It’s better to offer authors more

Michael Mont, the fledgling publisher in To Let, the third volume of Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga, puts Soames right on the matter of author payments.

‘People are quite on the wrong track in offering less than they can afford to give; they ought to offer more, and work backwards.’

Soames raised his eyebrows.

‘Suppose the more is accepted?’

‘That doesn’t matter a little bit,’ said Mont; ‘it’s much more paying to abate a price than to increase it. For instance, say we offer an author good terms – he naturally takes them. Then we go into it, find we can’t publish at a decent profit and tell him so. He’s got confidence in us because we’ve been so generous to him, and he comes down like a lamb, and bears us no malice. But if we offer him poor terms at the start, he doesn’t take them, so we have to advance them to get him, and he thinks us damned screws into the bargain.’

I wonder if any current publisher considers this argument when negotiating terms with an author or their agent.

John Galsworthy, To Let, 1921