Emanuel Haldeman-Julius : Pocket Series and the Little Blue Books

Resources for Collectors: Torch Bearers in the War on Ignorance!

There are about as many reasons collectors become interested in Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and the Little Blue Books as there are titles in the series. For most, however, no trivial part of the attraction is the stable of authors who contributed to the inventory.

In the earliest days of publication, at the time of The Appeal's Pocket Series, Haldeman-Julius relied upon well-known authors whose works were of approachable copyright; figures like Oscar Wilde, Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, Robbie Burns, even Haldeman-Julius himself. As the series evolved (and changed names) and the wealth of titles expanded, so did the scope of authors involved. It was through this expansion that Haldeman-Julius displayed a talent that would serve him most admirably over the next three decades: his ability to cultivate, in times even discover, writers capable of generating mass appeal.

Perhaps the most often-touted example of this talent is the case of Dr. Will Durant. Durant and Haldeman-Julius both remember the details of their first encounters somewhat differently, but what is certain is that Haldeman-Julius was able, in quick order, to sidetrack Durant from his life as a lecturer with the promise of a profitable future in writing. Durant agreed to write a number of booklets on the topic of philosophy, each examining the life and thoughts of a particular philosopher: Nietzsche, Aristotle, Plato, Voltaire, and other such luminaries. Haldeman-Julius had long suspected such works would have significant appeal amongst his readers, and firmly believed Durant to be the right person to bring these works to life. He was correct. The popularity of these booklets brought welcomed profits to both author and editor, but this would be merely a footnote to their true impact. In 1926, these Little Blue Books would serve as the foundation for Durant's notable volume The Story of Philosophy, a work which would not only propel Durant's writing career to new heights, but prove instrumental fodder for the recently formed publishing company Simon & Schuster.

Dr. Will Durant is certainly not a rare case in the annals of Little Blue Book publishing. A variety of authors would see their stars rise, or popularity enhanced, thanks to their involvement in the series. Pulitzer Prize winning author Upton Sinclair was a long-time collaborator with Haldeman-Julius, and responsible for over 20 Little Blue Book titles (including multi-volume releases). Influential lawyer Clarence Darrow, of "Scopes Monkey Trail" fame, contributed to some 30 Little Blue Book titles. Wallace Henry Thurman, a pivotal figure of the so-called Harlem Renaissance and founding father of its self-proclaimed "Niggerati", published one of his early works Negro Life in New York's Harlem: A Lively Picture of a Popular and Interesting Section as Little Blue Book #494. As the Little Blue Book series grew in size and readership, so did its attractiveness to authors.

In January 1924 Haldeman-Julius would advertise the arrival of the 500th title in the series - a stunning volume of works to have been produced in but a handful of years. This publishing cadence, however, would pale by comparison to what would follow in the latter-half on the 1920's when the series grew by hundreds of titles each year, virtually tripling in size by the close of the decade. The enthusiasm with which Haldeman-Julius brought titles into print displayed obvious passion and ambition for the growth of the series, but his words almost trivialized the results: 10,000 titles, he often declared, was his inevitable goal.

In the face of such a lofty objective, it must have become clear to Haldeman-Julius that simply securing copyrights and discovering new talent would not be enough. If he were to succeed, he had to tackle the problem on multiple fronts, and this meant enlisting and cultivating his own private stable of authors, "Torch Bearers in the War on Ignorance" as he would come to call them. In mid-1929, Little Blue Book #1366 How to Write Little Blue Books by Lloyd E. Smith would emerge, which would soon be replaced by How to Become a Writer of Little Blue Books by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius himself.

By the mid-1930's the "Haldeman-Julius School of Authorship" was in full swing. Promoted extensively via Little Blue Book #1366, this home study course was "A program to bring fame and fortune to a new and ambitious group of writers who wish to learn, while at home, the art of useful, productive and profitable authorship". Haldeman-Julius offered 36 lessons, each about 4,000 typewritten words, and delivered as an individually bound 8½" × 11" manuscript. Some 27 of the lessons were written by Haldeman-Julius himself, with the remainder crafted by some of the more prolific writers in his stable, including Joseph McCabe, Leo Markun, and Gloria Goddard. In typical Haldeman-Julius style, participation in the School of Authorship was no loss-leader: students were expected to pay between $100 and $117 just to complete the course.

Successful graduation from the Haldeman-Julius School of Authorship afforded one "assignments", essentially the title for a book and some general notes as to content. Budding authors had sixty days to turn in a manuscript which, assuming one's "ability as an author is not questionable", would eventually be published by Haldeman-Julius. Such works became the outright property of Haldeman-Julius, with a flat-rate paid to the author based on the format in which the submitted material would be published: $25-$50 for Little Blue Books, and $100-$200 for Big Blue Books. Based on average number of words per page, this equaled about $0.0016 cents a word.

Alas, Haldeman-Julius would never see his proposed dream of 10,000 Little Blue Books come to fruition (if, indeed, the intent had ever been there in the first place). Only about 300 new titles would be released during the 1930's, the bulk appearing prior to 1932. By the time of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius's death on July 31, 1951, the series would support 1873 active titles.

Without further ado, allow us to introduce you some of the more notable or interesting writers of Little Blue Books. The author profiles that follow are part of a growing inventory of biographies, with new authors added regularly and older profiles updated as new facts are discovered. If you don't see your favourite Little Blue Book author listed, or if you have additional materials to add, please let us know!

Author Profiles