Manuscript Releases, vol. 20 [Nos. 1420-1500]


MR No. 1433—Inadequate Royalties on Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4

(Written to J. H. Waggoner and C. H. Jones, March 7, 1885, from Healdsburg, California.)

I have read your letters once, and will read them more carefully later, but I find nothing in them to lift the weight from my mind in regard to arrangements for the publication and sale of my books. 20MR 48.1

I accept the explanations you make in regard to the draft. I have not laid up anything in my mind against you over this matter. However, I feel more and more convinced that I should never again allow myself to be left at the mercy of my brethren as regards means, if I can avoid it. 20MR 48.2

From the light that God has given me, I am more and more convinced that you are acting unwisely in investing so much means in buildings. Since debts are now bearing you down, like weights of lead, I would advise you to “hug the shore” more closely in this respect. When you have means with which to build, then it will be time for you to increase your facilities. Bring your work within the limits of your resources, even if you must thereby endure great inconvenience. This is the light that God has repeatedly given me for you. It would be pleasing to God if you were to give this matter more careful study than you have given it. 20MR 48.3

With reference to my book, I desire to say that I am not complaining because I think the office has been receiving too much for publishing it, but because I am not satisfied with the income it brings to me. Some plan should have been devised whereby more than fifteen cents royalty per copy would come to me. I do not remember that I was ever consulted regarding this matter. I thought that my brethren would guard my interests as sacredly as they would their own interests or the interests of the office. I know where to apply means to help the cause fully as well as my brethren know where to apply my means for me. 20MR 48.4

I have just received a letter from Brother Ostrander in which he defends Brother Hamilton, against whom I made the charge that he appropriated means belonging to me and used it for his own convenience, building a house in Boulder. To make a bad matter worse, he exchanged this building for land in Longmont. This land was mortgaged, and it became necessary for me to invest six hundred dollars to lift the mortgage, in order to avoid losing all that Brother Hamilton used. Thus about two thousand dollars, which I greatly need, is tied up. 20MR 48.5

And now Brother Ostrander proposes to relieve me of all further difficulty in regard to this property, by taking it off my hands. The mission in Colorado is embarrassed, and the proposition is that I donate to this mission the two thousand dollars tied up in this property. My brethren may feel ready to give me this kind of relief, but I am not ready to accept their proposition. 20MR 49.1

My brethren of wise judgment could have managed my book—Volume IV [Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, the predecessor of The Great Controversy.]—in such a way that relief would have been brought to me. They could have published a statement to the effect that this book had cost me much time and money to prepare and put on the market; and that, as I had pledged largely for the support of missions—no less than three thousand dollars—in addition to meeting other heavy expenses, the profits on the first edition of this book would go to the author to reimburse her for a portion of the heavy expense incurred; that the profits on the second edition would be divided between the canvassers and the author. Thus you could have helped me, but you did not. 20MR 49.2

Hereafter I cannot put implicit confidence in all the plans you devise and execute, so far as my work is concerned. I will keep on the lookout for a manager, and when I find one who is suitable, I will employ him. I will not trust my book interests with my good brethren who plan in such a way that a certain portion of the profit is taken off by this one and by that one, and only a very small portion is left for me. 20MR 49.3

All your explanations and figures do not help me at all. My books are selling well, and yet I have scarcely enough money to procure the necessary things of life; and when I send to the office for funds, there comes to me the oft-repeated reply, “You have overdrawn your account.” My helpers are not paid for the work they have done. I am carrying a heavy burden of debt, on which I pay interest. My books are constantly sold in large numbers, and yet the profits bring me but little relief. 20MR 49.4

Matters are so arranged that those who write books cannot receive proper compensation, because the books go through so many hands that the profits are consumed in this way. Whether canvassers, or tract and missionary societies, or whatever it may be that brings about this result, I protest against such an arrangement. If we should revive the old plan of our ministers disposing of the books and receiving part of the profits themselves, I believe there would be a better state of things than exists today. Under present arrangements, it seems as if almost everything is absorbed by the tract and missionary societies, leaving very little profit for the author. I shall have something more to say on these things. 20MR 49.5

Only the expense of publishing and selling my book, Vol. IV, should have been taken from the profits. The rest should have been saved for the author. No canvassers were needed for Vol. IV. It could have been sold without going to all this expense. I am not satisfied with the result. Those who have felt that they were doing me justice by awarding me fifteen cents for each copy sold have erred in judgment. 20MR 50.1

The notice of the higher prices placed on the book should never have been published. No explanation of this was made at the time. If nothing in explanation could have been written, the notice would better have remained unpublished. 20MR 50.2

I will make no rash moves, but I cannot submit to the arrangements made. They are unjust. The money used in paying canvassers for selling the first edition was misspent, for I should have received the profits on that edition. I know where to use this means to the very best advantage, and yet I have nothing to use in any way. I economize in every way possible, and still do not have sufficient to meet running expenses. 20MR 50.3

I am sick at heart and discouraged over the present state of affairs. If the notice of the advance in price had been published before the first ten thousand books were sold, it would have been far better. I have trusted too much in my brethren. I regret making this mistake. In the future I must look after my own interests more closely.—Letter 15, 1885. 20MR 50.4

Ellen G. White Estate

Washington, D. C.,

January 22, 1989.

Entire Letter.