By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Publisher's Confession
Author: Hines, Walter Page
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Publisher's Confession" ***

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)





  _Published March, 1905_


  CHAPTER                                                     PAGE
     I THE RUINOUS POLICY OF LARGE ROYALTIES                     3


   III ARE AUTHORS AN IRRITABLE TRIBE?                          45


     V HAS THE UNKNOWN AUTHOR A CHANCE?                         79




    IX THE PRESENT LIMITS OF THE BOOK MARKET                   147

     X PLAIN WORDS TO AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS                   163


There is expressed in these chapters so much that is practical and
of interest to those engaged in the various branches of authorship,
book-making and book-selling that the present publishers have availed
themselves of the permission of the Boston _Transcript_, in which they
originally appeared, to gather them together in book form.

NEW YORK, _March, 1905_.

A Publisher’s Confession



  _How it Operates to the Disadvantage of Both Author and Publisher--
    The Actual Facts and Figures--Authors’ Earnings Greatly Exaggerated
    by the Press--Books Sell Too Cheaply--What a Fair Price for All
    Concerned Would Be._

The author of a very popular book, who has written another that will
be as popular, wishes me to publish it, so he is kind enough to say;
and he came to see me and asked on what terms I would bring it out. In
these strenuous times he can dictate his own terms to his publisher;
and I happened to know that two houses had made him offers.

I confess, since I am old-fashioned, that this method of an author
shocks me. If he does not openly hawk his book and his reputation, he
at least tempts one publisher to bid against another, and thus invites
the publisher to regard it as a mere commodity. But I suppressed my
dislike of the method and went straight about the business of getting
the book, for I should like to have it.

“I will give you,” I said, “twenty per cent. royalty, and I will pay
you $5,000 on the day of publication.”

The words had not fallen from my mouth before I wished to recall them,
for the publishing of books cannot be successfully done on these terms.
There are only two or three books a year that can pay so much.

“I will consider it,” said he.

Abject as I was, I recovered myself far enough to say: “No, the offer
is made for acceptance now or never--before this conversation ends. I
cannot keep it open.”

“My dear sir,” I went on, for I was regaining something of my normal
courage, “do you know what twenty per cent. royalty on a $1.50 book
means? You receive thirty cents for every copy sold. My net profit
is about four or five cents a copy, if I manufacture it well and
advertise it generously; and I supply the money in advance. I make an
advance to you; I pay the papermaker in advance of my collections, the
printer--everybody; and I wait from ninety to one hundred and twenty
days after the book is sold to get my money. My profit is so small
that it may vanish and become a loss by any misadventure, such as too
much advertising, the printing of too large an edition, or the loss of
an account with a failed bookdealer. I have no margin as an insurance
against accidents or untoward events. I am doing business with you
on an unfairly generous basis. I am paying you all the money that
the book can earn--perhaps more than it can earn--for the pleasure of
having you on my list. If I make money, I must make it on books for
which I pay a smaller royalty.”

“But I can get twenty per cent. from almost any other publisher,” he
replied, truthfully. “Why should I consider less from you?”

I could not answer him except by saying:

“Yes, I am not blaming you--not quite; but there is a grave fault in
the system that has brought about this general result. You may have
forgotten that this high royalty is a direct temptation to a publisher
to skimp his advertising. You expect generous advertising of the book.
Well, I can never sign an order for an advertisement of it without
recalling the very narrow margin of profit that I have. An order for
$500 worth of advertising will take as much net profit as I can make
on several thousand copies.

“Again, when I come to manufacture the book, I cannot help recalling
that gilt letters on the cover will increase the cost by one cent
or two cents a copy. You tempt me to do all my work in the cheapest
possible way.”

Well, we are good friends, this writer and I, and we signed the
contract. He is to receive a royalty of twenty per cent., and a payment
on his royalty account of $5,000 on the day of publication.

When, therefore, I had the pleasure of receiving the friends of another
author, who told me that he would give me the book for twenty per cent.
royalty ($5,000 cash on publication) if I cared to read it, I replied,


I had recovered. I said: “I cannot make money on that basis. Neither
can other legitimate and conscientious publishers, who build their
business to last. I will let novels alone, if I must. I will do a small
business--but sounder. If that is your condition, do not leave the
book. I will pay you a sliding scale of royalties: I cannot give you
twenty per cent.”

And he went away. I had just as lief another publisher lost money on
the book as to lose it myself. True, the public, the reading public and
the writing public, will regard the success of the book (if it succeed)
as evidence of a rival publisher’s ability and enterprise. He will win
temporary reputation. He will seem to be in the “swim” of success. He
will publish flaming advertisements, in the hope of obtaining other
successful authors; and he will attract them, for much book advertising
is done not with the hope of selling the book, but chiefly to impress
writers with the publisher’s energy and generosity. But there’s no
profit and great risk in business conducted in this way.

There is positive danger, in fact. And I owe it to myself and to all
the men and women whose books I publish to see to it first of all that
my own business is sound, and is kept sound. In no other way can I
discharge my obligations to them and keep my publishing house on its
proper level instead of on the level of a mere business shop.

The rise of royalties paid to popular authors is the most important
recent fact in the publishing world. It has not been many years
since ten per cent. was the almost universal rule; and a ten per
cent. royalty on a book that sells only reasonably well is a fair
bargain between publisher and author. If the publisher do his work
well--make the book well, advertise it well, keep a well-ordered and
well-managed and energetic house--this division of the profits is a
fair division--except in the case of a book that has a phenomenally
large sale. Then he can afford to pay more. Unless a book has a pretty
good sale, it will not leave a profit after paying more than a ten per
cent. royalty.

Figure it for yourself. The retail price of a novel is $1.50. The
retail bookseller buys it for about ninety cents. The wholesale
bookseller buys it from the publisher for about eighty cents. This
eighty cents must pay the cost of manufacturing the book; of selling
it; of advertising it; must pay its share towards the cost of keeping
the publisher’s establishment going--and this is a large and increasing
cost; it must pay the author; and it must leave the publisher himself
some small profit. Now, if out of this eighty cents which must be
divided for so many purposes, the author receives a royalty of twenty
per cent. (thirty cents a copy), there is left, of course, only fifty
cents to pay all the other items. No other half-dollar in this world
has to suffer such careful and continuous division! I have met a good
many authors who have never realized that a ten per cent. royalty means
nearly twenty per cent. on what the publisher actually sells the book
for, and that a twenty per cent. royalty is nearly forty per cent. on
the actual wholesale price.

There are several things of greater importance in the long run to an
author than a large royalty. One of them is the unstinted loyalty of
his publisher. His publisher must have a chance to be generous to his
book. He ought not to feel that he must seek a cheap printer, that he
must buy cheap paper, that he must make a cheap cover, that he must too
closely watch his advertising account. A publisher has no chance to be
generous to a book when he can make a profit on it only at the expense
of its proper manufacture. The grasping author is, therefore, doing
damage to his own book by leaving the publisher no margin of profit.


There is still another thing that an author should set above his
immediate income from any particular book; and that is the stability
of his publisher. The publisher is a business man (he has need to be
a business man of the highest type), but he is also the guardian of
the author’s property. If his institution be not sound and be not kept
sound, the loss to the author in money and in standing may be very
great. The embarrassment or failure of a publishing firm now and then
causes much gossip; for a publishing house is a center of publicity.
But nobody outside the profession knows what practical trouble and
confusion and loss every failure or financial embarrassment costs the
writing world. The normal sale of many books is stopped. The authors
lose in the end, and they lose heavily.

Every publisher who appreciates his profession tries to make his house
permanent, with an eye not only to his own profit, but also to the
service that he may do to the writers on his list. If it is of the
very essence of banking that a bank shall be in sound condition and
shall have the confidence of the community, it is even more true that
a publishing house should be sound to the core and should deserve
financial confidence. The publisher must do his business with reference
to a permanent success. But if he must do business on the basis of a
twenty per cent. royalty, he takes risks that he has no right to take.
It deserves to be called “wildcat” publishing.

I am, therefore, not making a plea, by this confession, for a larger
profit to the publisher in any narrow or personal sense. Every
successful publisher--really successful, mind you--could make more
money by going into some other business. I think that there is not a
man of them who could not greatly increase his income by giving the
same energy and ability to the management of a bank, or of some sort
of industrial enterprise. Such men as Mr. Charles Scribner, Mr. George
Brett, Mr. George H. Mifflin, could earn very much larger returns by
their ability in banks, railroads or manufacturing, than any one of
them earns as a publisher; for they are men of conspicuous ability.

It is, therefore, not as a matter of mere gain to the publisher that
it is important to have the business on a sound and fair basis; but it
is for the sake of the business itself and for the sake of the writers


Here is a true tale of a writer of good fiction: He made a most
promising start. His first book, in fact, caused him to be sought by
several publishers, who do not hesitate to solicit clients--a practice
that other dignified professions discourage. The publisher of his first
book gave him a ten per cent. royalty. For his second book he demanded
more. A rival publisher offered him twenty per cent. The second book
also succeeded. But the author in the meantime had heard the noise of
other publishing houses. He had made the acquaintance of another writer
whose books (which were better than his) had sold in much greater
quantities. Of course, the difference in sales could not be accounted
for by the literary qualities of the books--his friend had a better
publisher than he--so he concluded. His third book, therefore, was
placed with a third publisher, because he would advertise more loudly.
Well, that publisher failed. His failure, by the way, the report of
the receivers showed, was caused by spending too much in unproductive

Here our author stood, then, with three books, each issued by a
different publishing house. What should he do with his fourth book? He
came back to his second publisher, who had, naturally, lost some of his
enthusiasm for such an author. To cut the story short, that man now
has books on five publishers’ lists. Not one of the publishers counts
him as his particular client. In a sense his books are all neglected.
One has never helped another. He has got no cumulative result of his
work. He has become a sort of stray dog in the publishing world. He
has cordial relations with no publisher; and his literary product has
really declined. He scattered his influence, and he is paying the
natural penalty.

The moral of this true story (and I could tell half a dozen more like
it) is that a publisher is a business man, but not a mere business
man. He must be something more. He is a professional man also. He can
do his best service only for those authors who inspire his loyalty, who
enable him to make his publishing house permanent, and who leave him
enough margin of profit to permit him to make books of which he can be

The present fashion of a part of the writing world--to squeeze the last
cent out of a book and to treat the publisher as a mere manufacturer
and “boomer”--cannot last. It has already passed its high period and is
on the decline. A self-respecting worm would have turned long ago. Even
the publisher is now beginning to turn.

Better still, the authors whose books will be remembered longest
have not caught the fashion of demanding everything. It was that
passing school of “booms” and bellowing that did it all--the writers
of romances for kitchen maids and shop girls, whose measure of book
values was by dollars only. Such fashions always pass. For, if novel
writing be so profitable an industry, a large number of persons
naturally take it up; and they ruin the market by overstocking it.


Fast passing, then--praise God--is the “boomed” book, which, having no
merit, could once be sold by sheer advertising, in several editions of
100,000 each. I have made a list of the writers of books that during
the last five or six years have sold in enormous editions; and every
one of these writers, but two, has lived to see his (or her) latest
book sell far below its predecessors. One man, for instance, wrote a
first book which sold more than 200,000 copies. His publishers announce
only the sixtieth thousand of his latest novel, though it has now
nearly run its course.

These are not pleasant facts. I wish that every novelist might have an
increasing sale for every book he writes. They all earn more than they
receive--even the bad ones whose books prosper; but the system that
they brought with them deserves to die--must die, if publishing is to
remain an honorable profession. They brought with them the 20 per cent.
royalty, and the demand for an advertising outlay that was based on
the sale of 100,000 or 200,000 copies. Only the keeper of dark secrets
knows how many publishers have lost, or how large their losses have
been, on “boomed” books. But any intelligent business man may take the
50 cents that the publisher receives for his $1.50 novel after paying
the author’s 20 per cent. royalty, and divide it thus:

  Cost of manufacture,
  Cost of selling,
  Office expense,
  Extravagant advertising,

If he can find anything left for profit, then he can get rich at any
business. There have been novels so extravagantly advertised that the
advertising cost alone amounted to 22 cents for every copy sold. The
writer drove the publisher to loss; the publisher (foolishly) consented
in the hope of attracting other authors to his house. If “other
authors” knew that the very cost of the bait that attracted them makes
the publishing house unsound, they would not long be fooled.

