From Fourth International, vol.3 No.8, August 1942, p.226.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for the ETOL.
The Business Manager is away on a well-earned vacation, and I should like to use this opportunity to talk to the literature agents and salesmen and women who are responsible for the distribution of the Fourth International.
Your letters to this office are primarily occupied with ordering bundles, sending in subs and payments, etc., but also include comments on your opinion of the latest issue and the opinion of those to whom you have sold it. Do you know how eagerly and carefully we read those comments? For they are our most important means of knowing how the magazine is being received.
Unfortunately some literature agents, all too modestly, consider their business with this office limited to naming the size of their bundle order and sending in payments. They appear unaware of the fact that they have the opportunity, much more than the editor, of knowing just what readers are finding of value (as well as what they don’t like!) in the magazine.
Other agents content themselves with reporting that the latest issue was very good. Such reports are perhaps flattering but not very informative. Precisely what articles made the latest issue satisfactory – that is what we would very much like to know.
Which articles are our readers finding of particular interest from month to month? Which ones do they find of little interest? Do they mention subjects which they would want to see dealt with in the magazine? These are some of the questions which the literature agents and branch organizers can answer for us and the answer to which would undoubtedly result in an increase in circulation of the magazine.
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In addition to reporting the reactions of readers, literature agents and organizers should encourage readers to write their own letters to Fourth International, not only to make general comments on articles but also to make specific criticisms of points they do not agree with. We should be only too glad to publish such letters and to attempt to answer their objections. Such correspondence would be interesting not only to those who write it but to all our readers, for it would undoubtedly bring the magazine closer to the problems which are preoccupying our readers.
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Occasionally an enterprising literature agent or branch organizer finds an article of such value that he or she requests that the article be reissued in pamphlet form, and usually this is possible, especially if the branch which requests it is prepared to place a substantial initial order for the pamphlet. Recent examples of this were the New York Organizer’s request for turning into a pamphlet Albert Parker’s Roosevelt and the Negroes in the May 1942 Fourth International; and Chicago’s request for Art Preis’ America’s Sixty Families and the Nazis in the June 1942 issue, which will shortly be published as a pamphlet.
Were these the only articles immediately useful as pamphlets or did it just happen that New York and Chicago were on their toes while similar opportunities are not being utilized? The question cannot be answered here without much, much more comment from the branches on the uses to which they can put the material appearing in Fourth International.
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Once we begin to think in terms of what problems are of interest to various groups of readers or potential readers, new opportunities appear for sales. We have gotten into the habit of thinking of Fourth International as not “popular” reading matter, because it operates on the level of scientific propaganda and not of agitation. But the war is posing all big questions so sharply that scientific articles which might under other circumstances appear as heavy reading are today of vital interest to many audiences. New York enterprisingly demonstrated this recently when it sold a considerable number of an issue featuring articles on India on the street outside a mass meeting on India. Similarly a number of agents reported sales by comrades to their shopmates of issues featuring articles on the monopolies and inflation.
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Sales per branch membership are best, reports show, where the literature agent or organizer sees to it that there is a monthly educational meeting given over to a report on the contents of the latest issue. And some of the most valuable hints to the editor have come from letters describing the questions and criticisms offered at such educational meetings.
In short, the literature agents have invaluable information for the editor. In turn, the consequent improvement of the magazine means more sales. The division of labor between the circulation setup and the editorial and writing section must not become so compartmentalized that we never get together to pool our knowledge. For our part, we solemnly pledge to answer publicly or privately every letter received.
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Last updated on 21.8.2008