Yep! That’s what someone asked about the price of my book on the J.M. Barrie site. And, I must admit, I fell over laughing when I read it. Of course, a few minutes later I became quite depressed (we artsy people change moods at the drop of a dime) if other potential buyers were also turned off at that price. Certainly $45 is not cheap. I chose McFarland Publishers for several reasons, one being that not many other publishers were exactly jumping on the idea for a revised edition of The Peter Pan Chronicles. As I had another book my agent was peddling at the time, I was not too interested in revising Chronicles. In the meantime, I was directing, writing, and sometimes acting in local plays at school or in local Norfolk theatre, one of which, “A Child’s Garden of Verses”, a one-act play that I am quite proud of, which is featured on youtube in three ten minute segments:
Then, about four years ago, I received a call from John McGlinn, the conductor, requesting information on Peter Pan for a project that he was working on for Samuel French, Inc. During the series of late night telephone conversations that followed John asked me why I had not revised Chronicles. Replying that I did not think anyone would be interested he pooh poohed me, stating that he had a copy of my book on his nightstand and that I must work on a new edition. Of course I doubted that someone like John McGlinn would indeed have a copy of my book on his nightstand but when he passed away a few months later I gave serious thought to his suggestion. And when I called McFarland they quickly expressed interest.
In 1993, when Chronicleswas published, it had cost me about $9,000: for the research, going to England, Yale, Harvard, rentals of photos, collecting ephemera to illustrate the book, etc. During the two years before handing in my new manuscript to McFarland I probably spent that and much more. You see, many of the photos and illustrations are
from institutions and private collections and there were fees that ranged from $35 to $300. The photographers themselves, such as Sophie Baker in England, or Christopher Willoughby, representing his late father’s works, charged very little. And Photofest in NYC was quite generous in their support (I still owe them money which I hope to pay at the end of this month). The songs in the book each came with a steep fee for publication rights. In fact, I was not able to use the lyric to “The Sweetest Things in Life” from the Marilyn Miller production as it would have added an additional $750 to the overall price of permissions. The song was written in 1924. If it had been written a year earlier it would have been public domain and I could have used it for free. I paid about four hundred dollars just to have many large posters scanned only to find out that a few would actually be used in the book. And of course, there was my stay in England for almost 4 weeks in the summer of 2009 where I interviewed and did research at the V & A Theatre Museum. If not for my friend Richard Tay inviting me to live in his London flat during my stay I would never have been able to afford it all. Please understand that never in my mind did I fool myself into believing that I might make a profit on such a venture. This was definitely a labor of love. However, as McFarland, which primarily sells to libraries, has a small imprint and offers authors generous percentages (they don’t sell their books in bulk at very low prices to big name stores and on-line book dealers in which the author’s cut is then literally pennies) this is perfect for such a unique subject as Peter Pan On Stage and Screen. My book will not go out of print. So, to answer the person who asked, “Is it written in Mary Martin’s blood?” the answer is no, it was not: It was written in my blood. Perhaps, after looking through a copy in a library, he might think it worthwhile to own his own copy. If not, no sweat, as the reader still sought to find it in a library. It’s all good!