Thus it comes about, in this strange and fascinating world of writing
and making and selling books, that one period of “whooping up” novels
is ending. Half the novels advertised during the past few years in
big medicine style did not pay the publishers; and any conservative
publisher can tell you which half they are.

The manufacturing novelist has always been with us. But he used to be
an humble practitioner of the craft whose “output” was sold for ten
cents a volume. He always will be with us, and his product will sell,
some at ten cents a volume, some at $1.50. But the time seems about to
pass when he can disturb the publishing situation. For the publisher
has to accept his methods when he accepts his work; and his methods
do not pay either in dignity, permanency, or cash. If any of these be
lacking--and in proportion as they are lacking--the results will fall
short of the ideal. The results to be hoped for are money, but not
money only, but also a watchful care by the publisher over his author’s
reputation and growth, and a cumulative influence for his books.


There are, perhaps, a dozen American novelists who have large incomes
from their work; there are many more who have comfortable incomes; but
there is none whose income is as large as the writers of gossip for the
literary journals would have us believe. It has been said that Harper’s
Magazine pays Mrs. Humphry Ward $15,000 for the serial right of each of
her stories and twenty per cent. royalty. Miss Johnston must have made
from $60,000 to $70,000 from royalties on “To Have and to Hold,” for
any publisher can calculate it.

But along with these great facts let us humbly remember that Mr.
Carnegie received $300,000,000 for all his steel mills, good will,
etc.; for the authors that I have named are the “millionaires” of
the craft. I wish there were more. But the diligent writers of most
good fiction, hard as they have ground the publishers in the rise of
royalties, are yet nearer to Grub street than they are to Skibo Castle.

The truth is--but it would be a difficult task to reduce such a truth
to practice--that the public gets its good new novels too cheap. There
is not a large enough margin of profit for author, publisher and
bookseller in a new book that is meant to be sold for $1.50 and that
is often sold for $1.08. The business of bookmaking and bookselling is
underpaid. There is not a publisher in the United States who is today
making any large sum of money on his “general trade.” Money is made on
educational books, on subscription books, on magazines. But publishing,
as publishing, is the least profitable of all the professions, except
preaching and teaching, to each of which it is a sort of cousin.



  _The First May Have No Literary Quality, but They Have a Genuine
    Quality--Power of Construction the Main Thing in Story-Writing--
    Literary Reviews of Novels are Regarded as of Little Value by
    Publishers--Odd Incidents and Facts in the Business._

A report on the manuscript of a novel made by a “literary” reader
not long ago ended with this sentence: “This novel is bad enough to
succeed.” He expressed the feeling of a great many literary persons
that fiction often succeeds in the market in proportion to its
“badness.” And surely there are many instances to support such a
contention from the “Lamplighter” to “When Knighthood Was in Flower.”
But the “literary” view of fiction is no more trustworthy than the
“literary” view of politics or of commerce; for it concerns itself more
with technique than with substance.

It is a hard world in which “Knighthood,” “Quincy Adams Sawyer”
and “Graustark,” to say nothing of “The One Woman,” “Alice of Old
Vincennes” and a hundred more “poor” books make fortunes, while Mr.
Howells and Mr. James write to unresponsive markets and even Mr.
Kipling cannot find so many readers for a new novel as Mr. Bacheller of
“Eben Holden.” It seems a hard world to the professional literary folk;
but the professional literary folk would find it a hard world anyhow;
for it has a way of preferring substance to color. And novels, after
all, have less to do with literature than they have to do with popular

Heaven forbid that I should make defence of bad writing, or of
sensational literature, or of bad taste, or of any other thing that is
below grade; but, as between the professional literary class, and the
great mass of men who buy “Eben Holdens” and “David Harums” the mass of
men have the better case.

Why does a man read a novel? Let us come down to common-sense. He seeks
one of two things--either a real insight into human nature (he got that
in “David Harum”) or he seeks diversion, entertainment. A writer’s
style is only a part of the machinery of presentation. The main thing
is that he has something to present. Even though I am a publisher I
think that I know something about literary quality and literary values,
and it must be owned at once that hardly one in a dozen of the very
popular recent novels has any literary quality. But every one of them,
nevertheless, has some very genuine and positive quality. They were
not written by any trick, and their popularity does not make the road
to success any easier to find. They have qualities that are rarer than
the merely literary quality. Mr. Henry James’s novels have what is
usually called the literary quality. Yet half the publishing houses in
the United States have lost money on them, while the publisher and the
author of “Richard Carvel” and “The Crisis” and “The Crossing” made a
handsome sum of money from these books, which have no literary style.

This does not mean a whining confession that “literature” does not pay.
For my part I cannot weep because Mr. James and Mr. Howells do not
find many readers for their latest books. They find all they deserve.
Mere words were never worth much money or worth much else. But, while
Mr. Churchill is not a great writer (since he has no style), and while
few persons of the next generation of readers (whereby I mean those of
year after next) are going to take the trouble to read his books, yet,
for all that, they have a quality that is very rare in this world, a
quality that their imitators never seem to see. They have construction.
They have action. They have substance. A series of events come to pass
in a certain order, by a well-laid plan. Each book makes its appeal as
a thing built, finished, shapen, if not well-proportioned, substantial.
It is a real structure--not a mere pile of bricks and lumber. The
bricks and lumber that went into them are not as fine nor as good as
somebody else may have in his brickyard and his lumber pile. But they
are put together. A well shapen house of bad bricks is a more pleasing
thing than any mere brick-pile whatever.

I recall this interesting experience of a man whose novels are now
fast winning great popular favor. He sat down and wrote a story and
sent it to a publisher. It was declined. He sent it to another.
Again it was declined. Then he brought it to me. (He told me of the
preceding declinations a year later). I told him frankly that it lacked
construction. I supposed that that was the last that I should see of
him. But about a year later he came again with another manuscript and
with this interesting story.

“Like a fool,” said he, “I simply blazed away and wrote what I supposed
was a novel. Nobody would publish it. When you said that it lacked
construction, I went to work to study the construction of a novel. I
analyzed twenty. I found a dozen books on the subject which gave me
some help. But there are few books that do help. I constructed a sort
of method of my own.”

That man yet has no sense of literary values, as they are usually
considered. The only good quality of his style is its perfect
directness and clearness. He writes blunt, plain sentences. But every
one of them tells something. He does not bother himself about style,
nor about literary quality. He fixes his mind on the story itself, to
see that it has substance, form, action, proportion. And he worked out
this new novel with these qualities in it.

It was a dime novel in praise of one of the cardinal Christian
virtues--very earnest, very direct. But the persons in it were real.
They not only said things, they did things; and many of the things
they did were interesting. One of our salesmen was asked to read the
manuscript. “It’ll sell,” said he. Our literary adviser said that it
was a bald moral Sunday school play. “You could put it on the stage
by cutting it here and there,” he declared. “But it has no literary
quality.” Both were right. The book has sold well. It has amused and
interested its tens of thousands.

The author’s next book after that was very much better. Having learned
something of the art of construction he began to think of such a
detail as style. He re-wrote the book to make it “smooth.” But the
point is, he first paid attention to his construction and made sure
that he had a story to tell.

The enormous amount of waste work done by unsuccessful novel writers
is done without taking the trouble first to make sure that they have a
story to tell.

Few persons have any constructive faculty. This is the sad fact that
comes home at last to a man who has read novels in manuscript for many
years. A publisher comes to look for construction in a novel before he
looks for style or literary quality.

This confession is enough to provoke the literary journals to condemn
the publishers as mere mercenary dealers in sensational books. Yet,
while a book that is well constructed may not be “literature,” very few
books have a serious chance to become literature unless they have good

I, for one, and I know no publisher who holds a different opinion, care
nothing for the judgment of the professional literary class. Their
judgment of a novel, for instance, is of little value or instruction.
It may be right--often it is. It may be wrong. But whether right or
wrong (and there is no way that I know to determine finally whether any
judgment be right or wrong) it is of no practical value. A literary
judgment of a new novel cannot affect the judgment that men will form
of it ten years hence. Therefore it is of no permanent value. Neither
can it affect the sales of a new novel. It is therefore of no practical
importance for the moment. I look upon reviews of novels as so much
publicity--they have value, as they tell the public that the book is
published and can be bought, and as they tell something about it which
may prod the reader’s curiosity. Further than this they are of no
account. Not one of the three publishers whose personal habits I know
as a rule takes the trouble to read the reviews of novels of his own

Novel making, then, is an industry, and the people who make them best
concern themselves very little about what is usually meant by “literary
values,” and very little about their popularity. The writers who
deliberately set out to write novels of great popularity have almost
always missed it. The industry is an art, also, but it is not an art
of mere fine writing. It is chiefly an art of construction--an art of
putting things in due proportion. This assumes, of course, that the
novelist has things to put.

The truth is, the delicate and difficult art of finding out just what
the public cares for--the public of this year or the public of ten
years hence--has not been mastered by many men, whether writers or
publishers. If you find out what the great public of today wants,
you are a sensationalist. If you find out what the great public of
ten or twenty years hence will want, you are a maker or a publisher
of literature. And the public of the future is pretty sure to want
something different from the public of today.

Within six months after the publication of a popular novel the
publisher of it (other publishers, too) will receive a dozen or a
hundred stories that have been suggested by it. Many an author of
such a manuscript will write that he has discovered the secret of
the popular book’s success and that he has turned it to profit in
his own effort. Such letters are singularly alike. The writers of
them regard success as something won by a trick, as a game of cards
might be won. These remind one, too, of the advertisements of patent
medicines--except that the writers of them are sincere. They believe
heartily in their discovery. Thus every very popular novel gives a
great stimulus to the production of novels. “To Have and To Hold”
brought cargoes of young women for colonists’ wives to hundreds of
amateur story writers.

But stranger than the popularity of very popular novels, or than the
utter failure of merely “literary” novels, is the moderate success of a
certain kind of commonplace stories. I know a woman of domestic tastes
who every two years turns off a quiet story. She has now written a
dozen or more. They are never advertised. But they are well printed and
put forth by one of our best publishers. The “literary” world pays no
heed to her. Her books are not even reviewed in the best journals. They
lack distinction. But every one is sure to sell from ten to fifteen
thousand copies. No amount of advertising, no amount of noise could
increase the number of readers to twenty-five thousand; and there is no
way to prevent a sale of from ten to fifteen thousand copies. Why this
is so is one of the most baffling problems of psychology. But it is the
rule. Authors of novels are known and rated among publishers as ten
thousand, or twenty-five thousand, or fifty thousand, or one hundred
thousand writers. Book after book reaches a certain level of popularity
and--stops. Mr. Marion Crawford, Mr. Hopkinson Smith, Miss Wilkins--all
these have their more or less constant levels.

The lay world has no idea of the number of novels that fail. There are
one-book authors all over the country. The publishers’ hope always is
that a new writer who makes a pretty good novel will do better next
time. Thus the first book is accepted for the sake of the next one. The
first fails, and the second is not wanted. There are dozens and dozens
of such cases every year. The public doesn’t know it, for the very
abyss of oblivion is the place where a dead novel falls. Nobody knows
it--that is the tragedy--but the publishers and the author.

A case came to light a little while ago of a man who had years ago
written novels that failed. He had been forgotten. But he took a new
start. Yet he feared that his first failures would damn him with the
publishers. He took another name, therefore. Not even his publishers
knew who he really was. He succeeded and he concealed his identity
until he died.

The publisher’s loss on an unsuccessful novel may be little or big.
All publishers lose much on unsuccessful ventures in fiction, chiefly
on young authors who are supposed to have a future, or on old authors
who have a “literary” reputation and have reached that ghostly period
of real decline when they walk in dreams from one publishing house to

But there is generally a reason for success or for failure. The
trouble is that the reason often does not appear soon enough. The
chief reason for the success of a novel is the commonplace one that it
contains a story. It may be told ill or it may be told well, but there
is a story. And the chief reason for failure is the lack of a story.
A novel may be ever so well written,--if it have no story, the public
will not care for it.

