher in having these sales sufficient
to return the outlay together with a substan-
tial excess in the shape of profits.

I want to point out, however, that the pub-
lishing calculation upon which the whole un-
dertaking has been based depends upon the
substantial accuracy of the figures arrived at
for the cost of production. If, for instance,
the author has agreed to prepare for a series



of books the volumes of which are sold at
fixed prices, and the size of which must there-
fore be substantially uniform, a work contain-
ing fifty thousand words ; and if his narrative
has extended itself to one hundred thousand
words and he insists that it is not practicable
to curtail it without destroying its entire liter-
ary proportion and value, the publisher is at
once met with the problem of printing a book
that must be sold at $i.oo, and that is, never-
theless, to contain an amount of material
which ought to be sold for not less than $1.50.
At first thought, it would hardly seem pos-
sible that an author to whom has been sub-
mitted, before he begins work upon his volume,
the specific scheme of the series in which it is
to find place, and whose contract even speci-
fies the precise character desired for his work,
should be heedless enough to bring to com-
pletion a narrative that was of an unsuitable
character which could not be harmonized
with the rest of the series. The contract also
specifies the amount of matter (/. e., number
of thousand words) to be contained in the
volumes, the specification being given with
a maximum and minimum limit, leaving
a margin of a few thousand words. With
these figures before him, an author ought
not to permit himself to shape a book so
different in compass that it cannot be
printed in a uniform series with the other



of a




Hutbors arib publtsbers

tnents foe


volumes, and that, when sold at the price an-
nounced in advance, will bring loss instead
of profit. It would also seem hardly probable
that an author, having been so regardless of
the preliminary conditions laid down for his
work, should, when this work was com-
pleted, be so unreasonable as to insist that his
volume must be accepted in the precise form
in which he has written it; that, whatever the
conditions or the limitations of the series, his
own individual literary methods and literary
execution must not be interfered with; and
that (his own compensation being assured
under some fixed payment arrangement) the
question of possible profit or loss for the pub-
lisher is a matter concerning which he need
give himself no concern. Improbable as such
a state of mind or such a method of action ap-
pears to be, as thus set forth, I can only say
that the experience of nearly all publishers and
editors who have had to do with the publica-
tion of series, will show not a few examples
of just such literary perversities.

A second detail in which the original calcu-
lation can be set at naught is the practice on
the part of certain authors of rewriting or
reshaping their narratives to a considerable
extent after the material has been put into type.
It is perfectly possible for an author whose
brilliant thoughts come to him by degrees, or
whose accuracy in regard to statements only

©bltgattons 103


begins to cause him anxiety when he sees jgjtra
these statements in type, to reshape his work ^ffj^^f
when it comes to him in the form of proofs to
such an extent as to double or very largely to
increase the cost of the typesetting. If, in the
original calculation, it has been estimated that
$500 must be provided for putting the volume
into type, an expenditure for this item of $750
will of necessity throw the calculation out by
the amount of the excess, and the possibility
of profit will be proportionately reduced.

Against this troublesome risk of expense un-
der the heading of '' extra corrections," that is
to say, of changes in the author's text after
this text has been put into type, the publish-
ers endeavor to protect themselves in various
ways, and such attempts are, of course, in the
interest of the business results of the under-
taking, and, in more ways than one, in the
interest of the author himself Provisions are
inserted in the contracts under which the cost
of such "extra corrections " is to be borne by
the author himself, on the assumption that he
has agreed to deliver copy in readiness for the
typesetters, and that he ought to have carried
out his agreement. Sometimes, in the case of
material presenting special difficulties, an al-
lowance is made under the heading of ''ex-
tra corrections," by means of which a portion
of the cost of these is assumed by the pub-
lisher. A further help is given under present


Hutbors rnib ipubltsbers



methods by insisting that the author shall
have in his hands for revision, before the vol-
ume goes to the typesetters, a clean typewrit-
ten copy, and that he shall expend upon these
typewritten pages all his desires for improve-
ments, changes, or corrections.

