5.2.3: 1910 - heden - Relationship between publisher and author

In the twentieth century, the relationship between publisher and author became more business-like and formal when compared to the preceding period. Published correspondence between authors and publishers (for instance G. Achterberg and his publishers, A.A.M. Stols and the authors J. Greshoff and E. Hoornik, the publisher C.A.J. van Dishoeck and Karel van de Woestijne) paints a picture of the publisher as employer. Money was a very important issue with authors and bargaining was no longer a disgrace. In 1905, authors founded a union, the Vereeniging voor Letterkundigen (Association of Writers, VVL). One of the VVL's main aims was already achieved by 1912, i.e. better copyright legislation and joining the Berne Convention. During the Second World War, an unusual solidarity among some writers and publishers could be seen. Writers who had fled Nazi Germany were, for as long as possible, harboured by so-called exil-publishers such as Querido Verlag, Allert de Lange and Boekenvrienden Solidariteit, and throughout the Netherlands, clandestine and illegal printing took place as a form of protest against the occupying enemy. The publishing company De Bezige Bij was founded within this idealistic network. Uitgeverij Contact helped literary authors make a living by giving them translation jobs.

The way in which authors were paid still varied from one publisher to another, although the (Koninklijke) Nederlandse Uitgeversbond (Royal Dutch Publishers' Union, KNUB) in 1957 and the VVL in 1959 laid down fixed procedures for their own authors. In 1961 the KNUB and the VVL together drew up a Guideline in order to insure proper contracts between authors and publishers. The so-called 'Standard contract' (also referred to as the 'model contract'), in use around the year 2000, dates back to 1973. In this contract, the author agrees to deliver the text and the publisher agrees to actually publish the text. Derived rights such as film rights and translations are also agreed upon in the standard contract and agreements on promotional activities by the author are often also included. Appearances on radio and television, book signing sessions and interview are essential in attracting buyers to a book. This is true for all genres. In 1965, after the so-called Writers' Protest, a Literature Fund was established by the Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Social Work. This fund supplements writers' incomes. Translators are also eligible for subsidies from the Fund. However, research in 1995 showed that only 29% of literary writers were able to make a living from writing. Poets in particular found it very difficult. Writers earned additional income by writing columns, book reviews or other articles and giving lectures or recitals. For writers of popular fiction, such as A.C. Baantjer and Yvonne Keuls, the earnings could be quite high. Schoolbooks, dictionaries and cookery books earned an author more than a literary novel would, but then again in those genres one usually did not write a new book every year. The publication of an academic book almost always required a subsidy and the author usually did not earn much if anything from it. In the course of the twentieth century, the phenomenon of 'publisher loyalty' increased and at the end of the century every author of any importance would stay with one publisher (and within that publishing company he or she would deal with one editor). Transferring to another publisher always caused a considerable amount of comment. Famous rows were fought out between Carry van Bruggen and Nijgh & Van Ditmar, W.F. Hermans and G.A. van Oorschot, G. Reve and G.A. van Oorschot, Jan Wolkers and Meulenhoff, and Jeroen Brouwers and De Arbeiderpers.

author: L. Kuitert

Relationship between publisher and author