I wonder if there be any light in this very obvious discovery. Simple
as it seems, it costs every publishing house a pretty penny every
year to find it out; and as soon as we find it out about one writer
we forget it about another! It is a great truth that does not remain



  _An Emphatic Answer in the Negative--They Are Gentlemen and Ladies
    and Treat Their Publisher with Courtesy--Bonds of Friendship Thus
    Formed That Endure--Some Amusing and Nettling Exceptions--Cranks
    Among the Scholars--The Inconstant Author Who Is Always Changing
    Publishers--Why a Publishing Trust Is Impossible._

The old and persistent notion that the writers of books are an
irritable tribe, hard to deal with, and manageable only by flattery--if
it was ever true, is not true now. During an experience of a good
many years I have suffered a discourtesy from only two. Both these
were “philosophers”--not even poets, nor novelists. They wrote books
that the years have proved are dull; and, when it became my duty to
disappoint them, although I hope I did it courteously, they wrote
ill-tempered letters. The hundreds of other writers of all sorts that
I have had the pleasure to deal with have conducted themselves as men
and women of common sense, and most of them are men and women of very
unusual attractiveness. I doubt whether a man of any other calling has
the privilege of dealing with persons of such graciousness and of such

But the women who write require more attention than the men. Their
imaginations are more easily excited by the hope of success, and few of
them have had business experience. They want to be fair and appreciate
frank dealing. Yet they like to have everything explained in great

One woman, now one of our most successful novelists--successful both
as a writer of excellent books and as an earner of a good income--was
kind enough to seek my advice about one of her early novels. It was a
book that she ought not to have written; the subject was badly chosen.
I frankly told her so. The whole reading world has told her so since.
But naturally she did not agree with me. She took the book to another
publisher. Two years passed. She had a second novel ready. This was one
of the best American stories of a decade. To my great gratification I
received a letter from her one day asking if I cared to read it. Of
course I said yes.

Then came another telling how she had never changed her opinion of her
former book--not a jot--I must understand that thoroughly. If that were
clearly understood she went on to say she would like to have me publish
the new book on two conditions: (1) That I should myself read it
immediately and say frankly what I thought of it, and (2) that I should
pay her a royalty large enough to repair her wounded feelings about
the former book. Subsequently she added another condition--

“You may publish it,” she said, “if you heartily believe in the book.”

Very shrewdly said--that “heartily believe in the book.” For the secret
of good publishing lies there. There are some books that a publisher
may succeed with without believing in them--a dictionary or a slapdash
novel, for examples. But a book that has any sterling quality--a real
book--ought never to have the imprint of a publisher who is not really
a sharer of its fortunes, a true partner with the author. For only with
such a book can he do his best.

I did believe in this book. As soon as it was in type I required every
man in my office who had to do with it to read it--the writer of
“literary notes,” the salesman and even the shipping clerk. When the
author next called I introduced to her all these. They showed their
enthusiasm. She was convinced. The book succeeded in the market almost
beyond her expectations. It is a good book. Everyone of us believes in
it and believes in her.

She is not a crank, “but only a woman.” We have our reward in her
friendship and she is generous enough to think that we have done her
some service. We esteem it a high privilege to be her publishers.

But God save me from another woman who has won a conspicuous success in
the market. The first question she ever asked me was:

“Are you a Christian?”

“Do I look like a Jew or a Mohammedan?” I asked.

She never forgave me. Her novel had a great religious motive. It sold
by the tens of thousands and most maudlin emotionalists in the land
have read it. But I do not publish it. To do so, I should have had to
pay the price of being “converted.” Now this lady is a crank. But it
is not fair to call her books literature.

The veriest crank of all is our great scholar. It is an honor to
publish the results of his scholarship (few parsnips as it butters),
for the man’s work is as attractive as he is odd. He thinks himself
the very soul of fairness. Yet he comes at frequent intervals wishing
so to change his contract as to make publishing his books an even more
expensive luxury than it was before. A contract is to him a thing to
make endless experiments with. When we were once driven to desperation,
one of my associates suggested that we propose half a dozen unimportant
changes in it, on the theory that change--any change--was all he
wanted. It was an inspired suggestion. A great scholar, a restless
child. But some day (we feel) he will break over all traces, and we are
all afraid of him.

But very sane and sensible men and women are most of those who succeed
in winning the public favor. Some are grasping, as other men are. One,
for instance, whose book had earned $7,000 in two years, demanded
a prepayment of $8,000 for the next book. A compromise was made on
$2,000! That was the measure of my folly, for the book is waning in its
popularity and has hardly earned this prepaid royalty.

An author came to my office one day indignant because his novel was not
more extensively advertised. There was the usual explanation--it would
not pay. He had money to spare and he proposed to advertise it himself.
He wrote the advertisements, he selected the journals in which the
advertisements should appear, and he inserted them--$1,000 worth.

By some strange fate the sales of the book began just then greatly
to decline. They have kept declining since, and why nobody can tell.
When the public has bought a certain number of copies of a novel--of
one novel it may be 1,000 copies, of another 100,000 copies--there is
nothing that can be done to make it buy another 1,000 or 100,000. It
seems to know when it has enough. Take more it will not. The worst
“crank” that any publisher ever encountered is not an author; it is the
public, unreasoning, illogical, unconvincible, stolid!

Odd persons are found in every craft. But I think that there are fewer
odd ones among successful writers than among successful lawyers, for
instance. And this is what one would naturally expect, but for the
traditional notion that writers are unbalanced. Who else is so well
balanced as the writer of good books? He must have sanity and calmness
and judgment, a sense of good proportion, an appreciation of right
conduct and of all human relations, else he could not make books of
good balance and proportion.

Most writers have few financial dealings, and they often innocently
propose impracticable things. But this is not a peculiar trait of
writers. Most preachers and many women show it. I have known a
successful college president, for instance, to cut a paragraph out of a
proof sheet with a pair of scissors, imagining that this would cause it
to be taken out by the printers.

They are appreciative, too; and they make the most interesting friends
in the world. Almost all writers of books work alone. Lawyers work with
clients and with associated and opposing lawyers. Even teachers have
the companionship of their pupils in the work. Men of most crafts work
with their fellows, and they forget how much encouragement they owe to
this fellowship. A dreary task is made light by it and monotonous labor
is robbed of its weariness. But the writer works alone.

Almost the first man to be taken into his confidence about his work
is his publisher. If the publisher be appreciative and sympathetic
and render a real service, how easily and firmly the writer is won.
A peculiarly close friendship follows in many cases--in most cases,
perhaps, certainly in most cases when the author’s books are successful.

And this is why a great publishing trust, or “merger” is impossible.
The successful publisher sustains a relation to the successful author
that is not easily transferable. It is a personal relation. A great
corporation cannot take a real publisher’s place in his attitude to the
authors he serves.

This is the reason, too, why the “authors’ agents” seldom succeed
in raising the hopes of unsuccessful writers. As soon as a writer
and a publisher have come into a personal relation that is naturally
profitable and pleasant, a “go-between” has no place. There is no
legitimate function for him.

Writers are as constant in their relations as other men and women.
As they acquire experience, they become more constant. Every one for
himself works his way to this conclusion--once having an appreciative
and successful publisher, it is better to hold to him. And the strong
friendships that grow out of this relation are among the most precious
gains to each.

One publisher said to another the other day: “I see by your
announcements that one of my authors has gone to you--you are welcome.”

“Yes,” was the reply, “I have in almost every instance made a mistake
when I have taken in a dissatisfied writer--one cannot make lasting
friends with them.”

Every great publishing house has been built on the strong friendships
between writers and publishers. There is, in fact, no other sound
basis to build on; for the publisher cannot do his highest duty to
any author whose work he does not appreciate, and with whom he is not
in sympathy. Now, when a man has an appreciation of your work and
sympathy for it, he wins you. This is the simplest of all psychological
laws--the simplest of all laws of friendship and one of the soundest.

Those who know the personal history of the publishing houses that in
recent years have failed or met embarrassments know that, in most
cases, one cause of decline was the drawing apart of publishers and
authors. When authors begin to regard their publishers as mere business
agents, and publishers to regard authors as mere “literary men” with
whom they have only business relations, the beginning of a decline has

I recall as one of the pleasantest days of my life the day on which
I accepted a book by an author I had never before seen. So pleasant
was our correspondence that I took the first occasion I could to go
nearly a thousand miles to see him. In his own house we talked about
his literary plans, and I spent a day always to be remembered. Our
friendship began then. Of course I was interested in his work--you
cannot long feign an interest that you do not feel. This friendship has
lasted now long enough to make it very much more secure a bond than any
merely commercial service could have become.

Every publisher’s experience is the same--if he be a real publisher
and will long remain a real publisher. Else he would be only a printer
and a salesman, and mere printers and salesmen have not often built
publishing houses. For publishing houses have this distinction over
most other commercial institutions--they rest on the friendship of the
most interesting persons in the world, the writers of good books.

The more formal cultivation of friendly relations such as the famous
dinners that some publishers used regularly to give to writers has
gone out of fashion. There are yet a few set dinners in the routine
of several American publishing houses. But every true publisher knows
the authors of his books--knows them as his friends; and the tradition
of irritability is false. It is usually the unsuccessful who are
irritable, whether they be authors or not.



  _A Charge Fairly Met and Its Truths Admitted--Many Features of the
    Business in Which a Low Tone Prevails--The Literary Solicitor an
    Abhorrent Creature--On the Whole, However, Commercial Degradation
    Prevails Less with Publishers Than in Many Other Callings--The
    Confidence Authors Have in Them Is Their Best Asset._

Authorship and publishing--the whole business of producing
contemporaneous literature--has for the moment a decided commercial
squint. It would be wrong to say, as one sometimes hears it said, that
it has been degraded; for it has probably not suffered as nearly a
complete commercialization as the law has suffered, for instance. But
that fine indifference to commercial results which was once supposed
to be characteristic of the great publishers does not exist today.
Perhaps it never existed except in memoirs and literary journals! But
there was a less obvious effort to make money in the days of the first
successful American publishing houses than there is now.

The old publishing houses put forth schoolbooks; and many a dignified
literary venture was “financed” by money made from the sale of
textbooks and subscription books. But now the greater part of the
money made from these two special departments is made by houses that
publish nothing else. The making of schoolbooks and the making of
subscription books have been specialized, and almost separated from
general publishing. Two great textbook houses have made large incomes;
and they publish nothing but schoolbooks. These profits, which were
once at the service of literature, are now withdrawn from it. The
“general” publisher has to make all his profits on his “general” books.
The necessity is the heavier on him, therefore, to make every book pay.
This is one reason why the general publisher has to watch his ledger

Another reason for greater emphasis on the financial side of literary
production is the enormously increased expense of conducting a general
publishing house. The mere manufacture of books is perhaps a trifle
cheaper than it used to be, but every other item of expense has been
increased enormously within a generation. It costs more to sell
books than it ever cost before. Advertising rates have been doubled
or trebled, and more advertising must be done. Even a small general
publishing house must spend as much as $30,000 or $50,000 a year in
general advertising. There are many houses that each spend a great deal
more than this every year.

The author, too, it must be remembered, has become commercial. He
demands and he receives a larger share of the gross receipts from his
book than authors ever dreamed of receiving in the days of the old-time
publisher. All the other expenses of selling books have increased.
There was a time when publishing houses needed no travelling salesmen.
Now every house of any importance has at least two. They go everywhere,
with “dummies” and prospectuses of books long before they are ready for
the market. Other items of “general expense” besides advertising and
salesmen and ever-increasing rent, are the ever-growing demands of the
trade for posters and circulars; correspondence grows more and more;
more and more are special “window displays” required, for which the
publisher pays. All the while, too, books are sold on long time. As a
rule they are not paid for by many dealers till six months after they
are manufactured.

All these modern commercial methods have added to the publisher’s
expense or risk; and for these reasons his business has become
more like any other manufacturing business than it once seemed
to be--perhaps more than it once was. Of course there are
publishers--there always were such--who look only to their ledgers as
a measure of their success. These are they who have really demoralized
the profession, and the whole publishing craft has suffered by their

It was once a matter of honor that one publisher should respect the
relation established between another publisher and a writer, as a
physician respects the relation established between another physician
and a patient. Three or four of the best publishing houses still live
and work by this code. And they have the respect of all the book world.
Authors and readers, who do not know definitely why they hold them in
esteem, discern a high sense of honor and conduct in them. Character
makes its way from any man who has it down a long line--everybody who
touches a sterling character comes at last to feel it both in conduct
and in product. The very best traditions of publishing are yet a part
of the practice of the best American publishing houses, which are
conducted by men of real character.

