The Publishing Ministry


Chapter 21—Writers and Royalties

Justice and Love Side by Side—I have been repeatedly shown that we must sacredly guard the interests of God's cause as well as the interests of His chosen people. I was shown that those who preside over these institutions should ever bear in mind that there is a Chief Director, which is the God of heaven. There should be a strict honesty in their business transactions in every department of the work. While there should be firmness in preserving order, there should be compassion, mercy, and forbearance incorporated into their characters. Justice has a twin sister, which is love. These should stand side by side.... PM 230.1

The board of directors should ever act as under the divine eye, and with a continual sense that they are only finite men and are liable to make mistakes in judgment and in decisions and plans unless they are closely connected with God. As they are only weak and erring men themselves they should feel kindness and pity for others who may err.... There should be the cultivation of universal kindness with every worker. Seek counsel of God first, for this is necessary in order for you to properly counsel together.—Letter 34, 1886. PM 230.2

Author Has an Individual Stewardship—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. PM 230.3

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.... PM 231.1

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. PM 231.2

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. PM 231.3

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. PM 231.4

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. PM 231.5

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. (See also Testimonies for the Church 5:563-566; Testimonies for the Church 7:179-181.) PM 232.1

Publishers to Deal Justly With Writers—In the past, publishers have placed themselves as God, to dictate, to control, to manage as they pleased, and to lord it over God's heritage. They have done a deceptive work in dealing with authors. I have been taken into private councils, and have heard the plans laid down. Men have managed to make an author believe that his work is naught, and that they do not want to have anything to do with the book. The author has no means. He feels that his hands are tied. Men talk and think over the whole process, and succeed in bringing him to their terms, to take the royalty that they offer on the book. PM 232.2

The dealing with ----- was not true and righteous in all its points. Justice was not done to him. The effort made to grind down ----- and to obtain possession of books, had made a most miserable showing, driving him to an opposite extreme. Men's brains have been bought and sold.—Letter 43, 1899. (Selections from the Testimonies Setting forth Important Principles Relating to Our Work in General, 211; Special Instruction Regarding Royalties, 4.) PM 232.3

Each Person to Manage His Own Business—The Lord would have every person manage his own business and handle his own talents. He does not desire His people to give away the only means they have to invest in His cause for their individual selves. PM 232.4

Some think that only a portion of their means is the Lord's, but this is a mistake. All is the Lord's. All should feel their accountability to appropriate the means as the different necessities of the work shall demand. There are poor to be helped. If you put out of your power the talents lent you by God to do this work, you are held responsible for the work you should have done. You place man as God, and he feels fully authorized to use the purchased talents just as he pleases, when he might listen to the calls for help. You put it out of your power to do the work you feel impressed to do. PM 233.1

All that we have, every dollar, belongs to God. Wise trading is to be done, and every man and woman is to pray and work and study and plan, all the time acquiring a more correct knowledge of how to work. This is the plan of God. There are men acting a part in the work of God who would help in an emergency, but they have placed thousands in the hands of other men to use for them. They have given over their stewardship to another. Did the Lord plan it thus? No. He would have used them to lift up the standard of truth.—Letter 43, 1899. (SpTPW 221.) PM 233.2

E.G. White, James White, and Royalties—Some years ago the matter of publication of books came up, and plans were laid, which I cannot now fully call to mind. A decision was made something like this, that no one individual was to be benefited by the publication of his own books. A proposition was then made to us, which my husband ... assented to, that the publishing association should have the benefit of his books. PM 233.3

I was considering the matter and thought like this: I wish the testimonies to go to as many as possible; they are a message from God to this people, and I wish no personal benefit from this work. Thus we stated the matter. But shortly after, I was shown that this was not wisdom, to relinquish our right to control our own writings; for we would know better how to use the profits of these books than would those who had far less experience. Publications were to be multiplied, and the profits we would receive would enable us to lead out in the advancing work, to build up the interests of the cause and to carry others with us in the work. There was a principle to be maintained to guard the interests of the true workers. PM 233.4

We were not the only ones who would be affected by this decision. Justice must be maintained; the cause of God would be continually widening; it would embrace the whole world as its field; the wants of the cause would not be determined by one man's mind and one man's obscure vision; there would be important work done in God's moral vineyard, and no man should feel that part of the work over which he presides is to swallow up all other interests.... PM 234.1

It was shown me that my husband and myself should not be dependent upon others, because there would be men connected with our institutions who have been educated and trained as businessmen of the world, and they would make us feel our dependence, if they had the chance; for all men are not in character as God would have them, tender, compassionate, and Christlike. He would have us guard the means entrusted to us and use it in different branches of His work, stimulating others, by our example, to invest in the different enterprises.—Letter 14, 1886. PM 234.2

Royalties Invested in the Work [After her death in 1915, royalties on the Ellen White books were used to reimburse the General Conference for having liquidated all debts against her estate. By arrangement between the White Estate and the General Conference, royalties on her many books today are the property of the General Conference. The General Conference in turn allocates an annual budget to the White Estate, which always exceeds in dollars the income from royalties. No member of the White family benefits so much as a dime from the fact that Ellen White was an author.]—There seems to be a constant drawing upon me for money, while but very little comes in. Yet notwithstanding my great necessities, I would be unwilling to make any move that might appear to be unfair to our publishing houses. PM 234.3

