The last of the royalties

This month marks a personal turning point in my life. For the first time in 45 years I will be generating no income from employment; hereafter I must describe myself as an active old age pensioner. The last of my University appointments, as a Visiting Professor at Kingston Business School, ended in December and, with one exception, I am unlikely to receive any further royalties from publications.

I shall miss the teaching. I have always found contact with students to be invigorating and the abler ones offer challenges that ensure that you keep up your work up to date. This contrasts with my old-fashioned grammar school, where bored teachers were able to sleepwalk through the same routine year after year. I have however adjusted to the loss of royalties.

In my time I have written seven books; the last one was published in 2007, with a foreign language edition appearing three years later. The total royalties from all these books over the last year looks to be heading for a total sum of £11.27 – a figure I will submit in my tax return for 2015/6.  In addition there may be an equally derisory amount to come in from an electronic publication. As well as making it freely available on my website I put Labour’s failure and my small part in it: a memoir for my grandchildren into a Kindle Desktop edition. To my surprise a handful of people have chosen to access it through this route.

The £11.27 marks a bit of a triumph. This is an unexpected royalty cheque for a book, A Handbook for Training Strategy, which that was published in 1994 (with a second edition appearing five years later); it was easily my best seller. Remarkably 20 years on four copies were sold in 2014 and 2015: two in the UK and two overseas. The work is now hopelessly out of a date and, if there was a way of contacting these purchasers, I would feel obliged to offer them a refund.

Now to turn to the exception. Last week I received a wholly unexpected communication from a German publishing house. They are undertaking a major initiative involving the digitisation of previously published books with a view to creating a large electronic repository. A small part of their initiative involves their purchase of the back catalogue of Macmillan publications and one of mine has been included. This is my first book, an immature volume published in 1978, and entitled Socialising Public Ownership. They have given me the alternative of declining their offer of electronic publication, and relying on the continuing royalties, which I confidently expect to be zero, or accepting one-off fee. This fee will depend on the sales of all the books in this Macmillan catalogue and is estimated at falling in the range £3 to £70: I suspect that it will be well towards the bottom end. This one-time fee is to be paid in 2018 and, after careful calculation, I have taken the rational decision of accepting their offer.

In the meantime I shall rely on my pension income.

Socialising Public Ownership

First published 1978 – and never a good seller

2 thoughts on “The last of the royalties

  1. Don’t spend it all at once. I agree with you about the (poor) standard of teaching in grammar schools. I have never shared some of my fellow pupils’ enthusiasm for their schooldays. I think it reached its nadir at a careers evening, if that’s not too grand a description of the event (and it is) just before I took my O Levels in 1967. I walked into a classroom where an old (as it seemed to my teenage self) chap was sat behind a desk. There was a large pile of booklets on the desk. “Have you thought about a career?” he asked. “I want to be a journalist” I replied. “Oh” he said. There was a longish pause. “Have you thought about joining the coal board?” he said eventually. “Will that help me become a journalist?” I replied. “I have no idea,” he admitted, “but I have all of these leaflets about the coal board to get rid of.” I took one and went to leave the room. “And remember,” he said to my retreating back, “if you join the coal board, you are guaranteed a job for life.” So much for the wisdom of your elders.


  2. You may have enjoyed the Coal Board. I was there from 1968-86 and to quote from my political memoir ‘Labour’s failure’ (see above)

    By this time I had acquired a considerable affection for the coal industry and for my colleagues at Hobart House, the headquarters of the National Coal Board (NCB). It was well managed, despite the dominance of mining engineers who created a macho and firmly anti-intellectual culture. For some time, mining engineering had been the only university engineering subject for which there were more places than applicants. Hence any candidate for an electrical, mechanical or civil engineering course who failed to get the required grades would be offered a place to read mining engineering through what was known as the clearing system. As a result many of those entering the Coal Board, far and away the largest employer of mining engineers, were amongst the least academically gifted.
    This was brought home to me in stark terms when I was undertaking recruitment interviews in 1981 for our graduate management scheme (known as the milk round). I was interviewing a young man whose father was a senior mining engineer in the most successful coalfield; I had encountered the father on a number of occasions. His son, like the father, was pleasant enough but reading his form it was evident that he had achieved little at university, either academically or socially. He struggled in the interview so I gave him an easy question to assist. It was: “This year we have received over 50 applicants for every place on the scheme. What is it that I can write down here as a recommendation that you should go forward to the next stage?” At this point the young man realised that this was his only remaining opportunity and, after thought, came up with: “My father says that a lot of employers are looking for intellectual and energetic graduates. From what he knows of you lot at Hobart House you’re not like that and I’d fit in well.”


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