But there are others--others who keep “literary drummers,” men who go
to see popular writers and solicit books. The authors of very popular
books themselves also--some of them at least--put themselves up at
auction, going from publisher to publisher or threatening to go. This
is demoralization and commercialization with a vengeance. But it is the
sin of the authors.

As a rule, this method has not succeeded; or it has not succeeded
long. There are two men in the United States who have gone about
making commercial calls on practically every man and woman who has
ever written a successful book; and they are not well thought of by
most of the writers whom they see. Every other publisher hears of
their journeyings and of their “drumming.” Sometimes they have secured
immediate commercial results, but as a rule they have lost more than
they have gained. The permanent success of every publishing house is
built on the confidence and the esteem of those who write books. When a
house forfeits that, it begins to lose. Its very foundations begin to
become insecure.

Commercial as this generation of writers may be, almost every writer of
books has an ambition to win literary esteem. They want dignity. They
seek reputation on as high a level as possible. “The trouble with the
whole business” (I quote from a letter from a successful novelist) “is
that novel-writing has become so very common. ‘Common’ is the word. It
is no longer distinguished. What I want is distinction. Money I must
have--some money at least; but I want also to be distinguished.” That
is a frank confession that almost every writer makes sooner or later.

Now, when a publishing house forfeits distinction it, too, becomes
common, and loses its chance to confer a certain degree of distinction.
And literary “drummers” have this effect--authors who can confer
distinction shun their houses. The literary solicitor, therefore, can
work only on a low level; and the houses that use him are in danger of
sinking to a low level.

The truth is, it is a personal service that the publisher does for the
author, almost as personal a service as the physician does for his
patient or the lawyer for his client. It is not merely a commercial
service. Every great publisher knows this and almost all successful
authors find it out, if they do not know it at first.

The ideal relation between publisher and author requires this personal
service. It even requires enthusiastic service. “Do you thoroughly
believe in this book? and do you believe in me?” these are the very
proper questions that every earnest writer consciously or unconsciously
puts to his publisher. Even the man who writes the advertisements of
books must believe in them. Else his advertisements will not ring true.
The salesmen must believe what they say. The booksellers and the public
will soon discover whether they believe it. They catch the note of
sincerity--the public is won; the author succeeds. Or they catch the
note of insincerity and the book lags.

This is the whole story of good publishing. Good books to begin with,
then a personal sincerity on the part of the publisher. And there is no
lasting substitute for these things.

The essential weakness in most of even the best publishing houses
of our day is the lack of personal literary help to authors by the
owners of the publishing houses themselves. Almost every writer
wishes to consult somebody. If they do not wish advice, they at least
wish sympathy. Every book is talked over with somebody. Now, when a
publishing house has a head--an owner--who will read every important
manuscript, and freely and frankly talk or write about it, and can give
sympathetic suggestions, that is the sort of publishing house that will
win and hold the confidence of the best writers. From one point of view
the publisher is a manufacturer and salesman. From another point of
view he is the personal friend and sympathetic adviser of authors--a
man who has a knowledge of literature and whose judgment is worth
having. A publisher who lacks the ability to do this high and intimate
service may indeed succeed for a time as a mere manufacturer and
seller of books; but he can add little to the best literary impulses
or tendencies of his time; nor is he likely to attract the best writers.

And--in all the noisy rattle of commercialism--the writers of our own
generation who are worth most on a publisher’s list respond to the true
publishing personality as readily as writers did before the day of
commercial methods. All the changes that have come in the profession,
therefore, have not after all changed its real character as it is
practised on its higher levels. And this rule will hold true--that no
publishing house can win and keep a place on the highest level that
does not have at least one man who possesses this true publishing

There is much less reason to fear the commercial degradation of many
other callings than the publishers’.

A louder complaint of commercialism has been provoked by the unseemly
advertising of novels than by any other modern method of publishers.
Now this is a curious and interesting thing. A man or woman writes a
story (let us call it a story, though it be a mild mush of mustard,
warranted to redden the faded cheeks of sickly sentimentality) which,
for some reason that nobody can explain, has the same possibilities of
popularity as Salvation Soap. A saponaceous publisher puts it out; he
advertises it in his soapy way; people buy it--sometimes two hundred or
three hundred thousand of them.

Behold! a new way has been found to write books that sell, and a new
way to sell them. Hundreds of writers try the easy trick. Dozens of
minor publishers see their way to fortune. But the trick cannot be
imitated, and the way to fortune remains closed. It is only now and
then that a novel has a big “run” by this method. The public does not
see the hundreds of failures. It sees only the occasional accidental

There is no science, no art, no literature in the business. It is like
writing popular songs: One “rag-time” tune will make its way in a
month from one end of the country to the other. A hundred tune-makers
try their hands at the trick--not one of their tunes goes. The same
tune-maker who “scored a success” often fails the next time. There is,
I think, not a single soap-novelist who has put forth a subsequent
novel of as great popularity as his “record-breaker,” and several
publishing houses have failed through unsuccessful efforts at the
brass-band method.

This is not publishing. It is not even commercialism. It is a form of
gambling. A successful advertising “dodge” makes a biscuit popular,
or a whiskey, or a shoe, or a cigarette, or anything. Why not a
book, then? This would be all that need be said about it but for the
“literary” journals. They forthwith fall to gossiping, and keep up a
chatter about “great sellers,” and bewail commercialism in literature,
until we all begin to believe that the whole business of book-writing
and book-publishing has been degraded. Did it ever occur to you that in
the “good old days” of publishing there were no magazines that retailed
the commercial and personal gossip of the craft?

As nearly as I can make out the publishing houses in the United States
that are conducted as dignified institutions are conducted with as
little degrading commercialism as the old houses whose history has
become a part of English literature, and I believe that they are
conducted with more ability. Certainly not one of them has made a
colossal fortune. Certainly not one of them ever failed to recognize
or to encourage a high literary purpose if it were sanely directed.
Every one of them every year invests in books and authors that they
know cannot yield a direct or immediate profit, and they make these
investments because they feel ennobled by trying to do a service to

The great difficulty is to recognize literature when it first comes
in at the door, for one quality of literature is that it is not
likely even to know itself. The one thing that is certain is that the
critical crew and the academic faculty are sure not to recognize it
at first sight. To know its royal qualities at once under strange and
new garments--that is to be a great publisher, and the glory of that
achievement is as great as it ever was.



  _A Popular Illusion Based on “Graustark” and “David Harum” Dispelled--
    Publishers Blunder More Often in Welcoming Than in Rejecting
    Manuscripts of the “New Man”--Guess Work Enters Largely Into the
    Fate of a Novel--How Publishers Judge Manuscripts and How “Reading”
    Is Done._

It will probably always be believed by many persons that publishing
houses do not give careful attention to book manuscripts that come
from strangers. The case of “David Harum” did much to fix this notion
in the public mind. The manuscript was declined by three or four
publishers before it was accepted by the Appletons. Its declination was
an evidence of bad financial book-judgment, but it is not proof that
it was carelessly considered. Most publishers’ readers are literary
folk, pure and simple. Not one in a hundred has a good financial
judgment of a manuscript. As a literary product, judged by academic
standards, there was not much in “David Harum” to commend it. The
publishers who rejected it acted on the readers’ reports. When it went
to the Appletons, somebody was shrewd enough to see that if it were
shortened and put in somewhat better form, it would have a commercial
value. A publishing judgment was passed on it there and not merely a
conventional literary judgment.

Or, take the case of “Graustark.” It was declined at least by one
publisher. There is, perhaps, not a “literary” reader in the world
who would have commended it in manuscript, or (for that matter) who
will commend it now. It does violence to every literary canon. But a
Chicago publisher, by some divine or subterranean suggestion, saw a
chance for it. Its roughest edges were hewn off with an axe, and it
was put forth. There have now appeared four “Graustark” books, three
of which have each sold perhaps a hundred times as many copies as Mr.
Howell’s latest novel will sell.

The difference between a mere literary judgment and a publishing
judgment indicates the greatest weakness in the organizations of most
publishing houses. The publisher himself is usually a business man. He
has to concern himself with the financial work of his house--with the
manufacture and the sale of books. In a great measure he relies, for
his judgment of literary values, on his advisers and readers. As a rule
these advisers and readers are employed men or women. They know nothing
about what may be called the commercial value of books. Many of them
know nothing about the losses or the profits on the books that they
have commended. They have had no experience in selling books. These
facts indicate the wrong organization of most publishing houses. Yet
the faithfulness that they show to aspiring authors is amazing; they
plough conscientiously through thousands of manuscripts looking for the
light of some possible genius, and they commend dozens of books where
their employers accept a single volume.

But the publisher does acquire a sort of sixth sense about a book. He
may or he may not know literary values, but he comes to have a peculiar
sort of knowledge of the commercial possibilities of books. If he takes
“literary readers’” judgments and does not read manuscripts himself,
he will now and then let a “David Harum” pass through his hands. To
avoid such mistakes every publishing house has at least two readers,
and these read manuscripts independently of one another. The publisher
then makes his judgment from them both, or perhaps from a third reading
by a specialist, if the manuscript seem good enough to warrant a third

The mistake of permitting a profitable manuscript to be rejected does
not come, therefore, from inattention to the work of strangers, but
from sheer fallibility of judgment. And the work of strangers is very
carefully considered in every publishing house that I know anything
about. Every publisher in these days is just as eager to get a new good
writer on his list as any unknown writer is eager to get a publisher;
and no manuscript above the grade of illiteracy is neglected.

A “first reader”--a man of all around general knowledge of books, and
he ought to be a man full of hard common-sense, common-sense being
worth more than technical literary knowledge--the “first reader”
examines the manuscript. If it be a shopworn piece of commonplace
work, obviously hopeless, he may not read it from preface to end, but
he must say in his written report whether he has read it all. Whether
he condemn it or approve it, it is examined or read by another reader.
If both these condemn it as hopeless, the publisher declines it without
more ado.

The greater number of manuscripts that come to publishing houses are
hopeless. Three-fourths of them, or more, are novels that have been
written by lonely women or by men who have no successful occupation;
and most of these are conscious or unconscious imitations of recent
popular novels. It does not require very shrewd judgment to see that
they are hopeless. But it does require time. If they are above the
grade of illiteracy somebody must read a hundred pages or more to
make sure that the dulness of the early chapters may not be merely a
beginner’s way of finding his gait. And many of these manuscripts go
from publishing house to publishing house. There are, I should say, a
thousand hopeless novels in manuscript at all times making this weary

Sometimes one comes back to the same publisher a second time, the
author having perhaps not kept an accurate record of its itinerary.
Sometimes it comes back a year later, somewhat changed. There is one
novel-manuscript that has come to me four times within two years,
every time in a somewhat different form, and twice with different
titles--obviously to fool the “careless” publisher.

While very few mistakes are made or are likely to be made with these
manuscripts that two readers independently declare hopeless, the
class next to these require a great deal of work and care. This class
includes those books by unknown writers that are not bad. One reader
will say that they are worth considering. The next reader will say
that they have some sort of merit. Then the publisher must go slowly.
A third person must read them. If the publisher be an ideal publisher,
he will read them himself. (The weakness of most American publishing
houses of this generation comes just here--the publisher himself does
not read many manuscripts.)

In the best publishing houses (this, I know, is the habit of three) the
reports on books of this class are all read at a meeting of the firm,
or (better) at a meeting of the firm and of the heads of departments.
At such a meeting the judgment of a sensible man who is at the head of
the sales department of a publishing house is very useful. He knows
by his everyday work what sort of books the public is buying. Some of
them are books that the “literary” world knows nothing about or has

And three or four or five men, by a little discussion, can reach a
clearer and saner judgment about a book from the reports of three or
four readers than the readers themselves can reach or than any one
man or any two men who consider the reports could reach. There is no
subject in the world about which a conference is likely to be more
helpful. One man’s judgment about the publishing quality of a book may
easily be wrong. The judgment of two men may be wrong if they look at
it from the same angle or with the same temperament. But the judgment
of three, or four, or five men, if they have the facts before them and
if they indulge in frank discussion, is very seldom wrong. No book
on which serious work has been done ought to be rejected or accepted
without the benefit of the independent reports of two or three sensible
persons who have carefully read it, and without the discussions
of these reports by three or four other persons of experience
and judgment. And in at least three American publishing houses
every manuscript of any value or promise runs a course of hopeful
consideration such as this; for the publisher wants good new books, he
wants good new writers; and he wants them badly. Half a dozen popular
writers will build a publishing house. It is, therefore, doubtful
whether any other business is so carefully conducted with reference to
its sources of supply.

