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from about 8,000 in 1901 to 13,000 in 1910 and probably a larger number still this year, George P. Brett, of Macmillan & Co., says in his paper on “ Book-publishing and Its Present Tendencies” in the April Atlantic Monthly that
matter of fact, the number of books that appear in print is usually only about two per cent. of the total number of manuscripts submitted to the publishers for examination, so that the large total in the number of volumes issued indicates very clearly a larger number of persons who are interested and occupied in the writing of books."
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Undoubtedly the number of manuscripts that are offered in vain to publishers is very large, but would Mr. Brett maintain that 650,000 different book manuscripts offered for publication in this try every year ? In making his estimate is he not considering only that his firm publishes perhaps only two per cent. of the manuscripts submitted to it, and disregarding the fact that many of the manuscripts that his house rejects are brought out eventually by some other publisher ? One manuscript rejected by thirty publishers would increase largely the percentage of rejections, but it would be only one manuscript, and in the end the thirtyfirst publisher miglit publish it. The number of hopeless manuscripts produced undoubtedly is very large, but it is hard to believe that there are written in this country every year even fifty thousand books that fail to find a publisher.
Short practical articles on topics connected with literary work are always wanted for THE WRITER. Readers of the magazine are invited to join in making it a medium of mutual help, and to contribute to it any ideas that may occur to them. The pages of Tue Writer are always open for any one who has anything helpful and practical to say. Articles should be closely condensed ; the ideal length is about 1,000 words.
Mr. Brett repeats what many editors and publishers have said about the joy of discovering writers. “The
discovery, among the manuscripts subinitted to the publisher, oi a new work of value and importance, and the finding of promise in the work of a new author," he says, are among the keenest of all pleasures ; and after many years of experience I can still say that it is the sort of pleasure that never fails to produce its thrill of satisfaction ; and the zest continues without diminution, so that
Noting that the number of books published annually in the country has increased
the search is just as keen and as anxious after many years as when the first manuscript submitted to me came into my hands."
Regarding the sale of books Mr. Brett quotes recent statement that the outpouring of novels is so great that the life of a “best-seller " novel is now little longer than month. Speaking of the sale of books of general literature ( not fiction ) he says that the great problem of the publisher is that of distribution. Recognizing that theoretically the sale of such books is limited by the alleged excessive selling prices he says :
· The book of 350 121o. pages, after the plates are paid for by the sale of the first edition, costs the publisher, for manufacture and author's royalty, usually less than fifty cents. The price to the public is a dollar and a half, or thereabouts. The publisher's difficulty in reducing the price at retail lies in the fact that the majority of such books published under present methods do not sell beyond the
first editions, the costs of which include a large outlay for the printing plates.” To the author, says Mr. Brett, this question of the better distribution of books in general literature is vital. The author is intimately affected by present conditions, since many books of high quality either fail oi publication entirely, or return little or nothing to their creators. “Indeed, the author's royaities from the sales of books of this class, which often represent months or years of painstaking effort, are sometimes so small as barely to pay the actual cost of the paper and typewriting of the manuscript which is submitted to the publisher for approval.”
itself a not inconsiderable reward, it is true,
may also obtain some pecuniary reward in return for his labors. Even here it cannot be gainsaid that the laborer is worthy of his hire. But given the possibility of a successful trial of the experiment, the author, if he is to reap the increased harvest, must be iar-sighted enough to recognize that one of the necessary conditions is a reduction of the present nominally heavy rates of royalty. The successful experiments in the publishing of cheap editions of books abroad are usually with those books which are either out of copyright, and, consequently, pay no royalties to authors, or for which a very low rate of royalty can be arranged. From the author's point of view, it will probably be better for him to reduce the rate of percentage of his royalties – under which he now gets, as I have shown, little or nothing – to a rate which perhaps is much less nominally, but which, with a much larger sale of his books at low prices, would produce an income far greater than he enjoys at present.
This question of the percentage oi the author's royalties is certainly one of the greatest of the factors militating against the production of books at low prices to the public. At present, the author's royalties on books, as most people know, range from ten per cent. to twenty per cent. oi their retail price, which is equivalent irom twenty to thirty-three per cent. of the price received by the publisher from the retail bookseller. These royalties thus form no small part of the prime cost of the book ; in iact, they usually represent the greater part of the total net profits obtained from the publication of any work in general liter
Indeed, popular belief among thors to the contrary notwithstanding, the author's share of the profits is usually about twice a's large that of the publisher, while, in the case of novels, the royalty oiten absorbs the entire profit obtained from the publication of a popular work written by a well-known author, and, consequently, commandine the highest rate of royalty.
