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. The publishing company gave me a three book contract. Wow! And they actually paid me for the right to publish my book. Wow! Wow! I was very excited and perhaps a little smug. There were a number if people in my life who thought I couldn’t do it. 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. 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.
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 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.