Ellen G. White and Her Royalties

By E. S. Ballenger


Note: This article by Pastor Ballenger, shows Ellen was more concerned about getting money from her book The Great Controversy by pushing to sell it ahead of Bible Readings.


About 1898, the R&H publishing House decided to quit paying royalties. They passed the following resolutions:

"That manuscripts prepared outside the office, at an author's expense, be purchased before publishing the same.

"That no further investment be made in publishing or promoting books unless ownership and full control of the plates can be secured." THE TIME, THE NEED, THE MESSAGE. p. 75.

Mrs. White simply told them she would not submit to any such arrangement, and threatened to take the publication of her books into her own hands. In proof of this we quote her own words:

"Then, if my brethren did not awake to the situation, I was to make no delay in taking the books into my own hands, and the Lord would prepare the way before me." SPECIAL INSTRUCTION REGARDING ROYALTIES. p. 7.

To meet this situation, she gave some very peculiar advice. On page 11 of the same pamphlet, we read:

"I wish to say to authors, that I can not see that they have any liberty to either give away or sell their right to books they have written."

Mrs. White had an eye for business. She was receiving from $8,000 to $12,000 a year on the books she wrote while in the employ of the Gen. Conf. Her son, Willie, was also being paid by the General Conference; and he was giving his whole time to the work of his mother. How many other helpers were paid by the General Conference, we are not prepared to say. However, she forced the publishing house to continue to pay her 10 per cent on the retail price of her books.

These royalties evidently had some influence on her attitude toward some other books. We quote again from the same document, page 9:

"No one can have been hurt financially more than I was hurt when The Great Controversy lay for nearly two years dead in the office. Just work was not done in this matter. The book Bible Readings was crowded in before The Great Controversy, which was already printed, and which should have been placed in the canvasser's hands first. . . . This was a dishonest transaction toward me, and it was unfaithful stewardship toward God."

When BIBLE READINGS was put on the market, it was sold by the tens of thousands; but she did not get 10 per cent on these 'sales, whereas she did get 10 per cent on THE GREAT CONTROVERSY. She was very pronounced in recommending her own books. However, she did share her recommendation with Uriah Smith, as follows:

"The light given was that Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, Great Controversy, and Patriarchs and Prophets, would make their way. They contained the very message the people must have, The angels of God would prepare the way for these books in the hearts of the people." Id. p. 7.

It may be of interest to know in connection with these statements that something like a year ago, the Southern Publishing Association at Nashville, Tenn., made a somewhat slight revision on THOUGHTS ON DANIEL AND REVELATION, and published 3000 or 5000 copies; but the General Conference put a veto on their selling them. I was unable to get a copy.

The Gen. Con. appointed a committee to revise THOUGHTS ON DANIEL AND REVELATION; but their revision was not ready to go to press. However, just recently, they have published a revised edition of this book. The denomination put out a book, THOUGHTS ON DANIEL AND REVELATION "contained the very message the people must have," the special light God had given his people," why should it be necessary to revise this book that contained just what God wanted the people to have; and why should they forbid Southern Publishing House to sell this book? It looks as if they did not believe the "Testimonies".

"Had the very book God appointed to stand in its lot and place been handled as earnestly as Bible Readings, men would have cooperated with the angels of God, to make the very impression essential for that time." SPECIAL INSTRUCTION REGARDING ROYALTIES, March 11, 1899, pp. 4, 5.

BIBLE READINGS were studies from the Word of God; while her book was stolen from other writers without credit. If this isn't putting her own writings above the Bible, then my intelligence needs some "kindergarten" training. Her defenders deny 'that they put her writings on equality with the Bible, but in this instance she places them above the Bible.

She not only defended her own royalties, but she looked after the royalties of her son who put out a similar book called the GOSPEL PRIMER which had a very liberal circulation.

The denomination put out a book called HIS GLORIOUS APPEARING which cut into the sale of her son Edson's book. She used strong language in condemning this as follows:

"The dealing in regard to Gospel Primer was unjust. Another book His Glorious Appearing was crowded in to kill the sale the Primer. The way in which the The Gospel Primer was handled has left a record on the books of heaven which those concerned in the matter will not be pleased to meet in the judgment."… This article was published by E. S. Ballenger in "The Centennial Supplement," pp. 66-68.


Related reading

See more of EGW's grasping for profits: The Desirer of Wages

Robert K. Sanders, Founder and Editor of Truth or Fables, 1997–2012
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