"Enslaved to Publishers"

United States
July 30, 2008 11:30pm CST
What do you make of this quote? "The man who makes his sole living from the product of his brains does not use them in disposing of his wares. He remains the slave of publishers who have enriched themselves from his labor, while he thoughtlessly plods on, apparently content with a few crumbs from the feast which he has provided for them." - John Baincroft, "Shall Writers Combine", page 65, The Writer, Vol. VI, No. 4, April, 1892. (The full text is available online at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26128/26128-h/26128-h.htm
1 person likes this
2 responses
• Philippines
31 Jul 08
It says that the writers are underpaid by their publishers. But I can't agree to that because thought its true that the writer is the core of the writing community, it is the publisher who has the more difficult task of not only making the book get published, but also the publisher has to assume so many roles such as publicist, organizer, manager and even motivator and commentator for the author. Like all good things in this world that needs a pair the writer needs the publisher and likewise the publisher needs the author.
@movicont (495)
• United States
31 Jul 08
Uhm, I don't think that's what it says. I won't deny that publishers have a huge role in getting a book out to the masses, but the quote is saying that, by writing for a publisher, writers are constrained to certain topics--they are "slaves" because they must write what can be published. Writers are unable to freely express themselves if their free expression does not bring their publisher (and them in bypass) profit. Basically, the perfect image of a wage slave.
1 person likes this
• Philippines
31 Jul 08
I see, but then again writers are not confined to the topic that publishers alone dictate, or are they? With today's modern era the writers can freely express themselves a lot easier nowadays. They can post in blogs and the like. I don't really believe that writers are confined and molded by their publishers because if they can't write what they want with passion how can it possibly be any good?
1 person likes this
• United States
31 Jul 08
I appreciate both of your thoughts in this discussion. Publishers do have a huge role to play in getting writings out there to be purchased - getting books stocked in bookstores, publicity, etc. I have heard at least one author complain that the publisher may put the book in the bookstores and into the publishers catalag - and this does give a book a considerable amount of exposure - but the "publicity" part falls heavily on the author to go out and promote the book for sales. This particular author then decided to go out and publisher his books himself. He did not sell ten of thousands of books that a traditional publisher would need to sell in order to earn a profit; he sold hundreds and thousands of books - which was enough for a small writer/publisher like himself to be able to earn a living. Perhaps back in the 1890s when this quote was written, publishers had more control over what was said and over what was not allowed in print. But even today, what traditional publisher is going to dedicate paper to something that is not going to turn a dollar? Interesting thoughts. Thanks to both of you!
@WATARIKENJI (1534)
• Philippines
31 Jul 08
Writers has the freedom bacause they live on ideas. They are free to think and its a good form of freedom.
1 person likes this
• United States
31 Jul 08
I agree with you that thinking is a freedom in itself. The author criticizes writers who do not think. They put themselves into "slavery" by not thinking. They do not think because they sell their "thinking labor" out for a lower price than it is worth. And yet it is a great irony that they do not think about their earnings, because their job is "to think" - that's what writing is - thinking, and putting those thoughts into fixed form. At least, that is what I think that the author is saying.