American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900

American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900

JAMES L. W. WEST
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 188
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fhptn
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  • Book Info
    American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900
    Book Description:

    This book examines literary authorship in the twentieth century and covers such topics as publishing, book distribution, the trade editor, the literary agent, the magazine market, subsidiary rights, and the blockbuster mentality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0453-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    J. L. W. W. III
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book is an examination of authorship and the literary marketplace in America since 1900. I have concentrated on the careers of novelists, poets, and short-story writers and have given relatively little attention to journalists, dramatists, and screenwriters, although I have examined the careers of several poets and fiction writers who worked as journalists, served stints in Hollywood, or wrote occasionally for the stage. Several well-known authors are treated—Theodore Dreiser, Robinson Jeffers, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E. E. Cummings, Flannery O’Connor, William Styron, and James Dickey for example—but the commercial pressures felt by these authors were felt...

  5. Chapter 1 Authorship
    (pp. 7-21)

    Authorship in America during the twentieth century has been, strictly speaking, neither a profession nor a trade. This situation has caused difficulty for authors who have attempted to support themselves by full-time writing. Since the Industrial Revolution, the major strategy for organizing white-collar labor within a democracy has been professionalization; the primary method of organizing blue-collar labor has been unionization. Most workers in the literary marketplace—publishers, literary agents, and printers—have become highly organized during this century, and authors have had to deal with them, directly and indirectly in order to transform unpublished fiction and poetry into salable merchandise....

  6. Chapter 2 Publishing
    (pp. 22-33)

    Book publishing, in America and elsewhere, is different from ordinary business. In this chapter we shall examine some of the characteristics that make it distinctive and that affect the author’s ability to earn money from writing. These characteristics include the great variety of the product, the relation of new titles to the backlist, the necessity of cross-subsidization within large houses, the balance between fixed costs and running costs, the importance of the advance, and the struggle for price maintenance.

    The chief factor that makes book publishing distinctive from other business is the enormous variety of its product. “A book is...

  7. Chapter 3 Distribution
    (pp. 34-46)

    The chief problem for the publisher of clothbound books in America during this century has been lack of an adequate distribution system. Because nineteenth-century American publishers did not establish a nationwide system of marketing, twentieth-century publishers and authors have functioned at a disadvantage in business. Two of the most important innovations in book distribution during this century—paperbacks and book clubs—were initiated during the twenties and thirties because trade publishers could not exploit the national market through conventional means. Both new methods tapped into modes of distribution that had already been established. Paperback publishers used the existing network for...

  8. Chapter 4 The Editor
    (pp. 47-76)

    American publishing houses did not always employ editors. Before the 1880s there was usually little division of responsibility within a trade house; the operation was small by modern standards, and the tasks that one associates with editing were performed by the publisher. Indeed the wordeditorderives from the Latin verbēděre, which means “to put forth, give out, publish.” The French wordéditeurstill carries that meaning, as does the English nounedition.

    Editors began to be designated in trade publishing houses during the late nineteenth century when American firms began to be divided into departments. Many of these...

  9. Chapter 5 The Agent
    (pp. 77-102)

    Literary agents began to appear in England in the 1840s, and from the beginning they faced strong opposition from publishers. These early agents were a varied group and offered numerous services, including criticism and revision of manuscripts, marketing of manuscripts to publishers or periodicals, and correction of proofsheets. Many early agents were fronts for vanity publishers and pursued authors of high aspiration but small talent. These disreputable types had much to do with establishing a negative attitude among legitimate British publishers toward agents.¹

    Both Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens had informal literary agents. As early as the 1820s, Scott...

  10. Chapter 6 The Magazine Market
    (pp. 103-113)

    During the 1880s and 1890s, modern mass-circulation magazines came into being in the United States. For the author they provided an important outlet for work and a major source of income. Before 1880, serious authors had only a few respectable magazines in which they could publish—Scribner’s,Harper’s, theCentury, and three or four others. Such magazines were usually allied with book publishing firms and addressed a relatively well-educated and genteel audience. They tended, in editorial philosophy, to pattern themselves after such British models asBlackwood’s, theEdinburgh Review, and theFortnightly. In the 1890s and early 1900s, however, editors...

  11. Chapter 7 Subsidiary Rights
    (pp. 114-143)

    American authors during the twentieth century have had to recycle their work. That is to say, they and their agents have had to discover ways of exploiting fully the subsidiary or ancillary rights that attach to literary property. These are the rights for republication or representation of the text in other forms, for adaptation of the material to other media, and for reuse of the characters in other story lines. A piece of writing—a short story, poem, novel, or essay—ideally should be made to generate income over a period of years, after the initial act of composition has...

  12. Chapter 8 Blockbusters
    (pp. 144-154)

    Since 1950 there have been major changes in the structure, ownership, and financing of the book industry in the United States. The situation should be familiar by now to anyone who is interested in current literature; indeed, it is hardly possible not to have heard about these conflicts in publishing, even if one reads only the newspapers. Briefly the situation is this: over the last twenty years, ownership of nearly all major American trade houses has fallen into the hands of conglomerates. This shift has altered the structure of authority and accountability within the publishing industry. Many houses are now...

  13. Permissions
    (pp. 155-158)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-164)
  15. Index
    (pp. 165-175)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 176-176)