“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
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!