In fact, all publishers make many more mistakes in accepting books
than in declining them. They accept many books from new writers that
they hope may possibly succeed, but in which they have not very strong
faith. It is the book manuscripts of this class that cause the most
work and the greatest trouble--the class that may possibly succeed. A
book of this class by a new writer who shows cleverness or some other
good quality is often accepted in the hope that the author may do
better with the next book. It is accepted as an encouragement and as
a hope; it chiefly is for this reason that so many books are published
that are barely good enough to warrant publication. The publisher is
trying to “develop” an author.

Sometimes this method succeeds; for it sometimes happens that a
good writer writes a first book that is merely a promise of later
achievement. But this does not often happen. In most cases the second
book is no better than the first--or is worse. Then the publisher
loses and the writer is seldom heard of again. The number of one-novel
writers scattered over the land would surprise the world if it were
known. There is no rule about literary production to which there
are not an embarrassing number of exceptions. But in most cases a
successful writer starts with a successful book. The hope that the
second book will be better is one of the rocks on which many publishing
ventures wreck.

But if the publishers put forth a number of commonplace books (chiefly
novels) from a false hope that they may thus develop good writers, they
also do a service of the opposite kind. They save the long-suffering
public from many worthless books. For if the public had thrust upon it
all or half or a tenth of the books that are written, what a dull world
we should have!

When a book-manuscript has been rejected, the delicate task comes
next of informing the author. This task is seldom done as well as it
ought to be. It is almost impossible for a publisher--who receives and
rejects manuscripts as a matter of business--to put himself in the
place of a writer who has spent lonely weeks in her work. To send a
mere business note is almost an insult. Yet what more can the publisher
write? He does not dare write hopefully. If he does he will give a
degree of encouragement that is dishonest. Yet the author expects a
long and explicit letter telling why the manuscript is unavailable.
If she does not receive such a letter she jumps to the conclusion that
her manuscript has not had fair consideration. Publishers’ letters of
rejection are the chief cause, I suspect, of the persistent notion that
they are careless in the examination of manuscripts.

Every letter of declination ought to be written by a skilful man--a
diplomatist who can write an unpleasant truth without offence. Every
such letter ought to be written with a pen. No general form ought to
be used. Yet in only one of the publishing houses whose habits I know
is this degree of care taken. The consideration of manuscript from
strangers is careful and conscientious, but letters of rejection are
often perfunctory.

To sell a novel that has the mysterious quality of popularity in it is
not difficult. Properly launched, it sells itself. To sell a novel that
lacks the inherent quality of popularity--that is almost impossible.
Apparently it has sometimes been done, but nobody can be sure whether
the result after all was due to the book or to the salesman. Every
publisher has proved, over and over again, to his disgust, that he
cannot make the people buy a novel that they do not want; and when a
novel appears (no better novel) that they do want, the novel-readers
find it out by some free-masonry and would buy it if the publishers
tried to prevent them.

Nobody has discovered a rule--to say nothing of a principle--whereby
the popularity of a novel by a new writer may be determined. If it be
a really great, strong book, of course it is easy to understand that
it will sell; but whether it will sell 10,000 copies or 100,000 nobody
knows. If it be a slapdash dime-novel, full of action, it is easy to
guess that it will sell; but whether 5,000 or 500,000 nobody knows.
Sometimes a book of the sheerest commonplace happens to hit the public
mood at the happy angle and sells beyond all expectation. The truth is,
every new novel by an unknown writer presents a problem peculiar to
itself; and in advertising it and offering it for sale, every book’s
peculiar problem must be studied by itself.

The whole question is a subtle social one. Who could have foretold
popularity for “pigs in clover,” rather than for some other silly
puzzle; or for ping-pong; or for women’s hats of a certain grotesque
construction? The popular whim about novels is like the whims for these
things. And a popular novel passes as quickly as any other fashion.
The story has been many times told of the sudden falling off of the
demand for “Trilby”--so sudden that the publishers had a large number
of copies left on hand which could not be sold at all except as waste
paper. Every publisher is afraid to publish very large editions of any
very popular novel; for they have all had an experience parallel to
this experience with “Trilby.”

But other kinds of books are less capricious than novels; and the
business of the publisher has been reduced more nearly to a science in
dealing with books of information. Several publishers, for example,
have series of little books made of selections from English and
American classics. Many of them have sold well; but some of them have
sold by the million and others just as good and just as attractive have
stopped at the ten-thousand limit or at a lower limit. The difference
is with the skill with which they were put on the market. Sometimes an
ingenious “scheme” will sell information books in great numbers; and it
often happens that the worst of three or four books on the same subject
and published for the same price, becomes far better known than the
other better books.

As a theoretical proposition it seems plain that the publisher who
will spend the most money in newspaper advertising will sell the most
books. Authors not infrequently take up this notion. Sometimes it is
true; for sometimes newspaper advertising will cause a great demand
for a book. But this is not true with every book. And most recent
publishing failures have been due--in a great measure, at least--to
prodigal advertising--or, perhaps, to misdirected advertising.

Every book is a problem unto itself. The wise publisher so regards
it from the beginning; and he makes his plans for every book to suit
its peculiar case and not another. All the long road from author to
reader, the book--any book--presents a series of interesting, original
problems. Many of them are very fascinating problems. They call for
imagination, fertility, ingenuity. The reason why few authors or
authors’ societies or other persons who have not been definitely
trained to publishing fail, is that they are too likely to regard
publishing as a mere routine business--a business of manufacturing a
certain product and then of offering it for sale. They forget that
every book--and even every edition of every book--presents a problem
that was never presented before since the world was made. And when its
sympathetic ingenuity and inventiveness fail, a publishing house begins
to become a mere business and the drying-up period is not far off.

But no publishing house fails because it does not examine manuscripts
carefully. There is no other business that I know of that is done more
seriously; and the mistakes made are fewer than the public thinks. They
are mistakes of judgment and not of carelessness.



  _A Heartless Pirate Who Preys Upon the Unsophisticated and Ambitious
    Writer--The Contract in Which This Sort of “Publisher” Cannot
    Lose--The Inevitable Disappointment--How the Publication by Even a
    Responsible House of a Book That Sells Poorly Injures the House._

An innocent and ambitious good woman sent to me last year a form of
contract that a printer who pretended to be a publisher had sent her to
sign for the publication of a novel. In its unessential clauses it was
like the usual publisher’s contract; but it required the author to pay
in advance a fixed sum for the plates and for the manufacture of one
thousand copies; and this sum was just about twice what they should
cost him. Then he was to pay her not the usual ten or even fifteen
per cent. royalty, but fifty per cent. on all copies sold--as well
he might; and, if at the end of a year the book had ceased to sell,
she was bound to buy the plates from him at half cost. The meaning of
all this translated into figures, is this: The plates would cost him
$250, for he does cheap work; a thousand copies of the book would cost
him $200, for he makes cheap books; total, $450. She would pay him in
advance $900. He has a profit so far of $450. He does not expect to
sell any of the books. Her friends would buy perhaps as many as two
hundred copies. They would not be on sale at the bookstores--except in
her own town. At the end of the year she would pay him again for the
plates half what he charged her at first--which is just what they cost
him. By this time she would have paid just three times their cost to
him. His outlay in the whole transaction would be:

  For plates                              $250
  For 1000 copies                          200
  His income would be: Her prepayment      900
  Her purchase of the plates a year later  250
  His profit                                  $700

He would not have even to make any outlay of capital. She supplies the
capital and he makes his $700 profit by writing her a few letters.
If any of the books were sold he would receive also half what they
brought. She would have spent $1150, less what she received for the few
copies that were sold. Her book would not have been published--only
printed at an excessive cost.

There are several “publishers” who seem to do a prosperous brief
business of this kind by preying upon inexperienced and disappointed
authors. It is only by accident they ever get a book that sells; and
they hardly pretend to put books on the market, for of course the
booksellers will not buy them. A really good book would, therefore, in
their hands be buried. The public would never find it out. They print a
large number of the novels that the real publishers decline.

The long list of books--chiefly novels--that these pseudo-publishers
put out tells a sad tale of misdirected energy and of disappointed
hopes. A man--oftener it is a woman--conceives the notion of writing a
novel. She works alone. She shuts herself off from life about her. Any
human being who spends months at a self-imposed secret task becomes
profoundly, even abnormally interested in it. The story grows--or
flows; for the author becomes more fluent as she goes on. She is likely
to accept all the stories of extraordinary successes that she reads
in the literary journals as if they were common successes. She goes on
working by herself with no corrective companionship. At last she sends
it to a real publisher and gets a disappointing decision. She imagines
a thousand reasons why she is not appreciated. She sends it to another,
and so on. The story of the wanderings of “David Harum” in manuscript
has given courage to thousands of worthless novels--a courage to travel
to the last ditch, and the last ditch is the pseudo-publisher. “Yes,”
he writes, “it is an unusual story;” and he will be greatly honored to
publish it, and sends one of his remarkable contracts.

To get the book published by anybody will bring her recognition, she
thinks. The public will be kinder than the publishers. She takes the
risk--sometimes goes into debt to do so. That is the end of the book,
and in most cases the end of the author’s career. The work begun in
loneliness has ended in oblivion--wasted days, wasted dollars, wasted

Yet what is an author to do who believes in his own work when it is
refused by the regular publisher? Publish it himself or let it remain
in manuscript. Never permit it to be brought out by a publisher to whom
any suspicion attaches.

There is not much danger (I do not believe there is any danger) that
a manuscript of any value whatever will under present conditions fail
to find a legitimate purchaser. But one way out of the difficulty
that authors often seek is to propose to a legitimate publisher to
publish his book at the writer’s expense; and it is not apparent to the
layman why the publisher cannot afford to make such arrangements. “If
the author pays the bill,” he says, “the publisher will surely lose
nothing.” But the publisher does lose, and loses heavily, every time
he publishes a book that is not successful in the market. A publisher
cannot afford to accept a book that will not itself earn a profit. If
the author pay all the cost and a good profit besides, even this does
not change the case; for unsalable books clog the market and stop the
wheels of the publisher’s whole trade. He soon begins to lose influence
and standing in the book trade. The jobbers buy new books from him in
smaller quantities. The booksellers become suspicious of his judgment.

Last year, to give a true instance, a publisher put out four new novels
by four new writers. His salesmen and his advertising man announced
them as good books. They made enthusiastic estimates of them. The
book dealers ordered liberally. Three out of the four failed to make
any appreciable success. The dealers had many copies of them left on
hand. This year, when the same publisher brought out two more new
novels by two more new writers, his salesmen met with incredulity and
indifference. The booksellers said to them with a sad smile, “We’ll
swap copies of your last year’s novels for these.”

Now it so happens that both of these new books of this year are good
and popular. A demand for them was made as soon as the reviews appeared
and people began to read them. But the booksellers were ill supplied.
They would order only a few copies at a time--or none. Thus the good
books of this year suffered because the publisher’s dull books of last
year failed to bring profit or satisfaction to anybody. They stood in
the way of this year’s better books.

While, therefore, no legitimate publisher wishes to reduce his
business to a mere commercial basis, and while he is eager to maintain
the dignity of his profession--must maintain it in fact--and do as
high service as possible to the literary production of his time; yet
he cannot load down his list with many books that have not a good
commercial reason for existence.

The plausible proposition which is so often made in these days of
universal authorship--to publish books at the author’s expense--is for
these reasons not a sound proposition. If the book succeeds there is
no reason why the author should make the investment. If it fail, the
publisher loses, even though the author settle the bill; and he loses

A writer who asks a publisher to bring out a book that has no
commercial reason for existence is asking him to imitate the “fake”
publisher. The “fake” publisher could not make a living (since he has
no character and cannot sell books) except by cash payments from his
authors. As soon as the publisher begins to receive cash payments from
his authors (be the basis ever so legitimate) he begins to clog up the
outlets for his product. He has taken the first step towards “fake”

In a word, commercially unprofitable books may be printed, but they
cannot be published without ruining the machinery that they are run
through. He is the best publisher who has the largest proportion of
good books on his list (whether his list be long or short) that are at
the same time alive in the market.

