January 19, 2010

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE: TAO OF POOH



 I own a copy each of Benjamin Hoff's two books, The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet, and have wondered sometimes (as you do when you like somebody's work), why the hell there weren't any more books written by him, or rather... as he explains in what I consider to be one of the saddest essays on modern authorship... why there weren't more books published by him. Well, this would be the reason....

FAREWELL TO AUTHORSHIP
And Why We’re Losing Literature
By Benjamin Hoff
 
Imagine, whoever reads this, that you are me.  Let’s start a little over twenty-five years ago.  You have completed approximately one-third of the manuscript for a proposed book you have titled The Tao of Pooh -- a book that is to humorously explain the generally misunderstood principles of the generally ignored Chinese philosophy or spiritual teaching known as Taoism, using the A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh characters.  You have submitted the manuscript-so-far and chapter outlines to Elsevier-Dutton, formerly the independent publisher E.P. Dutton -- the only American publisher, the editor who reads your proposal immediately assures you, authorized by the English corporation The Trustees of the Pooh Properties to publish any book featuring the Milne characters. 
            The editor stalls on a decision for months as you write and mail in chapter after chapter, until the manuscript is practically complete -- at which point you send a letter stating that you’re not going to continue until you receive an acceptance, a contract, and an advance.  The publisher then officially accepts the proposed book and sends you a contract to sign, which grants you a hardcover royalty of 12 ½% (the standard is 15%, but you don’t know that).  You are to be “given” (loaned) an advance of $6,000.
The rest of the long essay can be found here. And it's heartbreaking to read. Because I know what he is talking about, as anyone having read the very first post of my blog can see.