An author will sometimes (and not unnatu-
rally) take the ground that it is unreasonable
for a publisher to object to having corrections
made in the proof and to assuming the cost of
such corrections, because the whole purpose
of them is ''to make the book more complete
or more accurate and therefore more valu-
able." The rejoinder is, of course, a very
simple one, and has been indicated in the
above reference to the publisher's preliminary
calculations upon the basis of which the un-
dertaking has been entered upon. A publica-
tion which at a given expenditure could be
reasonably expected to return a profit on the
investment, might very easily, in case this
expenditure were to be materially increased,
prove to be, from a business point of view, an
undesirable venture. It is, therefore, not prac-
ticable to leave in the hands of the author the
determination of so important an item of the
outlay as that of the typesetting. Some re-
striction or limitation is evidently necessary.
The safest and most educational restriction,
from a publisher's point of view, is to provide
that the cost of these later changes or extra



corrections shall be borne in toto by the
author. An almost certain result of such a
regulation is that an author who has paid
such a charge for changes in his first book
is much more careful to present for his second,
'' copy " finally revised and complete. Some
modification of such an arrangement is, how-
ever, as before suggested, proper enough un-
der certain special conditions or for works of
an exceptional character.

The third detail that is to be considered in
treating of the obligations entered into by the
author is the time within which his work is
to be completed. It is occasionally found
practicable to insert in the contract a specific
date or term of months or years within which
the author undertakes to place in the hands
of the publisher the completed work in readi-
ness for the typesetters. In the great majority
of such publishing contracts, however, it is
not found advisable to insert any such date,
partly because literary or scientific work can-
not, as a rule, be executed with the same pre-
cision of time calculation as is possible for
a house or a bridge, and partly because, even
if the date were inserted, the publisher has
very seldom available any means for compel-
ling the author to abide by such a condition.
This last point will be touched upon again.

It will be easily understood, however, that,
with all literary undertakings, the date when


for tbe
of b(s


Htttbors an^ publlsbers



the publisher can plan to put the book in the
hands of the typesetters, and later into the
market for sale, is a very material element
indeed in the business calculations upon
which the undertaking has been based. With
a certain class of publications, in fact, the
practicability of having the book in readiness
for a given season may be so important as to
constitute a determining factor in the decision
to place the commission for its preparation in
the hands of one author rather than of an-
other. It happens frequently enough in the
record of publishing that, in connection with
some special trend of public interest, two or
more publishers may be planning different
works on the same general subject, or on dif-
ferent phases of such subject. Publisher A,
whose author, realizing the requirement of the
case, has kept faith in the undertaking, and
has completed his work at the time agreed
upon, will secure for his book the first public
demand, which is, as a rule, by far the largest
portion of such demand. Publisher B comes
before the public some time later with a more
or less similar book, and finds that the inter-
est of the readers has been in great part sup-
plied. The second volume may represent as
large an amount of skilled labor as has been
put into the first, and may also have involved
as considerable an investment of capital. The
prospect, however, of securing for this invest-

©bltaations 107

ment a remunerative return has been very loas
seriously impaired, if not altogether destroyed, %li^ig
by the delay on the part of the author.

In another class of cases, the public question
itself may have passed by, while in a matter
of scientific investigation the results of some
later investigations may have been brought
into print. There are, in fact, a great many
influences which will go to destroy the trust-
worthiness of the original publishing calcula-
tions, if one factor in these calculations, the
time within which the work is to be com-
pleted, cannot be depended upon. The
publisher has been misled into making an in-
vestment which ought not to have been made
unless he could depend upon his author.

This class of calculation comes up for the
most part only in connection with books
which have been suggested by the publisher
himself. The instance, however, sometimes
occurs of an author bringing to a publisher
the plan of a work which calls for a consider-
able outlay, and inducing the publisher to
make the investment on the strength of the
knowledge claimed to be possessed by the
author himself of a special class of require-
ments which this particular book will meet
''better than any work in existence," and
which will insure for the proposed volume a
remunerative circle of buyers. Before, how-
ever, the author completes his share of the

io8 Hutbors arib ipubltsbers

3Booi?0 undertaking, some other work is brought into
^" the market which supplies in substance the
requirements specified, and so far curtails the
possible demand for the book first put in train
that the publication of this results in loss
instead of in profit. If the author has arranged
to receive for his labor a guaranteed pay-
ment, and if the loss of the market and of the
opportunity for sale has been due to the
author's own lack of precision and of reason-
able promptness in completing his work and
in supervising its passage through the press,
the publisher certainly has a reasonable ground
for complaint.