There are--let it be said as an exception--a few classes of books that
every publisher wishes to have on his list in spite of the fact that
they cannot be made profitable, such as works of great scholarship or
monumental works that have a lasting value. It is legitimate that the
writers or the societies or organizations under whose directions such
books were written should pay or share the cost of their manufacture.
But few such works yield a profit at last to either publisher or
author. And they are not made to clog the book market. They are sold
only to special classes of readers.

A book is a commodity. Yet the moment it is treated as a mere commodity
it takes severe revenge on its author and on its publisher.

These pseudo-publishers sometimes solicit manuscripts from ignorant
writers. They have veiled advertisements in the literary journals.
Ignorance and ambition is a susceptible combination. Several years ago
one of these plausible swindlers bribed a reader in one of the larger
publishing houses to report to him the names of all the writers whose
novels were declined there. The fakir then plied them with circulars
and letters.

While I have been writing about publishing swindles I have been
reminded of the accusation brought several years ago against
publishers--especially English publishers--that the temptation to
fraud was too strong to be resisted by any but the most upright and
successful men. An author gives his book to his publisher. Twice a year
the publisher makes a report--pays royalties on the number of books
that he has reported as sold. There is no way whereby the author can
verify the publisher’s reports. He has to take his word for it. Even
if the author or someone who acted for him were to see the publisher’s
books, he could learn nothing, for the publisher’s bookkeeping is a
very complicated thing; and reports of book sales could easily be

The chance for fraud does exist. But the first wish of every normal
man in the business, even if he lacks vigorous honesty, is to make his
reports of sales to his author as large as possible. This wish is too
strong to be overcome by anything less than the most hopeless moral
depravity. A publisher who should commit the crime of making false
reports to his authors would be a monstrosity. Yet the contention
that Sir Walter Besant made in England for so many years, that the
publishing business was conducted without such checks and verifications
as are applied to other business transactions was true; and I, for one,
see no practical remedy for it.

Moral: Select your publisher with care; make sure that he is honest
(by far most of us are); then trust him. But steer clear of all “fake”
publishers and “agents.”



  _Publishers Are Uncertain as to the Amount of Sales Made in That
    Way--How the Book Business Differs from the Shoe Trade, for
    Example--The Problem of How to Get the Books Before the People
    Is at the Root of All Other Book Trade Questions--Why the Book
    Canvasser Is Still Necessary--A Vast Field Waiting for Development._

About the advertising of books, nobody knows anything. The most that
can be said is that some publishers are making very interesting
experiments. But nobody has yet worked out a single general principle
that is of great value. The publishers themselves frankly confess that
they do not know how to advertise books--except a few publishers who
have had little experience.

The fundamental difficulty of course is that hardly any two books
present the same problem. Find a successful advertising plan for
one book--it will not be a good plan for another. This fundamental
difficulty marks the difference, for instance, between books and shoes.
When a shoe merchant finds out by experiment how to describe his
shoes and in what periodicals to print his description, his problem
is solved. Recently several publishers discovered a successful way to
advertise a novel. They tried the same plan with another novel and
another. But it’s hit or miss. I, for one, would give much to know how
often it has been “miss.”

The old-fashioned way was to insert a brief, simple, dignified
announcement of every book, as is still done in The Spectator, of
London, for example. Good; but such an announcement doesn’t go far.
A very few thousand persons see it. They wait until the books are
reviewed or till some friend or authority speaks about them. For this
perfectly good reason some publishers do not insert many advertisements
in those publications that go only to the literary class--they are to
a degree superfluous. Those that are inserted are inserted to give the
publishers and the books a certain “standing,” and to keep pleasant the
relations between the publishers and these journals.

Then come, of course, the monthly popular magazines. They reach a
very much wider class of readers, and to advertise books in them is a
logical procedure. But their advertising rates are almost prohibitory.
The margin of profit on books is very small. There is not money
enough in the business to warrant extensive and expensive magazine
advertising. The result is the publishers put their announcements
of perhaps a dozen new books on a single advertising page of the
magazines, and they cannot, in this restricted space, say enough about
any particular book to make the advertisement effective.

Then there are the daily papers. One or two of the best dailies in
every large city are used by the publishers for announcements of new
books. They cannot afford more--except in the case of those novels
which may reach enormous editions. Given a novel that will sell 100,000
copies or more, and you have enough possible profit to warrant a good
deal of advertising. But during this calendar year only two novels
(perhaps three) have new editions of more than 100,000 copies. What is
a publisher to do, then, who has a novel that will sell 10,000 copies,
or 20,000 copies and no more? Can he make it sell 50,000 or 100,000 by
spending a large sum in advertising it? Perhaps, once in ten times, or
once in twenty times; but not oftener.

Five or six publishing houses spend more than $50,000 a year, each,
in advertising. Two spend a good deal more than this sum; and one is
reported as saying that he spends $250,000. These are not large sums
when compared with the sums spent for advertising other wares. But
an advertisement of a shoe published to-day will help to sell that
shoe next year. The shoemaker gets a cumulative effect. But your
novel advertised to-day will be dead next year. You get no cumulative
effect. When I say, therefore, that no publisher has mastered the art
of advertising books, I tell the literal truth. They all run against a
dead wall; and they will all tell you so in frank moments.

The study of the problem of advertising books takes one far afield.
What quality in a book makes it popular anyhow? Even if you are wise
enough to know that (and you are very wise if you do know that) the
question arises whether advertising is necessary. There have been
as many popular books sold in large editions without advertising as
with it. If your book is really popular it may sell anyhow. I could
make a long list of such books, and a still longer list of books
that extensive advertising did not sell--books which seemed to their
publishers to have the quality of great popularity.

The question carries us further back still. Let us take the analogy
of the shoemaker again. He has shoe stores within reach of the whole
population. There is not a village in the land where there is not a
store in which shoes are sold. The manufacturers’ salesmen find this
distributing machinery ready to their hands. If a man in Arkansas or
in Montana or in Florida wants a pair of shoes, he is within reach
of a place where he may buy them. Not so with books. There are few
bookstores. Two or three per cent. of the population (perhaps less)
live within convenient reach of bookshops. True, a book may be ordered
by mail. But so may a pair of shoes. But this is not a good substitute
for a store, where a man may see the book. The mail-order business will
always be secondary to direct sales. But, since bookstores are so few,
the book-distributing machinery is wholly inadequate. The publisher has
no effective way yet to reach his normal public with his wares.

There is nobody to blame, perhaps. Surely, it would not be a profitable
undertaking for any man or woman to buy a stock of books and to open a
store in a small town. What is the remedy, then?

The simple truth is, here is one of the problems of distribution that
have not yet been solved. There are throughout the land another one
hundred thousand persons who would buy any novel of which one hundred
thousand have been sold, if they could see the book and hear about
it--if it were intelligently kept for sale where they would see it.
This is a self-evident proposition. But nobody has yet found a way thus
to distribute a book. And (this is the point) until better distributing
machinery is organized, it will not pay publishers to advertise with as
prodigal a hand as shoemakers and soapmakers use in making their wares

It is this lack of proper distributing machinery that has made
possible the career of the book-agent. There are no shoe peddlers.
Almost all the publishing houses--all the important houses--employ
book peddlers. The business is generally regarded as a--nuisance, to
say the most for it. But, from the publisher’s point of view, it is a
necessity. And this is the crude way whereby it is sought to remedy the
radical deficiency of proper distributing machinery. Of course, the
book-agent method has its obvious disadvantages. It is not a dignified
occupation, as most agents practise it. The most dignified members of
the community, therefore, do not take it up. In every case it is not
even the trustworthy members of the community that take it up. Again,
the agent must be paid; and this is a very costly method (to the
purchaser) of buying books. The purchaser pays half his money for the
books; the other half for being persuaded to buy them.

And (to take a broad, economic view of the subject) the book peddler
surely cannot be considered the final solution of the problem of a
proper distribution of books. At some time in the future, when the
country is three or four times as densely settled as it now is, there
will be book stores in all towns. There may still be need for the
persuasiveness of the agent, for some of the most successful of them
now do their best work in cities within sight of good book shops. But
the point is, few book-agents sell new books, and few of them sell
single books: they usually sell books in sets. The problem, therefore,
of the proper distribution of the four or five really good books that
my publishing house has put out this fall still remains unsolved and,
though I advertised them in all magazines and newspapers, I should
not effectively reach the attention of one-fifth or one-tenth of the
possible buyers of them. I should simply spend in advertising the
profit that I may make on the copies that I sell with a reasonable
publicity through the regular channels. I do insert advertisements of
them for three or four reasons--with the hope of helping their sales;
to keep the public informed of the activity of our publishing house;
to please the press; and--to please the authors of the books. But I
know very well that I am working (as every publisher is working) in a
business that has not yet been developed, that is behind the economic
organization of other kinds of manufacturing and selling, that awaits
proper organization.

Figure it out yourself. Here is a book of which eighty thousand copies
have been sold through “the trade;” that is, through the book stores.
Our salesmen have visited every important bookseller from Portland,
Me., to Portland, Ore., and from Duluth to New Orleans. We have spent
quite a handsome sum in advertising it. Four-fifths of these eighty
thousand copies were sold in a few months after its publication. The
booksellers said that they could sell many more if we would advertise
it more. We did so. By this time our salesmen were making another trip.
No, they would not buy more, thank you; it is a little slow now. The
second effort at advertising did not cause it to “move” in the market.
The demand is slow yet. In other words, the demand for it that could
be supplied by the existing book stores was practically exhausted.
Our second advertising effort was a waste of money. We have frankly to
confess that we do not know how to sell more copies of this book until
the time comes when it may be put into a “set” and sold by book agents.
This is the same as to say that, the few existing book stores utilized,
there is no organized machinery for finding more buyers except the book

Yet it is obvious that a wholesome book (as this is) which eighty
thousand persons have bought would please eighty thousand other persons
of like minds and taste if we had any way to find these second eighty
thousand persons. They exist, of course. But they live out of easy
reach of the book stores. The book agents will find them several years

I have (I think) shown why there can never be a publishers’ trust,
or “combine,” because the relation of the publisher and the author
is a personal relation as intimate and personal as the relation of
a physician to his patient or of a lawyer and his client. But, after
a book has been sold and has become a commodity, the problem is a
different one. The booksellers have perceived this; and they have made
ineffective efforts to “combine.” They have failed because they have
not made plans to widen the existing market. An organization of those
that exist is not enough. The real problem is to extend their area, to
find book-buyers whom they do not now reach.

Perhaps all this is very dull--this trade talk. But a publisher who is
worthy of his calling regards himself as an educator of the public;
and he has trade reasons and higher reasons as well for wishing to
reach as many buyers of his good books as he possibly can. He knows
(and you know, if you know the American people) that the masses even of
intelligent folk have yet hardly fairly begun to buy books. Go where
you will among the people and you will find few books--pitifully few.
We are just coming into a period when book-buying is even beginning to
become general. The publishers of a generation hence will sell perhaps
ten times as many good books as are sold now--surely, if they find in
their day distributing machinery even half adequate.



  _The Divers Problems Which Constantly Arise--Every Step of the Way
    Beset with Expense, So That the Publisher Is Amazed When He Finds a
    Surplus--Why Books of Large Sale Are Hard to Get--The Publisher as
    Anxious as the Public to Print Better Books._

The wonder is (and in my mind it grows every year) how the publishers
of books make enough money to keep their shops going. When I look at my
own ledgers (ledger, by the way, is become a mere literary word, for we
now all keep accounts on cards and not in books)--whenever I look at my
own cards and see a profit, I am astonished as much as I am gratified.
Every other publisher in America, if he have a normal and simple mind
such as fits the calling, has the same emotion. Let me say, lest I
appear “simple” in another sense, that our cards have, miraculously
enough, generally shown very satisfactory profits, but the astonishment
never becomes less.

See what a long series of processes, or adventures, if you will, a book
must go through between the writer and the reader; every step costs
money; and the utmost possible profit is small. Suppose it be a novel.
“Book” means “novel” these days in “literary” circles and journals.
Heaven bless our shallow gabble called “reviews.” A novel comes to
the publisher in fairly good English. The English doubtless is the
author’s, but the punctuation and capitals are the “typewriter-lady’s”
own. It must be read by one person; and, if that person’s report have
a ray of hope, it must be read by another; perhaps by a third. These
“readers” cost money--alas! too little money. They are generally
literary persons who have failed, and there is something pathetic about
their occupation. Then, after two or three readers have reported on
it, I have to read it--in our particular shop, in any shop, somebody
“higher up” must read it--especially if it come from a new writer.

