Archives for April 2012

Mark Twain on publishers

This is possibly my favourite bit out of Mark Twain’s autobiography. He was advising Ulysses S. Grant not to publish his memoirs on a royalty basis, but to enter into a contract with a subscription publisher:

I pointed out that the contract as it stood had an offensive detail in it which I had never heard of in the ten per cent contract of even the most obscure author — that this contract not only proposed a ten per cent royalty for such a colossus as General Grant, but also had in it a requirement that out of that ten per cent must come some trivial tax for the book’s share of clerk hire, house rent, sweeping out the offices, or some such nonsense as that. I said he ought to have three-fourths of the profits and let the publisher pay running expenses out of his remaining fourth.

The idea distressed General Grant. He thought it placed him in the attitude of a robber — robber of a publisher. I said that if he regarded that as a crime it was because his education was limited. I said it was not a crime and was always rewarded in heaven with two halos. Would be, if it ever happened.