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'A wildly unfair anachronism'

22 March 2004

'There are three essential components in making a book available to the public: the author, the publisher and the bookseller. There are, increasingly, endless hired hands in the interstices, including agents, paper makers, binders, printers, wholesalers, internet booksellers, book clubs and so on. But fundamentally there is the author and those who exploit (sell) his or her work and, as more and more of the latter thrust their oars in, the less the author seems to receive.

It might reasonably be construed that everyone makes or stands to make money out of "the book" - other than the author.

Is this fair? ...

Instead of agents arguing with publishers about percentages received subject to discounts given to book retailers (over which agents and authors have no control) authors should henceforth be paid an actual sum of money per book sold...

The time-honoured device of royalties to an author being expressed as a percentage of different discounts worked well in a different era. It has become a wildly unfair anachronism in our new century.'

The late Giles Gordon, whose memorial service was held last week, in the Bookseller