The Man of Letters as a Man of Business eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 39 pages of information about The Man of Letters as a Man of Business.

The English writers seem largely to suspect their publishers; but I believe that American authors, when not flown with flattering reviews, as largely trust theirs.  Of course there are rogues in every walk of life.  I will not say that I ever personally met them in the flowery paths of literature, but I have heard of other people meeting them there, just as I have heard of people seeing ghosts, and I have to believe in both the rogues and the ghosts, without the witness of my own senses.  I suppose, upon such grounds mainly, that there are wicked publishers, but, in the case of our books that do not sell, I am afraid that it is the graceless and inappreciative public which is far more to blame than the wickedest of the publishers.  It is true that publishers will drive a hard bargain when they can, or when they must; but there is nothing to hinder an author from driving a hard bargain, too, when he can, or when he must; and it is to be said of the publisher that he is always more willing to abide by the bargain when it is made than the author is; perhaps because he has the best of it.  But he has not always the best of it; I have known publishers too generous to take advantage of the innocence of authors; and I fancy that if publishers had to do with any race less diffident than authors, they would have won a repute for unselfishness that they do now now enjoy.  It is certain that in the long period when we flew the black flag of piracy there were many among our corsairs on the high seas of literature who paid a fair price for the stranger craft they seized; still oftener they removed the cargo and released their capture with several weeks’ provision; and although there was undoubtedly a good deal of actual throat-cutting and scuttling, still I feel sure that there was less of it than there would have been in any other line of business released to the unrestricted plunder of the neighbor.  There was for a long time even a comity among these amiable buccaneers, who agreed not to interfere with each other, and so were enabled to pay over to their victims some portion of the profit from their stolen goods.  Of all business men publishers are probably the most faithful and honorable, and are only surpassed in virtue when men of letters turn business men.

VII.

Publishers have their little theories, their little superstitions, and their blind faith in the great god Chance which we all worship.  These things lead them into temptation and adversity, but they seem to do fairly well as business men, even in their own behalf.  They do not make above the usual ninety-five per cent. of failures, and more publishers than authors get rich.

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The Man of Letters as a Man of Business from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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