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American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900

By James L. W. West III

Publication Year: 2010

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.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. xi-

I began this book in 1981-82 as a Fellow at the National Humanities Center. I wish to thank the administrators and staff members there who provided support-particularly Kent Mullikin and Wayne Pond, who organized a conference at the Center cluring the spring of 1982 on authorship in America. I am also grateful to the Fellows of my class for their...

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pp. 1-6

This book is an examination of authorship and the literary marketplace in Arnerica since 1900. I have concentrated on the careers of novelists, poets, and short-story writers and have given relatively little attention to jour- nalists, dramatists, and screenwriters, although I have exanlined the careers of several poets and fiction-writers who worked as journalists, ...

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Chapter 1. Authorship

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pp. 7-21

Authorship in America during the ninetieth 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...

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Chapter 2. Publishing

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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 ...

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Chapter 3. Distribution

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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 nation- wide system of marketing, twentieth-century publishers and authors have functioned at a disadvantage in business. Two of the most important...

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Chapter 4. The Editor

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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...

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Chapter 5. The Agent

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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 ...

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Chapter 6. Thc Magazine Market

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pp. 103-113

During the 1880s and 189os, modern mass-circulation magazines cane 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, the Century, and three or four others. Such ...

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Chapter 7. Subsidiary Rights

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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 ...

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Chapter 8. Blockbusters

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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 litera ture; indeed, it is hardly possible not to have heard about these conflicts in publishing, even if one reads only the newspapers. Briefly the situation ...

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pp. 155-158

I am most grateful to the various libraries at which I have done archival research during the preparation of this book. For permission to publish information from the Random House Collection and from the Paul Revere Reynolds, Harold Ober, and Curtis Bro\vn Collections I thank the Rare Book and Manuscript Division of the Butler Library Columbia ...


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pp. 159-164


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pp. 165-172

E-ISBN-13: 9780812204537
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812213300

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2010