So your book got published by a very good publisher, but you’re not happy with how it was classified. Instead of being pushed as mainstream fiction, your publisher slapped your book as “chick lit.” What do you do? Do you smile graciously and feel grateful for your success, or do you get huffy and slam the door on your literary future?
UK author Polly Courtney chose the latter and made a very splashy, public declaration at her book launch, of all things, that not only was she unhappy with Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins, classifying her book as “chick lit,” but that she was ditching her meanie publisher as well.
The aching ridiculousness!
That she chose her book launch party to make her point is like the beagle telling me we’re out of tequila right before a party.
Polly insists that she’s a serious writer and that Avon was condescending to her by the merits of her cover art, editing, and classification of “chick lit.” She writes commercial fiction, NOT chick lit. Harrumph.
Admittedly, chick lit casts a wide net, but it’s not solely about women who are looking to meet the men of their dreams. That’s romance. Chick lit has evolved over the years to tackle weighty issues that appeal to and affect women. And what’s wrong with this? Let’s face it, women make up the bulk of readers, so I can think of worse fates than appealing to the largest readership. I can also think of worse fates than being published by a major publisher.
Prior to her book deal, Polly had self-pubbed two books. Those successes were the impetus behind HC offering her a three-book deal. I appreciate that Polly is mindful of her book’s classification because she doesn’t want to lose her already-established readership. She’s created a brand for herself, so logic would recommend the adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But if her readership loves what she writes, then won’t they buy her books anyway? How many of you see an author whose books you enjoyed, and said, “Ugh! This got classified as chick lit? Not in this lifetime!” No, you probably just buy it. Chick lit isn’t that far away from mainstream…they’re shelved in the same place.
Of course, there is the editing to consider. Polly says that the editing process morphed her book into something quite unlike what she intended. This is troublesome because she had to approve of those edits. Editors can’t just rewrite your book and publish it la-dee-da. We need authors’ approval because authors do the rewrites.
None of this was a shock, so why didn’t she say something at the outset? None of my authors are shrinking violets when it comes to the integrity of their books, and we openly discuss the shape and tenor of their books before we offer a contract. Did she and her agent engage in a discussion with the editor about their vision for the books, or did they assume all would be lilacs and daisies?
It could very well be that Polly’s editor told her to pound sand and that they’d publish her book however they saw fit. It happens rarely, but it does happen. But if that was the case, then why did she go on to publish two other books with them? Yes, I realize the contract must be adhered to, butI would expect her agent to step in with a very large stick in order to protect her client. At least, that’s the way it would play out here in the US.
The long end of this is that I think there’s more going on than meets the eye. It’s disingenuous to take the money and run, and then kick in the teeth of the very people who published your book because things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped. I also think it’s a bit slimy to air your dirty Victoria Secrets in public because no one ever has both sides of the story. And really, who cares? It’s a private affair between you and your editor. It’s not like the checks bounced, or they’re scam publisher.
Was it her aim to kill sales for this book and punish Avon? Because, believe me, Avon will survive this kerfluffle. Will she? Or will readers see this very public display of bad manners and be turned off. I said it here, that an author’s behavior and demeanor affects sales.
I understand being angry, but what happened to being gracious and smiling through your gritted teeth, all the while promising that you’ll never get yourself embroiled in that particular situation again.
What would you do if it was your book? Would you voice your displeasure to the point of slitting your literary throat at a public event that is celebrating the birth of your book?
If so, why? What would be accomplished?