A considerable proportion of the books
which are written at the instance or sugges-
tion OS the publisher are those which are
issued in series ; such undertakings as the
English Men of Letters series, the Inter-
national Science series, the Stories of the
Nations, the Heroes of the Nations, have been
planned by the publishers, and the volumes
contributed to them are for the most part the
work of contributors who have been selected
by the publishers or by their editors. The in-
structions or specifications given to a con-
tributor at the time the arrangement for his
volume is completed, set forth the general
character which the narrative should possess,
its compass, that is to say, the number of
words it should contain, and the date (stated

©bUgations 109

either precisely or approximately) when it jsooiis
should be completed. ^"

A publisher, having in train a series which is
to comprise from twelve to fifty volumes, finds
it essential to arrange that the several volumes
shall be delivered to him at convenient inter-
vals, which will enable attention to be given
with reasonable promptness to putting through
the press each volume after it is delivered. It
is, of course, undesirable both for the general
repute of the series and for its commercial suc-
cess that there should be any very long gaps
between the several volumes. The readers
who have begun to purchase the series must
not be allowed to get the impression that it
has ceased publication, or that the publishers
have lost their interest in it. While a precise
regularity of publication is, as a rule, not prac-
ticable, the volumes ought to appear at inter-
vals so near together that the publishers can
announce a given number of volumes to be in
readiness within a term of, say, twelve months.
It is equally inconvenient, after a considerable
lapse or delay in the appearance of volumes,
for the publisher to receive from a number of
contributors at one time a larger group of
manuscripts than can be conveniently or
effectively handled at once. When an author
has placed his manuscript in the hands of the
publisher, he is, as a rule, very urgent for im-
mediate attention on the part of the typesetters

I lo Hutbors anb publtsbers

ubc and the printers. The longer he has delayed

®j!^^ his own work, the more likely is he to be ex-

oftbe acting in regard to promptness of attention

Hutboc jj^ ^Y\e publishing office. If, however, eight

or ten books for one series should come into

the office together, it is, as a rule, absolutely

impracticable to put them all at once into the

hands of the printers, while even if they could

by any means all be delivered together from

the manufacturing department, it would be

absolutely ''bad business" to publish them at

once. Some of them would have to be held

over until the regular publishing intervals

could again be arranged for.

This explanation will make clear the im-
portance of securing as contributors for such
series authors who can be relied upon to give
some consideration to the business require-
ments, and whose word in regard to the com-
pletion of the volumes entrusted to them can
be accepted without the necessity for any
very large measure of allowance. Every pub-
lisher, however, who has carried to its com-
pletion an undertaking of this kind, has on
his books the records of not a few authors
who have shown themselves utterly regard-
less of this phase of their obligations. An
author will accept a commission for a volume
on some subject on which he is considered
an authority, and will have explained to him
the nature of the series for which his volume


is to be prepared, while the contract signed
by him will set forth the several requirements
previously referred to. Without, as a rule,
agreeing to a specific term within which he
promises to deliver his book, the author does
accept the general statement as to a reasona-
ble time, and he usually gives to the publisher
some estimate or calculation as to what that
time will be, an estimate which is of necessity
based partly upon the nature and the extent
of the subject-matter to be considered and
partly upon any previous similar engagements
to which he may already have bound him-
self. Not a few authors will, however, per-
mit a series of years to go by without fulfilling
an obligation of this kind. The publisher has
been precluded by his agreement from giving
the commission to some other writer, although
during the years which have passed since the
execution of the contract, suggestions may
have come to him from more capable and from
more valuable men who were willing to under-
take the task. The continuity of the series is
interfered with, the completion of its original
plan is hampered and marred, and its value as a
property is lessened. The author whose con-
tribution was expected to form a material ad-
dition to the value of the series as a whole has,
through his heedlessness and his failure to recog-
nize the nature of his obligation, done not a little
to interfere with the success of the undertaking.


of tbe

1 1 2 Hutbors an5 publisbers

ube The author may defend himself on the

®?"' arround that he has never contracted to com-
oftbe plete his volume by a specified date. There
mutbor j^^g^ however, as a rule, been a substantial
understanding between himself and the pub-
lisher as to a certain limit within which the
work would be delivered. The author would
hardly contend that the omission of a date in
the agreement would leave him free to wait
for a quarter of a century for instance, or that
the tender of a volume twenty years or more
after the series for which it had been planned
was completed, would constitute what the
stockbrokers call a ''good delivery." In any
such agreement something must, of course, be
left to the good faith and to the reasonableness
of the contracting parties. The fact that the
publisher has thought himself justified in
placing confidence in the author's word and
has not included in the contract a stipulation
that would give him a remedy at law, is a
defence that would of course hardly be main-
tained by a man of honor.

