Letter from Leonard Woolf to Norman Leys (16/07/1924)




[[MS 2750/255/4]]


16 July, 1924


Dear Leys,


Personally I do not think that Unwin's offer is one which you should accept. There are several points which I do not understand:


1.The figure £350 seems to me extraordinarily high. We have just published a novel of over 100,000 copies words and the cost of printing and binding 1000 copies comes to £160. I do not know how much in Unwin's figure is allowed for expenses of advertizing (he ought to specify this at any rate) and distribution but they cannot possibly exceed £50, I should say. In that case even 1500 copies ought not to exceed £250 or at most £275, excluding maps. Of course I have not seen the MS, but even so I cannot conceive a book of 126,000 words costing more than £300 to produce.


2.Under the first system proposed by him he is to account for all copies sold at two-thirds of the published price less a commission of 15%. If the commission is 15% of the amount which he accounts for, it is not unreasonable as a commission. If it is 15% of the published price, I consider it too high. He ought to make this point quite clear. In his first letter he says nothing about travellers commission; in the second he says that this must be deducted--I do not understand this-- you should not agree to this.


3.His second offer I consider even more unfavourable. As far as I can see, under it you put down £100 and you will only just get repaid if 1000 copies are sold. But if 1000 copies of a book of 126,000 words are sold at a published price of 12/6, there ought, I consider, to be a clear net profit of at least £100, and I should be very surprised if it were not more.


4.My own opinion is that Unwin is far too optimistic as regards sales, and would be much less optimistic if he were producing the book on an ordinary royalty basis. If you are producing a book of this kind at 12/6, I would certainly not print more than 1000 copies (or possibly 1100) to start with, and I would not bind up more than 500. If you sell 1000 copies, you will be extraordinarily luck [sic]. (I have sold 300 copies or so of "Empire and Commerce in Africa" the handling of which has been





by Unwin himself. The number of people who are interested in this kind of book (published at 12/6 remember) is very small. If you sell 500 copies, you will have done well; if 1000 copies, extraordinarily well; if 2000, well--


I would publish this book for you myself. I would print 1100 copies. I would charge you exactly what it cost to print, bind, advertise and distribute, and nothing else. I would account to you at two-thirds of the published price plus a commission of 10% of the published price. Without sending the actual MS [Manuscript] to the printer, one can say nothing definite, but if the total cost to you of the first edition, even if you spent a considerable sum on advertizing, exceeded £300, I should be amazed.


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

Source: MS 2750/255/4

Letter from Leonard Woolf to Norman Leys (16/07/1924)


University of Reading, Special Collections

Archival Folder:

Leonard Woolf writes to advise against Allen and Unwin's offer and lists reasons why. Woolf presents his own offer.

Typescript letter signed by Woolf