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Walter BesantThe Business of Literature and the Pleasures of Reform$
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Kevin A. Morrison

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620351

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620351.001.0001

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Besant, Chatto, and Watt

Besant, Chatto, and Watt

An Income from Fiction in the 1890s

(p.113) Chapter Six Besant, Chatto, and Watt
Walter Besant

Simon Eliot

Liverpool University Press

Walter Besant was a very successful novelist in the late nineteenth century but his income never quite matched his popularity, which rose in the 1880s and slowly fell thereafter. He did not use the royalty system in his contracts but instead sold his copyrights either outright or for a limited term to book, magazine, and newspaper publishers. This was probably an expression of his doubts about the longer-term success of his work. He was one of the earliest significant novelists to use the services of A. P. Watt, the first formal literary agent in the UK. Watt was able to farm Besant’s literary property by splitting it into UK book rights (usually sold to Chatto and Windus), foreign book rights, first serialisation rights, second serialisation rights, and syndication in various newspaper and magazine markets in the USA, Europe, and British Empire. In the 1890s Besant earned an average of £1,750 for each of his major novels. Besant claimed that Watt had increased his income significantly. There is evidence that Watt did have an effect, but that Besant becoming a solo writer after 1881 – and gaining securer income in the USA from the Chace Act (1891) – were the more important factors.

Keywords:   Walter Besant, Chatto and Windus, Contracts, Copyright, Income, Literary agent, Royalty, Serialisation, Syndication, A P Watt

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