Letter from Leonard Woolf to Norman Leys (06/08/1924)

  • image of a typescript letter from Leonard Woolf to Norman Leys (06/08/1924)




[[MS 2750/255/20]]


[a Certificate of Posting of a Registered Postal Packet is stapled to the letter, postmarked Rodmell, addressed to Norman Leys]


Monk's House
near Lewes


6 August, 1924


My dear Leys,


I enclose chapters XI and XIV which I have got back from the printers in order that you may finally revise them.


I now have (1) a complete copy unrevised which I will sent on to whatever address you may wish and (2) the whole of the revised version excluding chapters XI and XIV which I am now sending you.


As soon as I hear from you finally in answer to my letter of 4 August, I will tell the printer to go ahead.


The profits must be entirely at your disposal and there is no need to insert anything in the contract. I consider 10% of the published price a fair commission for publishing a book of 12/6 net; and if the publisher is not taking any risk but publishing as an agent, he should take no share in the profits. Whatever you do, dont [sic] be too optimistic--it is better to be agreably [sic] than disagreeably surprised. The more that I see of the book trade, both as author, publisher, and editor, the more surprised I am at the small number of copies that really good books sell and the large number of copies that bad books sell. The public is educated to like bad or silly books and books that say the same dreary old things over and over again. The fact that I know your book to be very good is no criterion for its sales at all. A serious book may have the most appreciative reviews and yet may not sell more than a hundred or two copies. There are three reasons for this: (1) the public, as I say, is definitely educated by the press &c[sic] to like silly books; (2) certain publishers ruin the book market by overproduction; and (3) the price of books is much too high.


Yours sincerely | Leonard Woolf [signature]

Rights Statement:

Reproduced with permission from Penguin Random House UK Archive and Library owner of the Hogarth Press archive collection, held by the University of Reading Special Collections. With thanks to the Society of Authors This item has not been made available with a CC BY-NC-ND licence. Please see the terms of use page for further information.

Source: MS 2750/255/20

Letter from Leonard Woolf to Norman Leys (06/08/1924)


University of Reading, Special Collections

Archival Folder:

Leonard Woolf encloses chapters for Leys to revise and has a complete copy that he would like to send. He discusses profits and considers 10% commission enough. Woolf talks about often being surprised by sales, and that it is better to be agreeably than disagreeably surprised. Woolf also comments on the publishing industry, stating that the public are educated by the press to like bad and silly books, whereas serious books which have good reviews, may not sell well.


Typescript letter signed by Woolf