I have, as you well know, invested means largely in the building of meeting houses, and in starting various enterprises in Australia. I have also given thousands of dollars of my royalty on books to help the work in Europe and have then, at times, borrowed money with which to pay my own helpers. PM 234.4

At one time I received word that it was difficult to get means for the translation of some of my books in the European languages. I said, “I will give my royalties on these foreign books for this purpose.” At another time a brother in Europe wrote to me, “I have a thousand dollars that is due you on the sale of your books. Could not you let us have a portion of this to help in the education of young men and fitting them to engage in missionary work?” PM 235.1

In reply I wrote, “Keep it all, if you can only train young men to go out and labor as missionaries. I will continue to pay interest on money in order that I may give this to you as a donation.” This is how Sister White is becoming rich. I have been laying up my treasure in heaven, and ... I will not draw back.—Letter 106, 1908. PM 235.2

I must use the income from my books to the best advantage for advancing the work here [Australia]. I see so many things that must be done in order to make even a beginning, to raise the standard in these new fields. From every direction I hear the Macedonian cry for help, “Come over and help us.” I also have calls to assist young people to attend school, and also to open primary schools in different localities where the children may be educated. This is work that must be done. PM 235.3

I wish to make some additions to Christian Education [published in 1893], and then if the Review and Herald wishes to carry it, they can do so if they will pay me a small sum as royalty, to be invested in the education of many who cannot attend school and pay their own expenses. In Melbourne I bore the expenses of no less than fourteen. During the first term of the school in Cooranbong I carried several through school, paying their board and school expense.—Letter 7a, 1897. PM 235.4

Publishing House to Receive Its Share—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. PM 235.5

Unless care is taken, the market will be flooded with books of a cheap order, and the people will be deprived of the light and truth which it is essential they should have to prepare the way of the Lord. This has been done, and will be done again, unless right principles control in the publishing work.—Letter 43, 1899. (Selections from the Testimonies Setting forth Important Principles Relating to Our Work in General, 218, 219) PM 236.1

Problems in Paying Back-Royalties—When men are converted, there will be a clearing up that can never be done by any mere investigation you may endeavor to make. It would be useless now to try to arrive at exact justice in all past transactions. By doing this, you would place yourself in a hopeless puzzle. Some have received all the royalty they should on their books. The Lord does not require the Review and Herald office to do the intricate work of apportioning to each author a sum on back-royalties. By doing this, you would make a worse error than has been made. This proceeding would awaken in some a selfishness that would prove a great injury to them. I might name many persons, but I forbear. PM 236.2

Come now to your senses, and do not create a second error. Let us consider these matters. Those who handle the books should have a fair remuneration for their work. But let me tell you that should such a move be made as you propose, all authors would feel themselves at liberty to put in claims in accordance with the estimate they place upon their books. There would be a representation of selfishness that would astonish you. Now, brethren, your dearth of means at the present time is the result of just such selfishness. It has been introduced into the work when it should not have obtained a breath of life, but been strangled to death at the beginning. God abhors the practices that have been followed. Do not now open a door to let Satan in where he can work with human minds. Do not give those who have made books an opportunity to destroy themselves. The most selfish, irrespective of the present dearth of means, will consider themselves of such consequence that they will draw away from the publishing house the last penny that they can obtain, and God would be ashamed to call them his brethren. PM 236.3

Let us not open a door whereby Satan shall find easy access. We want large, sound souls. The windows of the soul must always open heavenward. We must see that the danger is great in the work of reconsidering past royalties and making restitution. Some who have received all the real value of their books will think them of much greater value than they are. Their windows are opened earthward and not heavenward. Throw open the windows heavenward, and let the sunshine of Christ's righteousness in, and the windows of the soul now opened earthward will close of themselves. PM 237.1

No one can have been hurt financially more than I was hurt when The Great Controversy lay for nearly two years dead in the office. Just work was not done in this matter. The book Bible Readings was crowded in before Great Controversy, which was already printed, and which should have been placed in the canvasser's hands first because it contained important matter, which the people needed to have as soon as possible. It seemed that I was mocked because of my intense earnestness in regard to that book, and what it might have done had it not been dropped as it was, and through unsanctified influences and selfish, unprincipled methods shut away from the people. This was a dishonest transaction toward me, and it was unfaithful stewardship toward God. PM 237.2

But I would not now take any restitution money. I accepted the lowest royalty on my books, under a most solemn promise that they would be pushed forward vigorously. This promise was not kept. There was fraud in the management. But I want no restitution; I want no increase of royalty for any books of mine sold in the past. God forbid, when the pressure is strong and means limited, that I should draw one penny from the resources for the carrying forward of the work. PM 237.3

I have felt it my duty in a number of cases to forgive debts that have been incurred by my brethren, and I have now a heart to forgive all the debts that have been incurred against me by the publishing institution from first to last. I call upon my brethren, all who have had books, small or large, published, to stand with me in this matter. Those who put too large an estimate on their own productions cannot rightly estimate souls. These are the very ones who will draw, whether or not they are entitled to anything. Let the sponge be passed over the board containing the figures, and let all say Amen. Let each appropriate his share as an offering to sustain the work of God.—Letter 43, 1899. (Selections from the Testimonies Setting forth Important Principles Relating to Our Work in General, 214-217; Special Instruction Regarding Royalties, 9-12.) PM 237.4