Authors generally look with suspicion upon any request on the part of the pub
The way out of the difficulties in which the publishers of works of general literature find themselves, lies, Mr. Brett feels sure, in the way of issuing such works at lower prices. “If,” he says, means can be found by which books will attain the general sale which so many of them thoroughly deserve, the author, instead of doing his work merely for the satisfaction which it gives him to publish his thoughts and ideas, – in
lisher for a lower rate of royalty for the publication of cheap editions, and I have known perfectly reasonable requests of the kind to be absolutely refused, with the result that the public has been deprived of cheap editions of books which it would purchase in considerable quantities, merely because of the author's failure to understand the plain logic of the situation. It would seem sufficiently evident that, the current rate of royalty being based on a relatively high price, if a book is offered at a low price, the rate of royalty to the author must be reduced also. Yet I have in mind at the moment a work for which a very considerable demand exists in a cheap edition, and for which in the high-priced edition there is practically no sale, but which cannot be published in the cheap edition that the public demands, because of the refusal of the author to reduce the royalty below the original rate of twenty per cent., as provided in the agreement for the publication of the expensive edition of the work.
the selection of a banker to take care of his funds, for the depositor in a bank knows as well as the banker himself the precise amount he is intrusting to the care of another, while the author intrusts to the publisher the unknown earning capacity of his books, and the author must, consequently, relv entirely upon the publisher's good faith and honesty to see that the sums due him are properly and faithfully paid over. Yet, notwithstanding these facts, it is not an uncommon experience with nearly all of the older nublishers to have authors endeavor to drive hard bargains with them for the publication of their works, on the plea that some
unknown, and possibly impecunious publisher has offered a rate of royalty on the publication of a work which, from the established publisher's point of view, is impossible of davment with pecuniary profit to himseli. With thors, to paraphase Byron's words, it would almost seem as if ‘Death to the publisher to them is sport.'"
In this connection, it seems worth while to offer
a protest against the unfounded criticism of publishers and publishing methods which has been so rise in recent years, and which has its origin almost entirely in the failure to obtain adequate sales for books of the classes we have been considering, as a result of the want of contidence on the part of the authors in the good faith or business judgment of publishers, so that authors very often approach the question of arranging with publishers for the publication of their books in an attitude of suspicion, or, at any rate, failing to grasp the actual facts of the situation.
“ A publisher of high standing, doing a large business through a long period of time, undoubtedly has built up a machinery and acquired a reputation which are of the greatest possible value to the work of any author, and are almost indispensable for a new author seeking for the first time the presentation of his book to the public. Moreover, in intrusting to a publisher the publication of a book, the author really should exercise more discrimination than in
“ Current fiction," Mr. Brett goes on to say, ' has been purposely excluded in the survey of present conditions in the publishing of works in general literature, because the writer feels that not only the publication, but the author's part as well, of the new novel of the day has become highly commercialized. It is said that many of our journals are edited strictly with a view to increasing the receipts from the advertising pages, with what truth I do not know ; but it is certain that much of the current fiction is written with a view to supplying just the sort of thrills the public demands. Indeed, I am told that the author of a long series of ‘best-sellers,' immediately aiter a new work of his appears, sits in solemn conclave with his publishers and their editors and advisers, wherein the subject and scenes of his next effort are outlined and voted on, with a keen regard to the supposed dreams and desires of the rising generations of readers. Novels of merit and value, representing honest work and the real convictions of their authors, still, from time to time, make their appearance, but it is seldom indeed eral of Miss Ashley's poems have been very widely copied.
that one of these finds its way into the ranks of the 'six best-sellers.' Their appeal is to that part of the public which still discriminates in its reading, a smaller percentage of the whole, I fear, at present, than in any recent period of our history. One is reminded of the remark of one of our best critics, himself an author of many books well known to lovers of the best literature : 'I should consider myself disgraced if I had written a book which in these days had sold one hundred thousand copies.'”
Playwrights must observe the signs of t'ne times, and write plays of the kind that are in fashion. Alfred Sutro declares that there is a fashion in theatrical likes and dislikes just as there is in clothes and whiskers. “Sometimes tears will be much worn during the season," he says, at others thieves and burglars will be popular ; then again, the woman with a past will be all the go, or it may be pajamas will leap into sudden request and every sell-respecting manager will hasten to his hosiery department.” bryonic dramatists Mr. Sutro says : “ Lay it to your heart, inscribe it over your mantelpiece, the most deadly of all sins that the playwright can commit is to be dull.”
George Vaux Bacon, whose story, “The Peace of Sault Saint Francois," was publislied in the Red Book for April, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1888. When he was nine or ten years old, while his father was serving as a captain in the Spanish American war, he went to Sault au Recollet, which is upon the Island of Montreal,and is the original of Sault Saint Francois,
-and for two years attended Loyola College in Montreal. Coming back this country he was
for the next seven years to Saint Mary's College, at Saint Mary's, Pottawatomie County, Kansas. At the age of nineteen he took a job as a member of an electrical construction gang building the Indiana steel mills at Gary, Indiana, and from that he went to Cleveland
reporter for the Cleveland Press. Leaving the Press, Mr. Bacon returned to Gary and worked for a while on the pony desk of the United Press. The wanderlust then overtook him, and he rambled about the country for a year or two, and then for a year and a half made money in the real estate business. He began writing short stories for Art Hoffman of Adventure and Ray Long of the Red Book. He says he also indulged in verse, but enough not to try to sell it, although one of his poems was printed in Current Literature. At present he is dramatic editor of the Green Book in New York, and firmly believes that some day the United States will have a real playwright and a producer with sense enough to produce his plays.
