The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)
My reference in last month's issue to N.Z. book-plates has evidently aroused interest. I learn that at least two of my readers have commissioned an artist to design plates for them. Also, since I wrote the paragraph I have discovered at least four new N.Z. plates, and have received from Miss Jane Mander a copy of a beautiful wood-cut designed for her by an Auckland artist. There are very few wood-cut plates by New Zealand artists, and this one is really outstanding.
This month I am reproducing on this page a truly bookish plate designed many years ago for the late R. Coupland Harding by D. H. Souter, the famous creator of the “Bulletin” cat.
As anticipated by me some months ago a branch of the famous P.E.N. Club has been formed in New Zealand. The first meeting was held in the Turnbull Library. Miss Jane Mander, who was present, outlined the activities of the organisation in England. She pointed out that only recognised writers were eligible. The publication of one book alone would not qualify a writer for membership. The literary position must be maintained and generally recognised. As the English rules have been adopted by the New Zealand branch the membership will be a restricted one. Dr. Guy H. Scholefield, O.B.E., has been elected as the first President of the New Zealand branch. President-in Chief in England is Mr. H. G. Wells.
“K.M.” (Kaituna) writes to me as follows:—
“Glancing through January's ‘Among the Books,’ I came on your ‘longest word’ paragraph. The ‘Tetramethyl …’ example was promising, but neither ‘anticonstitutionistically’ nor ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ are to be passed lightly by. But I like to think that ‘unhypersymmatricoantiparallel elepipedicalisationalographically’ is the great-grandsire of them all. I found him among a collection of news cuttings in an old scrap-book lately, and he seems to be quite vouched for. I understand the word comes into scientific terminology—which fact probably accounts for the general impression that Science can explain anything if given sufficient time.”
I must say that “K.M.” wins in a canter. However, with the help of my good, friend Harry Stowell (“Hare Hongi”) I nearly beat him with the following Maori place name: Tetaumataokiokingawhakatangitangihangako auauatamatea. Out of consideration for the lino, men I will declare this correspondence now closed.
There is no harm in launching another possible controversy. It concerns, not the length of words, but the difficulty in spelling them. The following short sentence, made up of English words in common use, was submitted to a London editor with an expression of doubt as to whether one in five readers would get full spelling marks in dictation: “A harassed pedlar met an embarrassed saddler near a cemetery to gauge the symmetry of a lady's ankle. This manoeuvre they performed with unparalleled ecstasy.”
That valiant Wellington publisher, Mr. Harry H. Tombs, is proving that it is possible after all to run a magazine or two in this country. His monthly, “Music in New Zealand,” a valuable and remarkably well informed magazine, has just completed its third year of existence. Then, better still, “Art in New Zealand” continues serenely on its way after nearly six years of good work in the fields of art and literature in this country. In its latest issue the quarterly features the work of the young Wellington artist, Mr. Fred H. Coventry. His poster work is a revelation. Mr. Coventry also contributes a valuable article on poster designing. Two wonderful plates in colour illustrating the work of Maud Sherwood are included in the issue, also a monograph on her work by Mr. J. S. MacDonald. Everybody interested in the artistic development of this country should be a subscriber to this publication.
Have you ever seen an auctioneer's assistant blush? I have. It happened during a recent book-sale in Wellington. It is customary for the hired assassin of the auction room to open and display any outstanding book which is being put up for sale. It happened that a volume of famous pictures in colour was on the list. The assistant selected a likely page, and was about to raise it aloft when he looked confused, hurriedly lowered the volume and chose another picture, grew slightly red in the face, and had another try, but the nudes still pursued him. It would have been alright had not some lady bidders been seated in the front seats. By the time he had selected a suitable picture a broad grin had travelled around the room, and then the auctioneer's assistant really blushed.
Budding novelists in this country will be keenly interested in the announcement in “The Bulletin” that a prize of £100 is to be offered annually page 38 for a work of fiction from Australian or New Zealand writers. The prize has been offered by Mr. H. K. Prior to recognise the services to Australian and New Zealand literature by the late S. H. Prior, editor of “The Bulletin” for eighteen years. It will be known as the S. H. Prior Memorial Prize. Royalties at the usual rates will be paid for on sales of works so published in which entrants will retain all property rights, except world rights, which will be controlled by the trustees.
While on the subject of novel writing and royalties. I have numerous inquiries from writers as to what profit if any, there is on a first novel. Well, here is the information, right from the horse's mouth, being a quotation from a very recent article written by Mr. ‘W. A. R. Collins, Director of William Collins, Sons and Co.:—
How much does an author get for his first novel? Probably about #40 advance on account of 10 per cent, royalty; but this, too, varies considerably among the different publishers and according to the possibilities of the book and the promise of the author. Some publishers will pay #100 advance for a very remarkable first novel; such an advance would cover the sale of about 2,500 copies, for the agreement would probably be to pay the author 10 per cent, of the 7/6 price of each copy up to 2,000, 15 per cent. from 2,000 to 5,000, and 20 per cent. from there upwards. The average first novel will sell anything from 500 to 1,500 copies, and the author is unlikely to receive more than the original advance—a poor reward for what is often a year's hard work! A very good sale for any novel, first or otherwise, is 4,000, on which the author would net just under #200. Some people, I know, think that the author has the worst of the deal and that the publisher takes the greater part of the profit; but how often is a publisher left, admittedly through his own fault, or rather sanguiness, to face the deficit? Take the case of a novel selling 800 copies, for which the publisher will receive about #200; the author will have had his advance of #40; another #40 will have to be spent in advertising; #5 will need to be spent on a design of the wrapper; the setting would cost about #30, and the manufacturing cost would absorb another #30, leaving #55 to cover all the heavy overhead charges of the editorial, publicity, and sales organisation, and allowing a net profit of perhaps #20 or #30, or less than the author himself has got out of it. If you cannot write as much as a book a year, you will have difficulty in making a success of a literary career to-day.
As announced on this page a few months ago, the second volume of “Legends of the Maori,” one of the biggest publishing efforts made in New Zealand had been decided upon. The second volume is now well under way and should be available in a few weeks time. I understand that although the work was originally mapped out to cover four vols. the second will be the final book.