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#2585: Willa Cather to Alfred A. Knopf, February 10 [1928]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ K 2/15 FEB 13 1928
Filed by
Dear Alfred1;

I have not written3 you, as I expected to be in New York4 at this date. My father5 has been very ill for the last two weeks, his second attack of an angina, and that has kept me here. The things I want to discuss with you are hard to take up by letter.

The demand for the Archbishop6 seems a mixed blessing, as even now there seems to be no very adequate method of satisfying it. As I telegraphed you last night, the dealers here and in all the little towns about have been trying get books from McClurg7, Chicago8, to fill the orders of a few patient friends who were not able to get the book for Christmas. Finally McClurg wrote the dealer here that they had ordered the books to be sent direct from the publisher to Grice & Grimes9, Red Cloud. So far, they have not come. If all these little town dealers in Nebraska10, Kansas11, Colorado12, Iowa13, who always order from McClurg, can't get books, isn't there something wrong with the method14 of distribution? They tell me all their orders for "Antonia"15 are filled quickly and without trouble.

I have been here nearly three months, and in all that time the book has not had a fair chance in this little town, or in ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ this part of the state. I don't know about Omaha16, but it has been impossible to get the book in Lincoln17 part of the time. I've had so many complaints from Catholics all over the country that I'm afraid there has been the same difficulty in getting books, East and West.

When you decided not to give the "Archbishop" any individual advertising18, then I understood that it was up to the book to sell itself if it could. But how can it sell itsef itself if it is not printed, and if the jobbers don't carry it? It was out of print for a week or ten days at the most critical part of the selling season. Only ten days, but they were the ten days before Christmas. However, that's over. The point I raise is, why is it still so hard to get books?

I shall start east in a week or ten days, as soon as I feel that it's quite safe to leave my father19. I'm your personal friend and admirer, now and always, but I don't think you've given the Archbishop a flattering show of your interest and attention. With any personal enthusiasm behind it, I feel sure the book would have done much better. But we can talk of these things much better than we can write of them. I write a devilish hand at best and I've been under a considerable strain since father fell ill.

Faithfully Willa Cather