Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be

From Publishing Perspectives:

Our headline, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, is the title of a musically unexceptional but lyrically relevant stage comedy from 1959—if you can understand the cockney dialect and British allusions.

It was written by the brilliant Lionel Bart of Oliver fame.

I thought you might be interested in the following publishing “fings” which “ain’t wot they used t’be.”

. . . .

In 1975, when interviewing me for a job at Oxford University Press, the recently-appointed personnel manager asked me if I was, by any chance, of the “Jewish persuasion.”

He reassured me that it would be perfectly okay if I was, as they already had “one of them” on the staff.

Diversity is now a core objective of most publishers and while there may be quite a way to go, the profiles are significantly less white, less male, and less privileged than they were back then—which must be a benefit to business, customers, and society as a whole.

. . . .

On the production front, the 1970s were a time of change from hot metal, letterpress, and sewn-binding printing to phototypesetting–and now, of course, digital–litho, and “perfect” binding.

There were many pitfalls along the way as we learned the new technologies and then, decades later, had to unlearn them. The one thing I remember above all else was that a correction on a proof cost £1 (£7.50 in today’s money, US$10.06).

Getting it right first time was an economic necessity. It’s now desirable but getting it wrong is more affordable.

. . . .

There have been literary agents since the beginning of time but a major and largely unnoticed change has been the almost universal shift from the standard commission of 10 percent of an author’s earnings to 15 percent and sometimes more.

I can’t think of any other part of the book value chain that has managed to increase its share by 50 percent, although a few very big retailers have tried and are getting close.

In addition, literary agencies have morphed from being an individual’s business or a small partnership into intellectual property corporations in their own right with all the consequential changes in administration and culture.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG doesn’t recall if he’s mentioned this before, but, a very long time ago, when he worked at a large advertising agency in a large city, he went down to the printer to examine the first copy of his client’s full-page print advertisement which would appear in a bunch of magazines shortly.

He examined it right next to a big, hot newspaper printer. After he approved it, his escort told the pressman to wait until they got a distance from the printer before starting it. He couldn’t hear that particular machine start up because the noise from a lot of other huge printers was overwhelming.

1 thought on “Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be”

  1. I love the whole “fings” (things) thing in British speech. I didn’t realize it was limited to Cockney. Maybe some of PG’s UK participants here can weigh in on whether this is a regional or class thing, and/or how it came about. It cracks me up every time I’m watching a TV show or movie from across the pond.

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