January 13 - Two-For-One Sale

Story topics

On January 13, 1900, a letter was sent from the Doubleday & McClure publishing house to Paul Laurence Dunbar regarding The Love of Landry, an unusually short Western novel he had recently written while living in Colorado.  The main part of the letter was from Henry Wysham Lanier, business secretary at Doubleday, to Edwin C. Martin, an editor and co-owner of McClure's Magazine.  Martin then wrote a note across the top of the letter and forwarded it to Paul.

[Written by Henry Wysham Lanier to Edwin C. Martin]

I hope you have explained to Mr. Dunbar the reasons for our long delay in giving an answer regarding "The Love of Landry."  As you know, under ordinary circumstances we could only report that 29,000 words is hardly enough to make a book of.  But we are just starting a series of "Short Novels" (very nicely gotten up, bound in cloth, to be sold at 50 cents) for which we anticipate a large sale.  We can't pay more than 10% royalty as we are putting the price way down in order to place a whole lot of the books.  Would Mr. Dunbar be willing to let us bring out "The Love of Landry" in this series with the understanding that we shall have the first chance at his next long novel?

[Written by Edwin C. Martin to Paul Laurence Dunbar]

Here is Mr. Lanier's answer to me for the Doubleday & McClure Co. regarding handling your book.  You can confer directly with them.  But if you don't make a deal with them, I hope you'll give us a chance at the book.

Edwin C. Martin to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 13, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

Paul declined their proposal and The Love of Landry was published by Dodd, Mead & Co. at a royalty higher than that offered by Lanier.

Parties of the second part shall pay to the party of the first part a sum of money equal to fifteen per cent of the retail price of each and every copy of the said work sold by them or for them, up to ten thousand copies and upon copies exceeding ten thousand a royalty of seventeen and one-half per cent shall be paid.

Contract for The Love of Landry, June 14, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).

Despite Paul's refusal, Lanier made it clear that Doubleday was still interested in publishing his work.

While we naturally regret that you don't feel able to accept our offer, there seems to be no alternative except to return the manuscript, as you request.  Allow us to say that we shall be glad to have you consider our offer still open:  that is to say, if you don't make just the arrangement you wish elsewhere and decide that you wish to accept the proposition we made, you need [not] have the least hesitation about telling us.  We hope you will remember that we are much interested in your work, and that we shall consider it a favor at any time to be allowed to consider any manuscript of yours.

Henry Wysham Lanier to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 22, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

In a newspaper interview a few months later about his third novel, The Fanatics, Paul jokingly referred to the complications he encountered trying to find a publisher for The Love of Landry.  Because the book was so short, publishers were willing to accept it only if Paul promised to give them The Fanatics also.

I have a novel almost completed which is to be brought out this fall by Dodd, Mead & Co.  The last time I was in Chicago I told a reporter I was writing it.  While in Colorado I wrote a story of 30,000 words which I submitted to an Eastern publishing house.  They wrote to say they accepted it with the promise that I give them the novel I was reported to be writing.  I was obliged to refuse because it was already sold to Dodd, Mead & Co.  The manuscript went to three other publishers and I received the same reply.  So you see the reporter is to blame for my still having the manuscript on hand.

"Negro Poet's Work."  The Daily Inter-Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).  May 8, 1900.  Page 5.