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.