Letter by CJD to George Robertson 1915.03.23

107 Burke Road
Camberwell, Victoria
23 March 1915

Mr Robertson
Messrs Angus and Robertson
Dear Sir,

Mr Bertram Stevens writes me to say that he has spoken to you about a series of rhymes of mine entitled "The Sentimental Bloke". Most of these have appeared in the Bulletin, and I now wish to have them published in book form.

With an eye to the greatest possible profit, my present idea is to have them published first by subscription (a limited edition) with a cheap edition to follow later.

My scheme is this: supposing I secured, say, from three to five hundred subscribers at 5/-, would you be prepared to quote me a price for printing and publishing the book and sending it out to the subscribers? Terms, in this case, to be cash. Then, later on, would you be prepared to issue a cheaper edition - say, at 1/- - on a royalty arrangement?

Seeing that the sale of the subscription edition would pay for the setting up - which you will see is not a very big item - I should expect a fairly large royalty on the cheap edition. On my first book, Backblock Ballads, I am receiving 10 per cent on published price up to three thousand copies and 15 per cent over that number; but, in this case I should expect better terms than that.

I send you, by this mail, a MS. copy of "The Sentimental Bloke" complete except for the glossary, which will run to about ten or twelve pages 8vo. Also, I am asking Henry Lawson to do me an introduction which will probably run to two or three pages and will be a good ad.

It will be necessary to print on paper that bulks well, and to "bump out" as much as is consistent with an artistic get-up.

I am having fourteen decorative designs done by Hal Gye, these to face the opening of each rhyme (see dummy). These are not illustrations of the text, but more or less aesthetic decorations which will help to balance the coarseness of the dialect.

I shall defray cost of initial circulars to possible subscribers, of whom I am pretty confident I can secure at least three hundred at 5/- each. I shall also pay for the originals of the illustrations.

Before discussing any particulars regarding the format of the subscription edition, I should be glad to know if you are willing to act as publishers. I propose to issue this edition in May or June next. I have very little doubt that the cheaper edition will be profitable both to myself and the publishers, because the stuff, while not having any considerable literary merit, is, I believe, extremely popular. I hear of it from all parts of Australia. Also, I can be sure of good notices from a large number of newspapers.

I shall inspect various bindings, etc., during the next week, and, if you are willing to undertake the publication, shall let you know more definitely what style of book I want.

Trusting we may come to some satisfactory arrangement,

Yours Truly,
C.J. Dennis

PS. In no case would I part entirely with the copyright of the verses.

From Dear Robertson: Letters to an Australian Publisher edited by A.W. Barker.

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002