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The writer once heard of a publisher who, ambitious to cast a poetic halo over his calling, tried his hand at a paraphrase of the well-known lines on Franklin,


Eripuit cælo fulmen sceptrumque tyrannis,”

and suggested, as expressing what he would like to have accomplished:

“Eripuit poetis animam aurumque populo."

"From the authors he seized brains and from the public gold."

Certainly a most desirable result, and the picture of our publisher, in the guise of a prestidigitateur, exercising an infallible King-Midas touch on the material submitted to him, is a very fascinating one. But brains, the proceeds of which can be converted into a satisfactory cash equivalent, are scarcer and more difficult to secure than the youthful writer or the average critic is apt to imagine, and a large majority of the productions submitted to publishers as the offspring of brains, bear very slight traces of their supposed origin, and are no more convertible into current coin of the realm than are the notes of the late Confederacy.

It is also to be remembered that literary material may possess literary value, but may, for one cause or another, lack commercial" availability." The question that the publisher must consider in deciding upon it is whether enough readers and buyers can be secured for it to render the publication remunerative to himself and the author. And the decision must often be unfavorable, even for work of no little intrinsic merit. It may be a scientific treatise, whose teachings, while important to science, would be directly serviceable to but a few hundred readers; or an historical study, on a subject recently treated by some other writer whose name possessed greater authority, and whose book had therefore supplied the demand; or essays, possessing originality but lacking literary form and therefore readability; or a volume of travel, on some part of the world already so fully be-written as to render further description unnecessary and therefore unprofitable; or a volume of fiction, pleasantly and gracefully written, but not characterized by any distinctive power or originality, and likely, therefore, to fail to secure any marked attention from the critics, or any considerable sale with the public.

The difficulty in the way of a favorable decision may also sometimes be due to some particular circumstances in the state of the "market" for literary wares.

It may, in any case, safely be concluded that the judgment of the publisher, who comes into direct contact with the reading public, and who has the advantage as well of his own personal experience as of a knowledge of the history of publishing ventures generally, possesses many more chances of being correct as to the probable availability and popularity of literary material, than that of the author, who usually lacks any such knowledge, and whose calculations must be more or less colored by the paternal relation he bears to the article whose value is in question.

It is true, however, that a publisher avoids, as a rule, passing judgment upon the general value of a manuscript, and restricts himself to deciding whether or not it is available for his own list; and it happens not infrequently that undertakings concerning which one firm is doubtful are promptly entered upon and successfully carried out by another. This difference of opinion is, of course, sometimes due to a difference in clearness of perception; but it is more frequently the case that the manuscript has, in the first instance, been offered to a house with whose particular line of publications, or with whose position on the questions discussed in it, it did not happen to be in accord.

It is important, therefore, for the author, before submitting his manuscript, to inform himself, as far as may be in his power, as to which publisher's catalogue it is most likely to be in harmony with. He may, through this precaution, often save time for both himself and the publishing offices.

As, however, it may often be difficult, at least for a beginner in literature, to obtain trustworthy information as to the idiosyncrasies of the different publishing houses, he should guard himself from being unduly discouraged at receiving

one or more declinations of his wares, and should continue to submit his manuscript to one house after another until it has been the rounds of all the firms whose imprints are worth securing.

If the work is declined by all, the writer may be pretty well satisfied that, whatever its merits, it is not of such a character as to secure a popular appreciation or a remunerative sale.

The confident author, possessing a mens conscia inflati divini, may still console himself with the reflection that perhaps all the publishers are mistaken, and that if his volume could only overleap the barriers which publishing stupidity has placed between it and the public, the latter would eagerly accord the appreciation and the fame.

The history of literature does present instances of obtuse publishers refusing to recognize literary gems which later have brought fame to their authors and profits and prestige to more clear-sighted and enterprising firms. But the number of such instances is, for all the centuries of publishing, at best but inconsiderable; and literary history fails to give record of the discouragingly long yearly list of undertakings in which the publisher's enterprise, influenced possibly by the sanguineness of the author, has outstripped his clear-sightedness and judgment, and which have brought loss instead of profit.

It has, in fact, been estimated that one half of the books published each year in the United States have failed to return their cost, and that one half of the remainder have brought no profit, thus leaving the cost of supporting the publishing machinery of the country to be borne by the publishers' share of the profits of one fourth of the books issued. If these figures can be trusted, and while it is impossible to verify them with precision, they are probably not far from the truth, it is not want of enterprise or

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