A long, long time ago, in the days of yore, even before the internet and all its offshoots was anything more than a gleam in a mad scientist’s eye, I was traditionally published. Furthermore, the publishing company actually paid me for the right to publish my book. It’s called an advance. Come what may afterward, my book had earned money and people would read it. So far so good.
The book was about the favorite mistress of King Edward IV, and I called it The Merry Harlot because… well, that’s what she was. My editor didn’t like the title because she was afraid my readers wouldn’t know what a harlot was! She suggested The King’s White Rose. Who was I, a young housewife with three rambunctious kids, to argue with someone of such vast experience? So I agreed to the name change. After all, I consoled myself, a king figured prominently in the story and one of his heraldic symbols was the white rose. So there was some relevance.
As an aside, in creating a certain scene I mentioned a pincushion. The copy editor discovered that this object hadn’t been invented until the 16th century and as my book was set in the 15th, the pincushion had to go. The point of this, in case you missed it, is that my readers were viewed as so stupid they wouldn’t know what a harlot was, yet so smart they would know that the pincushion hadn’t been invented until in the 16th century!
Fast forward to my second book, which I didn’t have a title for. It was set in the Holy Land during the second crusade. My editor suggested The Sultan’s Red Rose.
“But,” I sputtered, “there isn’t a sultan in the story!” There wasn’t a red rose either, but that didn’t seem quite so important.
“What about this fellow, Zengi?” said she.
“He’s an atabeg,” I retorted, “which is like a military governor.”
So she thought about this for a while and finally came up with a stunning solution.
“Why not have so-and-so compare our heroine to a rose growing in the sultan’s garden?”
I know you would like to hear that I stuck to my ideals, that I didn’t prostitute my art for the almighty dollar, that I told her if she persisted in this tacky, tasteless design she could take a long jump off a short pier. Don’t be ridiculous! Of course I didn’t.
Very soon after that book came out, my burgeoning career went down the toilet. My agent went into furniture sales and my publishers sold out to another company; my contract was sold as part of the package, but they were not interested in me. It was back to square one. I was dismayed, disheartened and discouraged.
A sad story, isn’t it? But put the tissues away, it has a happy ending. The next time I was published I did it myself as an ebook and, rightly or wrongly, chose my own titles.
I can honestly say I would never wish to be traditionally published again.