Friday, September 30, 2016

What's in a Name? Sometimes, Everything Depends Upon It!

"Compromise when you can.When you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move, plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say 'No. You move.'"
--from Captain America: Civil War

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In the past few days, a problem arose that I believe has been resolved--but it reminded me of another problem my agent and I faced years ago with one of my former publishers.

Early in my career, I realized the publisher's marketing chimps were trying to turn me into a Sidney Sheldon clone. I was a big Sheldon fan, so on one level, I was flattered. But as a writer trying to establish my own professional identity, I knew being a clone of anybody was not a good idea. I dug in my heels and resisted. There were a lot of arguments. I objected to the Sheldon knock-off titles: The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels (I got Angels at Midnight)...Windmills of the Gods (they chose Dance of the Gods)...The Sands of Time (A Time for Legends). They decided to re-title Solitaire--Players of the Game (as in Sheldon's Master of the Game).

I'd had enough. I did a lot of shouting, while Maria went about searching for the means to stop them. She found it in my contracts. Back then, I was quite prolific. As it happened, I had delivered manuscripts months ahead of schedule--and once those manuscripts were accepted, the clock was ticking. They had, according to my contracts, a limited amount of time to publish the books. I was a second position lead title author with the promotional budget that goes with that position, so they would only publish one book a year.

That left the publisher with three options: publish the books within a few months of each other, an expensive option; lose the books and the sizeable advances paid for them, also an expensive option; or give us what we wanted and get an extension to publish. Maria made it clear to them that if they didn't back down on the title, I wouldn't sign the extension.

As you can see, the title wasn't changed.

When I delivered the manuscript for book #5, I gave it a title that sent a clear, if sarcastic message: A Cold Day in Hell. They pointed out that it wouldn't play well in the Bible Belt, so I submitted the actual title I'd chosen for it: Luck of the Draw.

I sent them a message, and they sent me one--a really crappy cover. Oh, well. At least it didn't have jewelry on it!

14 comments:

  1. That's why its good to be an Indie. Everyone hates to be compared to someone else.

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  2. I think Shelly may be right Norma, these days independent is the way, publishers have too much power over covers and titles it seems. I'm at a point in Angels at Midnight when I'm wondering how long it will be before Collin and Ashley your two main characters will meet, I'm close I think :)

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    1. This is true. And the advantages traditionally-published authors once had--advances and promotional support--are not so easily obtained anymore. As I was telling a fellow author the other day, very few traditionally-published books get an advance--even a small one--anymore. With an indie publisher, authors pretty much have control over everything while the publisher does the marketing and promotion. Even with a 50/50 split on royalties, it's still much better than what a Big 5 publisher is willing to give (usually 6-8% going to the author).

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  3. I always wondered about titles and how they were ultimately decided. You have confirmed some of my suspicions, Norma.

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    1. They're usually chosen by Marketing Chimps. Never a good thing, Lynn!

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  4. The marketing chimps really were enamoured with jewellery, weren't they? I guess being chimps, sparkly things would catch their attention.

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    1. They definitely like shiny things!

      I used to say the MC for my publisher resided at Bellevue. They were heavily medicated and sent to work on Monday, then returned to the Rubber Ramada on Fridays.

      But they still managed to fling a lot of poo.

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    2. NORMA !
      This is the best comment ever.
      There are days I want to fling a lot of poo !

      cheers, parsnip

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    3. Gayle--If you want to see all the horror stories, check out my author blog: https://beishirbooks.wordpress.com/

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  5. Always interesting to hear what authors went through (are going through) with the traditional publishers. I think indie is definitely the way to go, despite no big advances. But your project is yours, and doesn't end up being someone else's warped vision of what you wanted!

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    1. From what I hear, traditional publishers aren't putting out a lot of advances anymore, either. They used to at least pay most authors a small advance. Now, the advance money seems to be going only to those who manage to make the top of their pub schedules.

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  6. Interesting how they try and push you (their authors) around. Good for you for standing up to them!

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  7. I am inspired by you and that's no bull.

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