Letter from Leonard Woolf to Norman Leys (03/11/1925)

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[[MS 2750/255/89]]


Norman Leys Esq. M.D. 
near Derby


3 Nov. 1925


Dear Leys,


I do not understand your attitude to estimates.


(1) My letter of 16 July was in answer to one of yours sending me an estimate of Unwins and asking me for criticism. I criticized his figures of costs of production which included certain items, but not commission. Every letter of mine up to that of 4 August was as you knew written without my having sent the MS to the printer but over and over again I said that the costs of production (including a larger sum than Unwinx)[sic] for advertizing) ought to be or might be round about £300. Actually they were £299-10-10 1/2 including £34 for advertizing as against his £10 and including £6-10-0 for maps which were specifically excluded from his estimate.


(2) My letter of August 4 was the first to give you a definite and specific estimate. It gave you not, as Unwin did, a round sum, but a specific and definite figure foreach [sic] item of the costs of production. In no case has the actual expenditure on any of these items been above or below the estimate I gave you by more than a few pounds, and in fact the total expenditure on all these items together has exceeded the estimate by 19/7 1/2 [19s 7 1/2d]. This was the estimate on which you were to make up your mind whether or not to do the book. How much more accurate ought it to have been?


(3) I did not include the commission in the costs of production and this is made quite clear in the estimate which gives not a round sum but a definite sum for each item in the costs of production. I did not include it because Unwin had not done so and you wished to be able to compare the two estimates.


(4) The estimate in my letter of 4/8/24 of a profit of £35 if the edition sold out was based as you say of a selling price of 12/6. We sold at 15/---which makes the original estimate all the more accurate.


The moral of this is that no human being will ever be able to give





you a more accurate estimate for a book than the above. I certainly have never made a more accurate estimate, as proved by results, for any book. I cannot pretend to give you a more accurate one for your second edition cheap edition. I want you to be quite frank on the subject, i.e. if you think you can get a more accurate one, I shall be in no way offended if you take the cheap edition out of our hands and go to another publisher.


In my office copy of the rough estimate which I showed to you (and of which a copy was supposed to have been sent to you) for the cheap edition (which, by the way, has your writing on it) provision is made for commission. If, however, you decide to leave it with us, I will let you have an estimate worked out in every detail --only you must not expect that it will turn out accurate to the last farthing. A variation from an estimate either way of 10% is not usually regarded as excessive.


Yours sincerely

Rights Statement:

Reproduced with permission from Penguin Random House UK Archive and Library owner of the Hogarth Press archive collection, held by the University of Reading Special Collections. With thanks to the Society of Authors This item has not been made available with a CC BY-NC-ND licence. Please see the terms of use page for further information.

Source: MS 2750/255/89

Letter from Leonard Woolf to Norman Leys (03/11/1925)


University of Reading, Special Collections

Archival Folder:

Leonard Woolf writes regarding estimates and lists his letters where he has shown his calculations. He also confirms his accuracy and that he will send a more detailed estimate. He reminds Leys that an estimate will never be wholly accurate and variations will occur.


Typescript letter unsigned