I recall to mind, however, cases (of which I
have first-hand knowledge) in which authors
who had expected to deliver their books
within two years, or at the furthest, three
years, have held the commission in their
hands for six, seven, and eight years before
the discouraged publisher has thought it
necessary to cancel the contract and to make

©bliQattons 113

other arrangements. In one of these cases 2)e-
the author had had the commission placed in ^u'Jbors
his hands when he was still a young student,
comparatively unknown to the general public.
As his attainments and his responsibilities in-
creased, he found himself interested in other
directions and decided that the easiest way of
getting out of his early obligation was simply
to delay doing what he had promised to do,
until *'the party of the second part" should
decide to give up the undertaking. In an-
other instance, an author who had waited six
years without taking any measures to make
good his obligation, accepted later commis-
sions from other publishers and completed for
these publishers the books promised to them
without any apparent realization of the fact
that he was committing a breach of contract
with the publisher who had first placed trust
in his word. In both of these instances the
authors held responsible University positions.
In a third case an author who possessed
authoritative knowledge on a technical and
scientific subject was engaged, on terms
satisfactory to himself, to prepare a work of
reference on this subject which was to be
completed in ten volumes. Three volumes
were prepared for the press and were pub-
lished in due course. For the fourth volume
(as a favor to the author and unfortunately as
it proved for the final history of the undertak-


Hutbors ant) pubUsbers


ing), the publishers rashly advanced to the
author the amount of the compensation agreed
upon. Since the date of such advance (now
eleven years ago), the author has failed either to
deliver the material for the volume for which
he has been paid or to deliver any further
material whatever. He has accepted and has
presumably been paid for other commissions,
and probably still classes himself as a reput-
able citizen. He has given no reason for his
delinquency and no question has ever arisen
concerning the facts of the agreement or the
nature of the responsibilities accepted by the
author under this agreement. The subscrib-
ers to the work have had good reason for
complaint against both its English and Ameri-
can publishers, on the ground that they were
left with a fragment when they had been
promised a complete series. They had been
called upon, to be sure, to make payment
only for the three volumes delivered, but they
contended (and with reason) that the three
volumes had trifling value unless the set were
to be completed. These subscribers had in
fact a fair claim against the English and
American publishers for the refunding of
the amounts paid by them.

In a fourth instance, a manuscript of a
work prepared by an author for a series, was
returned to the author in order to have certain
omissions supplied and to have a final chapter



added. Until this additional material had been
prepared, the work did not fulfil the specifi-
cations of the agreement. On the first delivery
of the manuscript the author had received a
substantial proportion of the compensation
arranged for. The publisher was obliged to
wait for three years before he could recover
his manuscript. He was thankful then to be
able to get hold of it still incomplete and re-
quiring, before it could be put to press,
further labor on the part of another writer.

Another method by which an author can
do injustice to the publisher for whom he has
prepared a volume, is to put into the market,
within some brief term after the publication
of the first book, another work which has to
do with the same subject-matter. Such
second volume may be an expansion of the
narrative contained in the first, in which case
the rival publisher will be able to advertise
it as ''the complete and final work by its
distinguished author" on this particular sub-
ject. Or it may be a briefer statement of the
same thesis, taking the form of a condensa-
tion or popularization of the original work.
Such a volume will also give to its publisher
an opportunity for an announcement or an
advertisement that will interfere to a greater
or less extent with the standing before the
public of the first book. It may in fact have
been through the book first published that the



1 1 6 Hutbors anb publlsbers

©006 author has won his original reputation, as far
^^^^ as the general public is concerned, as an
Hgrees authority on the subject-matter. Rival pub-
lishers will be very ready to take advantage

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 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 7 of 18)