On Wednesday, The New York Times “Bits” blog reported on the surprising resurrection of John Brooks’ Business Adventures, a 1969 book long out of print. On his Web site, Bill Gates called it “The Best Business Book I’ve Ever Read” and added that he still has the copy Warren Buffett lent him. Behind the scenes, Gates helped coordinate an effort that led to the book’s republication and instant bestsellerdom.
As it happens, John Brooks, who died in 1993, was not only the “masterful storyteller” Gates hailed, but also a tremendously influential figure in the history of the Authors Guild. He served as our President from 1975-1979, and before that as Vice President and Treasurer. In a time of upheaval in the publishing industry—consolidation among publishers, new copyright legislation, changes in tax law—Brooks made sure the Guild was one of the strongest voices defending American writers.
Brooks led the Guild in a prolonged campaign against several publishing industry mergers, testifying in Washington and urging government investigations into acquisitions that would, the Guild argued, “continue the trend of concentration that has destroyed the independence of many major publishing companies.” The Guild’s protests were cited as key in stopping at least one failed takeover.
Brooks and the Guild were also instrumental in advocating for the Copyright Act of 1976 that brought American laws in line with the rest of the world, as well as for the establishment of the Copyright Clearance Center. He also put into motion a successful fight to get publishers to expand liability insurance for their authors.
Brooks established a Contracts Committee whose surveys of the Guild’s membership led to the 1981 revision of the Guild’s Recommended Trade Book Contract. That essential document has evolved into our Model Trade Book Contract & Guide, currently in the final phases of a new revision to be released later this year. After finishing his two terms as President in 1979, Brooks assisted the Authors Guild and the Authors Guild Foundation with their 1979 study on writers’ income, published as The Wages of Writing: Per Word, Per Piece, or Perhaps.
Like many of you, we now have an extra reason to read Business Adventures, a collection of “twelve classic tales from the world of Wall Street.” And we salute John Brooks, whose labors had a lasting impact on the Authors Guild and on the profession of writing.