Sunday, January 8, 2012

Upton Sinclair On The Politics of U.S. Publishing Industry

In his 1937 message "To the Reader" that preceded the text of his 1937 book about Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company's hidden history, The Flivver King: A Story of Ford-America, U.S. left-wing writer Upton Sinclair wrote the following about the politics of the U.S. publising industry:

"Thirty-five years ago I dedicated my life to the cause of justice for the American workers. In the course of those years I have published fifty-nine books and plays. Some have been successes, some failures. When I made money, I have spent it to finance new books, or to circulate the old ones. Nineteen times, by actual count, I have been forced to deal with a new publisher, because my new book was considered too dangerous by the old publisher. On as many occasions I have had to publish the new book myself, because it was too dangerous for any publisher I could find.

"The last experinece was with a novel called No Pasaran! (They Shall Not Pass): A Story of the Battle of Madrid. This was an effort to help the new Spanish democracy, and I sold most of them below cost. The significant fact is that not one of the literary organs of this country, not one of the big newspapers of New York, so much as mentioned the book. Yet it was judged worth publication as a serial by a leading newspaper of Paris, and was advertised on billboards all over that city; in six months it has been published serially in a score of different languages, and has been published or is being prepared in book form in a score of countries. It has been published by the government in Spain, and is being made into a motion picture in Barcelona.

"The books of Upton Sinclair have been issued in more than seven hundred editions in foreign countries, including more than forty different languages, practically all those spoken by civilized peoples. The foreign sales have amounted to more than ten millions. But the job of getting these books to the people in my own country has been a hard one, because books are sold for high prices in America, and the people for whom I write books have little money. Now a new labor movement with enlightened leadership has been born; and this brings me great satisfaction, because I have been calling all my public life for mass unions of the workers. I am glad to have my books read by the men and women who are going to build the happy society in which our children will live, and I am content to get along without the honors and applause which a writer wins by catering to the leisure class booktrade."

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