3 April 2018

Tuesday Talk: One writer’s experience with traditional publishing by Susan Appleyard

Susan Appleyard
 A long, long time ago, in the days of yore, even before the internet and all its offshoots were 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 afterwards, my book had earned money and people would read it. So far so good.

The book was about the favourite mistress of King Edward IV, and I called it The Merry Harlot because… well, that’s what she was. That’s what the King called her. 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!

I was nervous that the cover (chosen by the publishers) would feature a half-naked man and a half-naked woman in an erotic embrace because it was a historical novel, not romance, so I was partially relieved to see only a half-naked woman. I was asked my opinion of the cover, but given my vain protests about the title I reckoned it would be an exercise in futility.

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.”
She thought about this for a while and finally came up with a stunning solution.
“Why not have Zengi compare your 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. 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. (I can’t resist alliteration.)

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.

Would I want to be traditionally published again? 
Don’t think so.

About Susan

Susan was born in England, which is where she learned to love English history, and now lives in Canada in the summer. In winter she and her husband flee the cold for their second home in Mexico. Susan divides her time between writing and her hobby, oil painting, although writing will always be her first love. Since joining the ebook crowd, she has published seven books, some of which have won various awards. Presently, she is working on a historical romance series set during the War of the Roses.

Some of Susan's books - the ones with sensible titles and covers! 

Reviewed on Discovering Diamonds

Reviewed on Discovering Diamonds
Reviewed on Discovering Diamonds
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