12 December 2013

Why am I self-publishing on this site? This is emphatically not because I believe that all books still in copyright – any more than music and films – should be freely available to everyone on the internet, for the obvious reason that their creators need to earn a living. (I felt strongly about this before at least five of my own books were pirated.) Nor is it because I think that the days of the physical book are behind us. Instead, the reasons for my decision in this case are as follows: (1) I am retired from the University and so have no career reasons for publishing research monographs ‘properly’; (2) there is little if any money to be made from handing a manuscript of this sort to an academic publisher, while as a rule trade publishers do not accept unsolicited works (they must go via a literary agent, which I do not have); (3) I should reach a much wider audience, one which includes those who cannot afford the high price of monographs and do not have ready access to good libraries; (4) in principle, I retain complete control of my intellectual property – I have neither to license nor assign my copyright on this book to a commercial enterprise; (5) I avoided having to spend at least four full working days creating a proper index because the PDF is searchable; (6) I avoided having to fill in a sheaf of forms for a publisher; (7) I avoided the real risk of having to arm-wrestle a comma-spraying copy editor and spend days poring over the edited manuscript to make sure that here and there my meaning had not been inadvertently altered (believe me – it happens), although a first class copy editor is a boon to any author; (8) I was able to set out the book exactly as I liked (this included using my preferred method and style of citation, and footnotes rather than endnotes); (9) I was able to include coloured illustrations; (10) having learned sufficient over the years about how to present a manuscript, I hope you will agree that I have been able to make a reasonable stab at producing something that looks like a proper book, although I confess that I was defeated by trying to work out how to right-justify the page numbers on the table of contents in Word 2003; (11) I was able to write it to any length I pleased (this turned out to be a little under 70,000 words); (12) I was able to work to my own deadline rather than to one that had to be agreed with a publisher long in advance, like an aircraft take-off slot (for understandable reasons, publishers are as likely to refuse manuscripts delivered ‘too early’ as ‘too late’ – this has happened to me as well); (13) I was able to give the book a title of my own choice (academic publishers consult authors over titles but for commercial reasons insist on the final say); (14) having finished it, I was able to have the book published within hours of delivery (in fact overnight!) rather than have to wait for this for anywhere between six months and a year – and even then not be guaranteed that it would appear because of the get-out clause included in all of the publishing contracts I have ever seen (although in practice it is rare for authors to suffer on this score); (15) I can easily bring out a new edition at a moment of my choosing when mistakes or new discoveries come to light; and (16) while publishers promise to take action to defend copyright (and I have had more than one occasion to be grateful for this), piracy is now so endemic that it seems evident they lack the resources to do anything but protect their most profitable titles – hence this argument for giving them a research monograph falls away. The more I think about it the more I think I would have been mad to adopt any other course than to make this book free online. I hope you will read my new book because Grenville-Murray was not just a highly controversial but also very intriguing character; and he made an important and hitherto overlooked contribution to diplomatic reform in Britain, as well as to the Victorian novel and the founding of popular journalism. He has also been remorselessly misrepresented in other books and biographical reference works. No full-length biography of him has been attempted before.