Then we have to correspond with the author or have interviews with
h--er. All this takes time, and the cost of this service rolls up.
Somebody must next go over the manuscript to prepare it for the
printer--to make sure that the heroine’s name is spelt the same way all
through and so forth and so forth. With the processes of manufacture I
need not weary you. Only I must say that a bad manuscript can be put
into legible type, and that type cast into solid metal blocks ready for
the press with a rapidity and cheapness that rank among the mechanical
wonders of the world.

By this time the artist has appeared, if the novel is to be
illustrated. Book salesmen will tell you that pictures help to sell
novels, and they ought to know. But I venture to say that you haven’t
seen three new novels in ten years whose illustrations conveyed
anything but confusion to your mind. The conventional illustration of
the conventional novel marks the lowest degradation of the present-day
publisher. We confess by these things that we are without character
or conviction. But the artist has the benefit of the commercial doubt
on his side. He has also the vanity of the author. And he gets his
fee--200, 300 or 500 good dollars or more--and the publisher pays the
bill. Another artist makes a design for the cover.

Paper, printing, binding--all these are commonplaces, worthy of mention
here only because they roll up the cost. But there are other steps in
the book’s journey that the public knows less about. For instance,
as soon as the first chapter has been put into type and a cover made,
“dummies” of the book are got ready. A “dummy” of a book is a sort of
model, or sample, of it. The cover is the cover that will appear on the
finished novel; the titlepage is the novel’s titlepage; and the first
chapter is as it will be when the book is published. But the rest is
blank paper. This “dummy” shows the physical size and appearance of the

The travelling salesmen take these dummies and begin their work. They
go to all the jobbers and book dealers, explaining to them the charming
qualities of this newly discovered novelist, and taking orders for the
books. By the time they come home and their advance orders are added
up, the book is ready to go to press; and the publisher knows what his
“first sale” will be. Meantime (not to lose the thread of my story)
all this travelling and soliciting of orders have cost a good deal of
money. The public has not yet seen a copy of the book nor even so much
as heard of it nor of the “talented young author.”

But now the machinery for publicity is put in action. Sly little
literary notes about the book and the author begin to appear in the
newspapers. These, too, have come from the publisher. From whom
else, pray, could they come? But they mean that the publisher has to
maintain a literary bureau. The man who writes these news notes and the
advertisements of the book and other things about it is a man of skill,
if he do his work well; and he, too, costs the publisher a good salary.
When he begins to put forth advertising--how much shall he spend on
this new novel by an unknown writer? How much shall you risk at Monte
Carlo? Your upright man will risk nothing at Monte Carlo. I have
sometimes thought that your upright publisher, if there be one, would
risk nothing in advertising a new book by an unknown writer, until the
book began itself to show some vitality in the market.

But--to go back--as soon as the book is ready, review copies, of
course, are sent to the newspapers and the literary journals (to appear
a little later in the second-hand book-shops for sale at reduced
prices.) All this activity requires clerks, typewriters, bookkeepers,
postage-money--a large office, in fact. There are many posters,
circulars--there is as much machinery required to sell a book as to
sell a piano or an automobile.

From the starting-point, where the book was an ill-written manuscript,
to the delivery of it to the bookseller, the publisher has less than 50
cents a copy to pay for this whole journey and to save something for
profit if he can. Therefore I say that publishers who do succeed are
among the most astute managers of industry.

Lest I seem to “boast rather than to confess,” I come back to the
starting-point, which was this--that the publishers’ calling is not a
very profitable one; not a profitable one at all except in fair weather
and with a good skipper.

The truth is, publishing is too important a profession and our
publishing houses are too important as institutions to be at the mercy
of present conditions. The making of schoolbooks and the vending of
standard old books in sets, which are useful vocations, but are not
publishing proper, are now done best by firms and companies that
do nothing else. Hence publishing proper--the bringing out of new
books--must find a safer basis than the present conventional profit. It
will find this safer basis in two ways.

The first and obvious way is to secure books that have an enormous
popularity. This is the effort of nearly all the publishing houses
to-day. If a novel reach an edition of 100,000 copies, there is a good
profit in it as matters now stand. And a novel, or other book, that
will be bought by 100,000 persons ought not to be sold for more than
such books now fetch. But there are not enough such books to go around;
and the least worthy publishing house is as likely to secure them as
the most worthy. A permanent institution, therefore, cannot be built on
these or on the hope of them. They are the accidents of the calling.

The other way to maintain a worthy publishing institution is to publish
worthy books, to manufacture them well, to do every piece of work that
is done on them or that is done for them in the most conscientious
way--to keep bookmaking as a fine art, to keep bookselling a dignified
profession, to keep the selection of books to publish on the high
level of scholarly judgment. This done, a publisher may set his prices
higher--must set his prices higher, for he does a higher and more
costly service to society. Excellent and worthy of all praise as is
some of the publishing work of this sort that is now done, a beginning
has hardly yet been made. There is a demand, or a dormant demand can
be awakened, for books that have merit (I mean new books as well as
old) of better manufacture than we now often see. They must be sold for
higher prices, of course.

This is the same as to say that just as a three-dollar shoe is made
for most feet that tread this weary continent, but a five-dollar shoe
is made for an increasing number of feet that prefer ease to economy,
so we are becoming rich enough and wise enough to pay two dollars, or
three dollars, or five dollars for a good new book that shall have
large and beautiful type, good paper, good margins, good binding--shall
be a work of art in its manufacture as well as in the quality of its
contents. The public gets its good books too cheap; and the reason is

It was only the other day that the publishers discovered the
possibility of securing book after book that would run into large
editions. A novel-reading democracy--a public-school democracy--is a
new thing. It is an impressive thing. It made new and big markets, and
we all rushed after it. Cheapness and great editions became the rage.
Writers wrote for the million; publishers published for the million.
Cheap books became the fashion. All very well--this widespread effort,
this universal reading. But it has not radically changed human nature
nor even the permanent foundations of the profession of publishing. We
shall come back to higher and better work--some of us will, at least.

Bring the subject home to yourself. What do you want for your book
money? Not the latest “big seller.” You may buy that to entertain you
on a railway journey. But if you bring it home at all, you send it
away at Christmas to some country library. What you want in your own
library for your book-money are good books, made at least as well as
the furniture in the room; and you want the new books of permanent
value. You are sometimes disgusted when you look over the publishers’
catalogues to find so few books of this kind.

Your publishers, too, are becoming weary of having such catalogues;
and as soon as we rediscover the old truth that there is a permanent
demand for just the kind of books that you want, we shall turn to a
more generous encouragement of them. Men who might do better work will
then cease trying to write “best sellers.” But you must pay the price.
Since you have become accustomed to buy new books at $1.50 a volume,
you are somewhat reluctant to pay $2 or $4 for a new book. You must
break yourself of that habit. In a word, you must become at least as
generous to your publisher as you are to your shoemaker; and then the
change will take place.

By a similar course of reasoning (and it is sound) you may discover
that you are yourself to blame for what our writers write and our
publishers publish--in a measure at least; and, whenever you want
better books, better books will be ready for you. For the publisher
and even the author are but human after all; and in the mood that has
possessed us all for a decade or two--since presses and paper became
so cheap--we have perhaps worshipped mere numbers. I have published
some books only because thousands and thousands of persons would read
them. You have read them simply because thousands of other people were
reading them and for no better reason. Perhaps our sins have not been
heinous. But, if you are so stubbornly virtuous as to cry shame at me,
I promise you this: I will reform on the day that you yourself reform;
but you must first signify repentance. For you--the public--are after
all our masters.



  _In Spite of the Many Books Issued and the Many “Large Sellers,”
    the People Are Very Poorly Equipped with Good Books--Circulating
    Libraries and the Sale of Books--Many Neglected Subjects on Which
    Successful Books Could be Written--The Lack of Good Writers the
    Main Source of Poor Sale of Books._

How large the book market is, nobody knows. Still less does anybody
know how large it may become, say, in another decade of our present
prosperity and spread of intelligence. Beyond any doubt more books are
bought in the United States than in any other country. Yet it is a
constant surprise to discover how ill supplied the mass of the people
are with good books. But the enormous increase of the market in recent
years gives hope of a still greater increase to come. The number of
books published every year in the United States and in the United
Kingdom is about the same, but more American than English books run to
large editions.

Leaving out fiction, which is the spectacular and sensational part of
publishing, books of reference, of standard literature, of history, of
applied science and even of poetry are sold in constantly increasing
quantities. The public hears little of these because the literary
journals pay little attention to them. There is, for instance, one
publisher of subscription books who now adds few books to his list of
which he does not expect to sell 100,000 copies. He has agents in every
part of the United States, and they probably sell more books in a year
than all the publishing houses in the United States put together sold
thirty years ago--excluding textbooks, of course. Last year a literary
man went to a remote railway station, 1,000 miles from Boston or New
York, to shoot quail. One day he saw men unloading boxes of books from
a freight car on the side track. The wonder was that there should be
even a freight car in that corner of the woods; and that the freight
car should be filled with books was simply incredible. But there were
wagon loads of Thackerays, of Dickenses, of Eliots, and even of sets
of the poets, fairly well-printed, fairly well-bound volumes which had
been sold to the country folk for miles around. Perhaps there has been
more money spent for encyclopædias and dictionaries than Noah Webster
could compute, these last ten years. The book market, therefore, is
very much bigger than persons who live outside the book selling world
are likely to think.

Still, relatively it is small. The largest retail book store in the
country is a department store in New York or Philadelphia; but the
book department is not considered one of the important parts of the
store. The much-abused department store, by the way, has done much
to bring a new class of persons to acquire the book-buying habit.
It has made books common merchandise for the first time. Since the
“Century Dictionary,” to take a definite example, was thus made common
merchandise, the sets of it that have been sold are incomparably more
than were ever sold in any other way. Yet how small the book market yet
is, is shown by this fact--that a novel of which one hundred thousand
copies are sold reaches only one person in every eight thousand of the

Do circulating libraries lessen book sales? Yes, I dare say they do.
But you will find that the publishers do not complain of them. They
are disposed to accept the comforting doctrine that everything which
encourages the reading of books in the end helps the sale of them. In
the end--yes. But for the moment probably no.

One man will tell you that he used regularly to buy a novel a
week--sometimes two novels. He was a pretty good customer of the
publishers; for fifty-two novels a year is about as many as the most
avaricious publisher could reasonably expect one man to buy. But now
he says he does not buy three a year. A circulating library will for
$5 bring him all he wants. The publishers have, therefore, lost him as
a good customer. On the other hand it is a working theory that every
subscriber to a circulating library who reads a novel and talks about
it at the woman’s club may induce somebody to buy a copy who otherwise
would never have heard of it. At any rate, the total number of novels,
or of books of other sorts, now sold is not less than the number that
was sold before the libraries found subscribers. The discussion is,
after all, a vain one. The publisher and the author must do the best
they can by the help of the libraries or in spite of them.

Yet I am sure that the great widening of the market for which we
are all looking will be found, when it is found, not by any special
machinery or mechanical device; but the person who will really find
it--or make it--will be a great writer. Whenever books are written that
are interesting enough to compel the attention of the whole people, the
poorest publishing house can sell them. The secret of success, after
all, is the secret of writing books that touch masses of men deeply
and directly. We have much to learn from the careers of such books as
“Progress and Poverty” and “Looking Backward.” They reached their great
sale not by the ingenuity of their publishers, nor by their literary
merit, but only because they carried messages to many minds. However
delusive these messages may be, they were sincere. The truth is that
the publisher (exalt him as I am trying my best to do) is, after all,
only a piece of machinery. The real force that makes itself felt in the
world that has to do with books is the initial force of the men and
women who write. Whenever a great mind, or a great sympathy, be found
which puts forth an appeal or a hope in the form of a book that has
the power to touch those emotions or aspirations that all men have in
common--then the trick’s done. The mechanical plans that we make have
power to carry only as far as the book has strength to go. If I had
five great living writers on my list, my publishing task would be easy.

