Counsels to Writers and Editors


Chapter 23—The Author's Stewardship

The Brain Worker's Capital—Brain workers have a God-given capital. The result of their study belongs to God, not to man. If the worker faithfully gives to his employer the time for which he receives his pay, then his employer has no further claim upon him. And if by diligent and close economy of moments, he prepares other matter valuable for publication, it is his to use as he thinks will best serve the cause of God. If he gives up all but a small royalty, he has done a good work for those who handle the book, and he should not be asked to do more.—Testimonies for the Church 5:563 (1889). CW 162.1

The Author's Interest—God desires to bring men into direct relation with Himself. In all His dealings with human beings He recognizes the principle of personal responsibility. He seeks to encourage a sense of personal dependence, and to impress the need of personal guidance. His gifts are committed to men as individuals. Every man has been made a steward of sacred trusts; each is to discharge his trust according to the direction of the Giver; and by each an account of his stewardship must be rendered to God.... CW 162.2

In all our dealing with one another, God desires us carefully to guard the principle of personal responsibility to and dependence upon Him. It is a principle that should be especially kept in view by our publishing houses in their dealing with authors. CW 163.1

It has been urged by some that authors have no right to hold the stewardship of their own works; that they should give their works over to the control of the publishing house or of the conference; and that, beyond the expense involved in the production of the manuscript, they should claim no share of the profit; that this should be left with the conference or the publishing house, to be appropriated, as their judgment shall direct, to the various needs of the work. Thus the author's stewardship of his work would be wholly transferred from himself to others. CW 163.2

Accountability to God—But not so does God regard the matter. The ability to write a book is, like every other talent, a gift from Him, for the improvement of which the possessor is accountable to God; and he is to invest the returns under His direction. Let it be borne in mind that it is not our own property which is entrusted to us for investment. If it were, we might claim discretionary power; we might shift our responsibility upon others, and leave our stewardship with them. But this cannot be, because the Lord has made us individually His stewards. We are responsible to invest this means ourselves. Our own hearts are to be sanctified; our hands are to have something to impart, as occasion demands, of the income that God entrusts to us. CW 163.3

It would be just as reasonable for the conference or the publishing house to assume control of the income which a brother receives from his houses or lands as to appropriate that which comes from the working of his brain. CW 163.4

The Writer's Spare Time Productions—Nor is there justice in the claim that, because a worker in the publishing house receives wages for his labor, his powers of body, mind, and soul belong wholly to the institution, and it has a right to all the productions of his pen. Outside the period of labor in the institution, the worker's time is under his own control, to use as he sees fit, so long as this use does not conflict with his duty to the institution. For that which he may produce in these hours, he is responsible to his own conscience and to God. CW 164.1

No greater dishonor can be shown to God than for one man to bring another man's talents under his absolute control. The evil is not obviated by the fact that the profits of the transaction are to be devoted to the cause of God. In such arrangements the man who allows his mind to be ruled by the mind of another is thus separated from God and exposed to temptation. In shifting the responsibility of his stewardship upon other men, and depending on their wisdom, he is placing man where God should be. Those who are seeking to bring about this shifting of responsibility are blinded as to the result of their action; but God has plainly set it before us. He says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” Jeremiah 17:5. CW 164.2

A Just Share of the Profits—Let not authors be urged either to give away or to sell their right to the books they have written. Let them receive a just share of the profits of their work; then let them regard their means as a trust from God, to be administered according to the wisdom that He shall impart.—Testimonies for the Church 7:176-178 (1902). CW 164.3

A Reasonable Sum for the Authors—The publishing house should receive their share of the profits from the books published. This should be proportionate to the work they do in getting out notices, etc. But let the publishers be careful not to claim that they are the ones who do the greatest amount of work in preparing these books for the market. Let the authors take a reasonable sum for their work, but they are not to sell their right to any institution. This will not be a blessing to the institution.—Special Instruction Regarding Royalties, 13 (1899). CW 165.1

A Difference in Books—I received your statement in reference to the royalties on books.... CW 165.2

There is, and ever will be, a flood of books issued if a large remuneration is given to authors. The little story books written are not a great tax on the writers, neither are books of this character of vital consequence to the world. A difference must be made in the books written. They cannot be classed together.—Special Instruction Regarding Royalties, 3-4 (1899). CW 165.3

Use the Pen to Bless the Cause—Let men and women who have a burden to produce books, work to bless the cause of God by the use of their pens. Let them work, and if they have an income from their work, let them make use of that income to do their part in uplifting the standard of truth where God shall direct. Let them seek counsel from God. Let them believe the promise of Christ that He will send the Comforter to teach them all things and bring all things to their remembrance.—Special Instruction Regarding Royalties, 18 (1899). CW 165.4