“Tillotson’s Fiction Bureau was created in the 1870s when the Bolton Evening News owner W F Tillotson wrote letters to authors inviting them to syndicate their stories in newspapers. This meant that the authors were paid for their stories by Tillotsons who then sold them on to other newspapers including those published in America. Many of the replies to these letters are held in Bolton Museum and The Bolton News Library holds copies of these. Numerous famous authors wrote for the bureau, including, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, H G Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, E Nesbit, George Bernard Shaw and Arnold Bennett.” Quoted from The Arnold Bennett blog.

In the Introduction to the 1954 Penguin edition of The Grand Babylon Hotel Frank Swinnerton writes that Bennett’s first dealings with Tillotson’s was as a buyer. He edited Woman, a weekly, and was a regular customer of their syndicate. Their rep didn’t respond favorably to Bennett’s suggestion that Tillotson’s commission him to write a serial for them. Bennett responded that he was already at work on a serial, and that they’d regret it if he let some other syndicate have it. This empty boast he immediately set about rectifying by starting to write his first serial, For Love and Life (subsequently published in book form as The Ghost). He completed it in 24 half days selling the copyright for £75. The Grand Babylon Hotel was his second serial, took him fifteen days and sold for £100. The serial appeared in the paper The Golden Penny and was published in book form by Chatto and Windus in 1902.

These rates of remuneration seem pretty good. But Wilkie Collins had been offered £5,000 by Smith Elder for serialization of Armadale in their Cornhill Magazine, no doubt for both serial and volume rights. We have also seen Smith Elder’s extravagance in the case of George Eliot’s Romola. Syndication continues of course, and no doubt some are doing well out of it. Unfortunately for serious writers the interest in such literary properties has waned.

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