March 22, 1944
Mr. Ralph E. Lewis
Freston & Files
650 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, California
Dear Mr. Lewis:
I am enclosing the best-seller lists which you requested. Please do not send them off to Mr. Chambers, as these are the only copies I have. Please return them to me after taking the dates and such information as you may need.
These lists are from the Sunday Book Magazines of the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune. They are considered the best-seller lists of the publishing business, the ones by which a book’s success is judged. They differ from each other in that they are taken from different stores; the Times list represents an average drawn upon all the stores of a given city; The Herald-Tribune list gives individual stores. This last is the oldest such list in the country and is, I believe, considered as the most indicative one and the most important.
You will notice that “The Fountainhead” first appeared on the Herald-Tribune list on June 11—it is listed on the side, among “books reported by two stores.” It stayed there for three weeks, then vanished, and reappeared on July 16, when it rose to the list proper, with four stores reporting. This is the time when the first disastrous break occurred—because the book sold too well and Bobbs-Merrill were caught out of print. The book reappeared on August 13 and stayed on the list steadily, week after week, until—October 1, when it rose to the highest number of stores reporting that it had ever reached—5 stores. This is where it had really hit its stride and was climbing steadily. And this is where Bobbs-Merrill killed it. They were out of print in October—and you have Mr. Chambers’ letter admitting this.
The Times list is less steady for all books (except top best-sellers). You will notice that the breaks in the Times list co-incide with those of the Herald-Tribune. July and October were the months when the book vanished from both lists.
The lists I am sending you are the only ones on which the book appeared. I did not save those where it was not
listed. You may check on them in the library, if you wish to see whether this is so. Since I came to California, I have not been buying the New York papers, but I have watched the lists from the copies here at the studio—and the record is as follows:
The book appeared on the Times list on: December 12, December 19, January 16, January 23, February 6. It appeared once on the Herald-Tribune list—two weeks ago (I did not take down the date), listed on the side, by two stores. I have not seen last week’s lists yet.
Now in regard to Mr. Chambers’ letter—I think that we should now ask a written and official statement from him, a letter of agreement to the effect that since the plates are made they will be kept for me to buy at whatever time Bobbs-Merrill decides that they need the plates no longer; that such plates will not be destroyed under any circumstances and at any time, but will be preserved for my purchase. This, I believe, will put Mr. Chambers on the spot; if he really has the plates, he will be legally obliged to keep them.
I think we must confront Mr. Chambers with his lie in respect to the book being out of print (as he admitted in one letter) and not being out of print (as he said in the last.) In your letter to me you speak of proof which Bobbs-Merrill “Would not dare to deny.” This is one instance of lying which is beyond denial.
I think we must also question at once his statement that the OMNIBOOK matter is “closed.” If he thinks we don’t know it, we must let him understand that we know it is up to me to decide whether this is closed, not up to him.
Please let me see the draft of the letter you will send to him. If there is any other information or proof you need, please let me know.
With best regards,