A week or so ago I found this story on Twitter, about an author who has sacked her publisher.
Novelist Polly Courtney is dropping her publisher, complaining her books are marketed in a ‘sexist’ and ‘degrading’ manner. The 32-year-old writer, who shot to fame after penning an expose of life in the Square Mile, dramatically sacked HarperCollins at the launch of her new book last night.
Despite helping her put out three successful novels, she attacked the publisher for ‘patronising women’ with ‘fluffy’ marketing campaigns. She said her new novel, It’s A Man’s World, was given a racy jacket and inappropriate title against her wishes.
The story follows the fortunes of a woman trying to make it at a lads’ magazine – facing a personal crisis when she realises she has forfeited her principles in the process. But despite its sober message, the jacket features a slender pair of women’s legs in high heels and a short skirt with the title reading: ‘It’s a man’s world – but it takes a woman to run it’.
Courtney, who has previously posted photographs of herself pole dancing on the internet, said the image was too racy – and wanted the novel to be taken more seriously. She said: ‘They dressed up my book as something frivolous, light and racy, which is the complete opposite of what’s inside my books. It is degrading to the writing and ultimately degrading to women. It’s sexist. A lot of chick lit patronises women. There’s intelligent writing out there and I don’t know why it has to be sold in such a fluffy package. The reason I left the City was to tell the story of how it really was and that there was sexism. Now my message is in danger of being lost.’
Courtney left investment bank Merrill Lynch to write her expose, Golden Handcuffs, about the perils of being a woman banker in the Square Mile. The self-published novel, which hit the shelves in 2006, was loosely based on her experiences as the only woman on a team of 21, where she said she felt like a secretary and endured sexist comments about her legs. The book attracted so much attention that HarperCollins decided to help her publish three further novels – with the latest one, It’s A Man’s World, released today.
Courtney said the novel aims to give a serious message about the damage lads’ magazines do to society – a concept not conveyed in the jacket design. Speaking at her book launch in central London, she said: ‘For those of you wondering what next for Polly Courtney, I can promise you that there will be more books. I can also promise you that they will not be published by HarperCollins or any other large publishing house. I will be ‘taking things in-house’, so to speak, and returning to self-publishing.Ill-timed? Despite Polly Courtney’s revelation that she is leaving her publisher, HarperCollins says her book will ‘fly off the shelves’. ‘I’m really proud of what’s inside this book. I’d just say one thing: don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Her move follows a decision by newsagent WH Smith earlier this year to remove the ‘women’s fiction’ branding from its shelves after it was branded sexist.
Courtney graduated from Cambridge with an engineering degree before being recruited into a £37,500-a-year banking job with a £7,500 golden hello bonus. During her time there, she was allegedly told she must have ‘slept her way into university’ and was barred from work social events. She left Merrill Lynch after taking £10,000 voluntary redundancy but still works in the City as a freelance strategy analyst. In 2006, Courtney’s website carried photographs of her pole dancing – which she said she had done ‘for a laugh’. She self-published one other novel before being picked up by HarperCollins, which published a further two before today’s release.
HarperCollins refused to comment on Polly Courtney’s public rejection of the publisher, which uses the imprint Avon. A spokesman said: ‘Avon is right behind Polly Courtney’s timely and important book. Our experience tells us it has a great look and feel and we think Polly will be delighted when she sees it flying off the shelves.’
I have to ask, why did she wait so long? They had already published three of her novels, and were releasing the fourth, so surely by now she had some say in what went on the cover. Surely when she signed the contract she could’ve had control over the cover, although most first time traditionally published authors get NO say and NO control over anything. Were the first three covers to her liking? The fourth wasn’t. Maybe she should have made sure she was going to have more say over the cover before sacking the publisher. As for the title, as a stand alone novel, the title is up to her, not the publisher, she’s not writing a Mills and Boon for God’ sake. But self-pubbing will now get her more sales I suppose.