For the broadening of the book market, then, what we need is
writers--writers of the proper quality. Of novels, we have enough and
to spare, such as they are. But not of good books of other sorts.
Let us take a hint from the novel writers. Twenty years ago or less
the American public was amusing itself with novels written by English
writers. But about that time came those story tellers, a whole army
of them, who began to write about life in different parts of our own
country. Of New England, Miss Jewett and Miss Wilkins and Mrs. Austin
and many more; in the Middle West, Mr. Garland, Mr. Churchill, Mr.
Tarkington and half a hundred more; in New York, the author of “David
Harum,” Mr. Frederick, Mr. Bacheller and others; of the South, Mr.
Page, Miss Johnston, Miss Glasgow and more; and there are California
stories in profusion. In other words, an army of men and women began
about the same time to write stories of local history and manners.

Now there are other subjects that need to be written of just as much.
One such subject is science. The world is flooded with popular books
about science, but nearly all of them fail either in being accurate or
in being popular. There is a better opportunity now than there ever
was before for a man who really knows the most recent and scientific
achievements, and who can write in the language of the people. To many
people, “authoritative books” are dry books, but this is not what I
mean. Such books as I have in mind can be written only by men of the
best scientific equipment, but they can be written only by men who have
also a great deal of literary skill.

Another great subject about which good books are needed is--you may not
believe this--American history. Our political history has got itself
pretty voluminously written, and there is no lack of slapdash books in
distant imitation of Green’s “Short History of the English People.”
But most of these have been prepared out of newspaper files by men
who would not take their task seriously or who were not well prepared
either in matured knowledge or in literary skill to produce them. Then,
too, geographically considered, the history of less than one-fourth of
our territory has not yet been written. Southern history, for example,
is utterly unknown.

It would be easy to name a half-dozen other great subjects which
writers who now bring their manuscripts to the publishing houses are
neglecting. If, therefore, men and women who have the literary gift,
even to a reasonable degree, and who have literary ambition, would
frankly seek those two or three publishers who are real publishers and
would prove their ability to do serious work of this sort they would
be almost sure to find satisfactory careers before them. Of course,
one disadvantage of such work is that during its early stages no very
large financial returns can be expected. But if the work were done
well enough it would pay in the end--pay more money by far than a
professorship in science or in history or in literature pays.

All this leads me to this general remark--that the writing public does
not take the trouble to find out who the real publishers are. There is
a lack of coöperation between publishers and writers in what may be
called the formative period of the writer’s lives. A man who writes
a book sends it to some publishing house that is chosen by accident
or by personal acquaintance or by whim. The public seems to think
that one publishing house is as good as another. If a writer’s first
volume in this way falls into the hands of a publisher who does not
make the acquaintance of the writer, or who cannot make an appraisal
of his ability and promise, and who does not understand him, then the
writer, after an initial failure, of course, becomes discouraged. On
the other hand, all the publishers are so eager to get books that they
accept work which is not properly done, and on their part fail to put
themselves into such a relation to young authors as would help them to
their normal development.

If a man or woman, therefore, proposes to enter upon a literary career
his first duty is to make the acquaintance of a real publisher, to be
as frank with him as one must be with one’s physician or one’s lawyer.
If two such men work together seriously and without too great haste the
best results will be achieved for both, and the best results are not
likely to come in any other way.

If you start, then, to gossip intelligently about the book market or
about anything else with which a publisher has to do, and if you gossip
long enough, you will come back to the starting point of the whole
matter. What do we do or can we do to encourage the writing of good
books? And now we’ve run on a subject as deep as a well and as wide as
a door. In the multitude of counsellors about it there is confusion. In
the only other “confession” that is to follow this I shall try to show
how ignorant and mistaken all those are who differ with me about this
fundamental subject.



  _It Pays the Author to Be Honest and Frank with His Publisher,
    Who Is, After All, His Best Friend--Some Recent Instances of a
    Discouraging Sort--The Need of Greater Dignity and Statesmanship
    Among Publishers--The Obligation of Ministering to the Higher
    Impulses of the People._

I am flattered by hearing that a prominent publishing house wishes to
print these rambling “confessions” in a pamphlet, to send to persons
who write books; “for,” says this house, “they tell some plain facts
that authors ought to know.” I hope so; and, for my part, I am not
averse to publishers knowing them either. For instance, the wretched
smallness of one sinner among the publishers came to light to-day.
Here is the unpleasant story:

A year and a half ago I published the first novel by a young author.
He is a promising writer and his story was a good one. We sold it in
fairly satisfactory numbers. We advertised it, “exploited” it--did the
best we could. We invited the author to come and see us. We took him
into our confidence. We have regarded him as our partner, so far as his
book is concerned. We have had a continuous correspondence. We have
exchanged visits a time or two. He paid me the compliment to ask my
advice about his next story. We have become good friends, you see; and
we are as helpful to each other as we know how to be. Now his second
novel is finished. In a letter that came from him to-day he informed me
that another publishing house (I have a great mind to write the name
of it here) has made him a very handsome offer of serial publication,
provided, of course, that they may also publish the book!

Now, if the young author wishes to go browsing in these new pastures,
I have no power or wish to prevent him. I cannot serve him--or do
not care to serve him--if he is unwilling that I should. But I was
nevertheless very grateful when he wrote, “Of course, I prefer you. I
hope you have never thought me unloyal.”

If publishing his first book had been a mere job done under contract,
a commercial job and nothing more--that would have been one thing. But
that’s not publishing. What I did was to give the man the unstinted
service of our house, as publishers, as advisers, as friends. We
print and advertise and sell his books--yes, to the very best of our
ability. But we do more. We try to make friends for his book and for
him throughout the reading world. We all take a personal interest in
him and in his future. We invest our money, our good will, our work,
our experience, our advice, our enthusiasm in him and in his future.
This service (except the investment of money) is not a matter of
contract. It is a personal, friendly service. If the service had not
been successful, he would have had a perfect right to come and say
that he feared that we did not serve him well and to go away from us.
That would have been frank and honorable. Even, since we did succeed
and have become friends, he could still go to another publisher. Yet,
I maintain, if he had, he would have shown himself a man of blunt
appreciation and dull honor. And the publisher who tried to win him
away did a trick unworthy of the profession.

This is my last story about a publisher; and the moral is plain, alike
to publisher and to author.

And now I will tell my last story about an author, the moral of which
also is plain:

There is an author for whom we have published two books, and they have
been uncommonly successful. A little while ago he finished his third
book. He wrote that many publishers had solicited it, that he had had
several handsome offers, that he needed a large sum of money. Would we
make a big advance payment? He disliked to mention the subject, but
business was business after all. Now I had been at that man’s service
for several years. Day and night, he had sought my advice.

Well, we were cajoled into making a big advance payment--about half
as big as he first asked for; and the contract was signed. Two days
later, I met another publisher under conditions which invited free and
friendly talk; and I told him this story. The publisher smiled and
declared that that author had approached him and asked how much he
would give for this very book!

Men and brethren, we live in a commercial age. I suspect that, if
we knew history well enough, we should discover that all ages have
been commercial, and that all our predecessors had experiences like
these. For ungrateful men have written books for many a century, I
have no doubt; and we know that Barabbas was a publisher. But let us
lift an honorable calling to an honorable level. Hence these frank
“confessions.” And, if any publisher wishes to reprint them to send
to authors, or any author to send to publishers, they both have my
permission. For dignity and honor thrive best in an atmosphere of
perfect frankness.

Thinking over the behavior of authors and publishers to one another, I
am obliged to confess that, while the peanut methods that I have just
described are not common enough to cause us to despair, the truth is
that the whole business is yet somewhat unworthily conducted. I mean
that it is conducted on too low a plane. For what is it that we are
engaged in?

The writers of good books are among the greatest benefactors of
society; and the publishers of good books, if publishing be worthily
regarded and properly done, is a necessary and complimentary service.
The publisher is the partner, the helper of the author and his high
servant or minister to the people. It is work worthy of large men and
of high-minded men. Honest men we are--those of us who conduct the
publishing houses that are in good repute. But I sometimes think that
we miss being large men; for we do not do our business in (shall I
say?) a statesmanlike way. We imitate the manners of tradesmen. We
speak in the vocabulary of tradesmen. We are too likely to look at
small projects as important--to pay our heed to the mere tricks of our
trade--and to treat large enterprises, if we have them, as if they were
but a part of the routine. A good book is a Big Thing, a thing to be
thankful to heaven for. It is a great day for any of us when we can put
our imprint on it. Here is a chance for reverence, for something like
consecration. And the man or the woman who can write a good book is a
form of capital infinitely more attractive than a large bank account
or a great publishing “plant.” Yet, if we regard an author simply as
“capital,” we are not worthy to serve him. The relation leads naturally
to a friendly and helpful attitude. We know something about books,
about the book-market, about the public, that no author is likely to
know. With this knowledge we can serve those that write. And with our
knowledge of the author and of his work, we can serve the public. It is
our habit to keep our accounts with authors accurately, to pay them
promptly, to receive them courteously when they call, to answer their
letters politely and sometimes to bore them with formal dinners at our
clubs, before they sail for Europe. But how many of us really know
the intellectual life of any author whose books we print and supply a
stimulus to his best plans?

And the authors? How little they know about us or about publishing!
They seem to select publishers by whims and not often by knowledge. I
know a writer of good books who is at this moment seeking his third
publisher. One of the others failed. The other displeased him. And now
he is thinking of giving his next book to a third publisher who also
will fail within five years, or I am no prophet. Yet I am hindered by
courtesy from telling him so. Why the man has not by this time found
a personality among the publishers who has a soundly constructed
business and at the same time a helpful intellectual appreciation of
his work, I cannot understand. He, too, is looking at a great matter in
a small way.

Therefore I am led to write down these rules for an author to follow
when he looks for a publisher:

Find out whether the publishing house that you have in mind be
financially sound. The commercial agencies will tell you, or will tell
any commercial friend who may make inquiry for you. And find out who
the real owners of the house are.

Then find out who conducts it. If it is conducted by a lot of hired
“literary” men, avoid it. They are, most of them, men who have failed
at authorship; they “read” and “advise” for salaries; and most of them
know nothing about the houses that they serve. They are not principals,
but (as Henry George once called them) “literary operatives.” I mean to
say nothing harsh about a well-meaning, hard-working class of men. But
if you have a good book, you wish to find not a “literary operative,”
but a real publisher.

Having found a real publisher, you will expect him to read your book
himself. I am assuming that you have an important book. When he has
read it, he will talk to you about it frankly. When I say frankly, I
mean frankly. If he is himself a real man and knows men and books, he
will not retail hack literary phrases to you. He will talk good English
and good sense straight out of his intelligence to your intelligence,
with no nonsense such as reviewers write in the “literary” magazines.
He will become your intellectual friend.

Having found such a man, give him your book and leave him to work out
the details of publishing. He will be proud to serve you. You will
discover as your acquaintance ripens, that he has your whole career as
a writer in his mind and plans. He will shape his whole publishing
activities to your development and to the development of other writers
like you.

Then--if you are capable of writing great books--you will discover
that you have set only natural forces at work for your growth and for
your publisher’s growth; and the little artificial tricks of the trade
whereby a flashy story has a “run”--into swift oblivion--will pass from
your mind and from his. You will both be doing your best work.

After all, the authors of any generation generally have the publishers
that they deserve to have; and this axiom is reversible. For my part,
while I am as glad as Podunk, Exploitem & Company to have novels
that will sell 100,000 copies, provided they give clean and decent
amusement, I take no permanent interest in anything that comes this
month and goes the next; nor does any serious man. My wish and aim
is to become a helpful partner of some of the men and women of my
generation who can, by their writings, lay the great democracy that we
all serve under obligations to them for a new impulse. By serving them,
I, too, serve my country and my time. And, when I say that this is my
aim and wish, I could say with equal truth that it is the aim and wish
of every other real publisher. But, as every good physician constantly
wonders at the ignorance and credulity of otherwise sensible men who
seek quacks, so I wonder at the simplicity of many respectable writers
of books in seeking publishers. Of downright quacks in the publishing
world, there are not many. But there are incompetents a-plenty and a
fair share of adventurers.

We shall both--authors and publishers--get the proper cue if we regard
the swarming, eager democracy all about us as a mass of constantly
rising men and women, ambitious to grow, with the same higher impulses
that we feel in our best moods; and if we interpret our duty as the
high privilege of ministering to these higher impulses and not to their
lower senses, without commercialism on one side and without academicism
on the other, men among men, worthy among the worthy, we may make our
calling under such a conception a calling that leads.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Redundant chapter titles were removed by Transcriber.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Publisher's Confession" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.