Perhaps writing poetry should be counted among the gainful occupations, after all. For the American rights of Alired Noyes's new book, “ Tales of the Mermaid Tavern," his American publishers have offered, according to their own statement, to advance $1,500.
W. H. H.
WRITERS OF THE DAY.
Margaret Lee Ashley, whose poem, “In April," appeared in the April Harper's Monthly, is a frequent contributor to our best magazines. Her home is in Rochester, N. Y., and she is the granddaughter of the late Colonel Arthur T. Lee, an officer of the United States Army, who was the author of " Army Ballads," collection of short poems and songs which were sung at army gatherings and frontier camp-fires during the Florida, Mexican, and Civil wars. Sev
Clarence Budington Kelland, author of the story,
“Pieces of Silver," in Harper's Magazine for April, is the assistant editor of the American Boy. He was educated in the public and high schools of Detroit, and received his degree of LL. B. from the Detroit College of Law. He did not, however, practice law, but went to work on the Detroit News as police reporter, and subsequently filled positions there sport writer, special writer, political reporter, and Sunday editor. Five years ago he leit
newspaper work to take his present place. Mr. Kelland has had fiction published in Harper's Magazine, Collier's, Lippincott's, the Pictorial Review, the Red Book, the Youth's Companion, the People's Magazine, Holland's Magazine, the National Magazine, Young's Magazine, and the New Magazine, as well as in the American Boy. Harper & Brothers will soon issue his juvenile, “ Mark Tidd," in book form, and expect later in the year to bring out his novel of Michigan life in the '80's. Pieces of Silver” will also be issued in booklet form during the year. Mr. Kelland is non-resident lecturer at the University of Michigan and the Washington Normal School on the subject of Juvenile Literature.
which was printed in McClure's for last August, and was noticed as one of the fortytwo best poems of the year by Mr. Braithwaite of the Boston Transcript. Miss Widdemer has also sold poems to Scribner's, Everybody's, the Century, the Craftsman, the Designer, the American, the Poetry Magazine, the Woman's Magazine, and the Magazine-Maker; articles ans sketches the Atlantic, the Century, Satire, and the Woman's Magazine ; and stories to Young's Magazine, To-day, and the Forum. Her poem,“ The Forgotten Soul," was one of the hundred selected for “ The Lyric Year." Miss Widdemer says she always writes things tail-end first, on different pieces of paper, and then cuts the paper up and puts the story or poem together the way it belongs, for, she says, if you wait until the proper place in the story or poem arrives to put down a gorgeous idea, that idea is very likely to get away from you.
PERSONAL GOSSIP ABOUT AUTHORS.
Mabel S. Merrill, whose juvenile serial, “The Camp of the Gilt Horseshoe,” is concluded in the May number of the Woman's Home Companion, is a writer of stories for children and girls, with only an occasional grown-up tale. She prefers to write stories of the out-of-doors, and even her college girls are sometimes snatched away to the open, where they have adventures by flood and field. As for her younger characters. they are allowed to have a roof over their heads only for conventional reasons, and the roof hardly ever figures in the story. Miss Merrill has been a newspaper woman, and still counts herselí a member of the newspaper guild, as she writes sketches regularly for two dailies. She has contributed to a number of distinctly juvenile papers and magazines, to the Youth's Companion, Judge, the Beacon (Boston), and Young People (Philadelphia).
Collias. When Wilkie Collins had finished “ The Woman in White" it was still without a name. He appealed to Dickens, with whom he had a warm friendship, for a title which would effectively advertise it to the world. “Boz," however, was unable to aid him. Forster was then approached, but, alth igh he was apt in such matters, he could do nothing in this case. Collins was desperate, and one day started for Broadstairs with the determination not to return without a title for the book. For a long time he walked along the cliff, and, finally, as the sun went down, threw himself on the grass. He was facing the North Foreland lighthouse, and half-unconsciously began to apostrophize it : “You are ugly and stiff and awkward, you know ; stiff and as weird as my white woman
white woman woman in white — the title, by Jove !"
Collins had another interesting experience in connection with the novel. Some time aiter it had appeared, he received a letter from a lady. She began by congratulating him somewhat coldly upon his
Margaret Widdemer, who had a poem, "A Folk-Song," in Harper's Magazine for April, was born in Doylestown, Penn., but her home is now in Philadelphia. She never attended school, but studied at home, and as a child won several prizes in juvenile competitions. A little more than a year ago she began to sell child verse to St. Nicholas, Little Folks, and other children's and women's magazines. Her first “grown-up” poem was “The Factories,"