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Now let us see how matters would have stood if, of the 1000 copies printed, only 500 had been sold.
It may have happened, and frequently does happen, that of 1000 copies of a work printed, not 200 are sold; in which case it will easily be seen that a heavy pecuniary loss falls upon the publisher. Thus, if only 200 copies had been sold at 16s., only £160 would have been realised by the publisher, out of an outlay of £310, leaving him a loser of £150 by the venture. Then it is that the indignant author, unwilling to acknowledge his own failure, begins to think evil of his publisher, accuses him of want of "push," and insinuates that after all he has protected himself by some secret profit, and will scarcely believe him when his accounts are all laid open for his inspection.
The table on p. 47 may be taken as the model of an account for sharing profits as we should render it now, for a book published at 14s. :
This shows a statement of affairs which I believe to be absolutely, correct; if any author wishes to examine all the details, he can see every one of them, even to every line of which the advertisements are made up; but to furnish every item in detail of the hundreds of accounts one has to render would only tend to befog the author and be, in fact, an impossible and useless labour.
There are other methods of publishing which circumstances might render of service, but which cannot possibly be controlled by any "Society" that is not in itself capitalist as well as adviser. The most simple plan is unquestionably the purchase of copyright, by which method all difficulties are finally settled.
A third method is that which is known as the "Royalty system,' which seems to find considerable favour. It is most satisfactory in this respect, that it does away with the need of elaborate account-keeping, as between author and publisher; all that has to be shown is the number of copies sold on which the royalty is payable. The amount of that royalty is of course a matter of agreement. The unsatisfactory part of it is that the author has no interest in the cost of the venture; and he is, in such a case, very apt to urge on his publisher a very large expenditure in advertisements, &c., which frequently swamp the publisher's profit without in the least affecting the author. In America the amount of royalty is usually 10 per cent. Mr. R. R. Bowker, of New York, in his most useful book on Copyright, says, with reference to this American method, "The half-profits' system is apt to lead to much misunderstanding as to the actual expenses (e.g. general office expenses of a publisher) to be deducted before profits are reckoned, and the American 10 per cent. system is on the whole most satisfactory. The publisher does not, as is sometimes naïvely assumed, get the other 90 per cent. as profit; he gets the difference between the returns from the trade or public on copies actually sold—averaging perhaps two-thirds of the retail price' on which the author's 10 per cent. (really thus 15 per cent.) is reckoned -and the cost of making the entire edition, and of advertising and marketing the book. The author, in any event, gets a return proportioned to the success of his book. If its sales are small, the publisher makes a loss; if large, the publisher makes a profit, increasing proportionately with each extra thousand sold." Bowker adds, truly enough, that "It is by means of this profit that the publisher is able to take risks with new books and new authors,” and he only confirms English, French, and German experience, when he says, that" of five books three fail, one covers its cost, the fifth must pay a profit to cover the rest... If the author complains that his successful book ought not to pay for others' unsuccessful books, he can get over the difficulty by taking the risk himself.”
This brings us to a fourth system of publishing, viz., that of publishing on commission, in which case the author pays all
* This "royalty system" is quite a different matter from that proposed by "The Board of Trade," see ante, page 36.
expenses and takes all profits or all losses, as the case may be, the publisher merely receiving the books ready-made from the author, selling as many as he can at an agreed price, and handing over proceeds to the author, less his commission, usually about 15 per cent. The chief objection to this plan is that it generally applies (though of course with some notable exceptions, such, for example, as Mr. Ruskin's works) to books that had far better never have been published at all. If a publisher has not sufficient confidence in a book to invest money in it, and the author is prepared to take all cost and risk himself, then it comes about most frequently that the author makes a heavy loss and is tempted to cast all the blame on the supineness, or want of push, energy, or tact on the part of his publisher, who really gets nothing but trouble and vexation by the transaction, for if no sales occur there cannot possibly be any commission." The Society of Authors" assert that in such instances a publisher improperly puts a profit on the production of such works, but that is an argument which cannot be seriously urged.
If an author wishes to have his work published on commission, it is his business to deliver the work to the publisher, ready bound for sale. If instead of doing so, he asks his publisher to take all this labour off his hands, the latter must assuredly be paid for his trouble, not out of his doubtful future gains from commission as a publisher, but just as a manufacturer in every other department of commerce has to be recompensed for the advantages which belong to trained capacity, knowledge, experience, and skill
In such a case the author would be quite justified in getting an estimate beforehand, but he may with as much fairness claim vouchers from the printer and binder to show what wages they paid and what profit they made, as expect his publisher (who now is really his printer and binder) to show him his net profits. I may with equal justice demand like information from my tailor or bootmaker.
Such are the chief methods available in agreements between authors and publishers, but they are, as a matter of fact, always open to modification. At the same time it is preposterous for any Society" to lay down hard and fast rules from which there can be no appeal. Publishers are open to conviction, but, like other mortals, are inclined to resent coercion; and agreements drawn
up by "experienced hands" on "fixed principles," but purely in the interests of authors, will remain a dead letter if the other party to the bargain declines to sign.
INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT WITH AMERICA. "Hoc opus, hic labor est!"
When Copyright, the youngest son of Civilisation, sprang into existence, perpetuity was inscribed on his brow. Common sense and common law alike respected him, and he grew and flourished apace; at length pirates broke into his house and plundered him; eminent lawyers, unable to break his heart, attacked his freehold; his "right to exist" was questioned, mud was thrown at him, and his coat, if not his character, was tainted and much damaged. Statute law did recognise him, clipped his wings, struck perpetuity from his forehead, and sent him forth into the world, a stained, mutilated, protected thing. He would surely have died, but for the eternal principles of truth and justice in his heart.
The leading nations of Europe adopted him, first nationally then internationally, but in the latter case only after clipping his wings still more closely.
(The New International Act, 1886, has placed International on the same footing as National rights.)
America alone amongst the great nations of the world has declined to acknowledge him us an alien friend, but has naturalised him as a citizen!
The great principles of right and justice which lie at the root of copyright have been so mangled by lawyers, and so torn and frittered by sentimental theorists on the one hand, and so hidden and lost sight of by expediency, so overridden by the fanciful but supreme demand for " cheap literature" by the people on the other, that negotiation with the United States seems to be as far off as ever.
I have certainly no desire to be unjust to American publishers; they could not be expected to be the first to discover in the little beggarly foreign bantling yclept Copyright, so abused and mangled at home, any inborn quality which should