Publisher’s changes changed

I received an email from the publisher about the dates 1963 -71 looking as if they were my birth to death dates once my name had been knocked into a second line.


Something had been going on behind my back about changing the wording agreed between me and the editor on the title, what was being called first or front page. It’s the inside title page.

The publisher wanted to take (Joan Ure) out of the brackets and insert before what was Betty Clark’s nom de plume ‘alias Joan Ure playwright 19??–1978’, ostensibly because the original, ‘of Betty Clark (Joan Ure) with John Cairns 1963-71’, was messy. The title of the book is CORRESPONDENCE. The line below it, part of the title, distinguishes which correspondence it is from every other book of correspondence. What the publisher was proposing was messier, nor did it correspond with what was on the book’s cover, ‘of Betty Clark (Joan Ure) with John Cairns’ as in a single line it should. Though the correspondence is mine (actually the John Cairns Archive’s) I’d put Betty’s name first because the majority of the letter writing I chose for the book of it was hers and conceded the pseudonym because poems etc under it had been included by her in the correspondence and the name, Joan Ure, was the hook on which to hang the book since an already known name if not very well known. Adding ‘playwright’ added nothing since whoever knew of Joan Ure would know of her as a playwright. The dates in the distinguishing title line necessarily gave the duration of the correspondence. I’d skewed the line quite enough in her favour.

I, the actual author of the book, was being further relegated by the publisher, who, for reasons of promotion, would rather Joan Ure had authored the book. She hadn’t. She couldn’t. She was dead.

Even alive, Betty hadn’t been able to make use of her letters that she’d asked for back, and said so in a letter, which is in the correspondence, when she was restoring them to me to make use of for her as I have.

The rest of the book was fine. It was the title page, the front page, she was intent on making a pig’s breakfast of to the detriment of the whole. I wasn’t about to let that happen without doing whatever I could to stop it. I pointed out to the publisher the correct dates for Betty were given, as for Joan Ure, in the editor’s introduction, that it was otiose to give them inaccurately beforehand, that ‘alias Joan Ure’ suggested criminality, that the name ‘Joan Ure’ within brackets was enough to hang any publicity elsewhere on, that the word ‘playwright’ wasn’t much substantiated by a correspondence stuffed with poems, and so on. If she wanted to change the line, I wanted it changed to ‘of John Cairns with Betty Clark (Joan Ure) 1963-71’ because that succinctly said whose correspondence it was, to whom, that Betty used another name for an intriguing purpose, and gave the duration of the correspondence.

I also wanted other changes to the title page. Instead of ‘Archived and compiled by John Cairns’, I wanted ‘Archived and compiled by the author, John Cairns’. There has been a consistent attempt to demote me. The editor in her intro has Betty, ‘writing in her own name and as Joan’, which is preposterous – who calls George Eliot George! – and is part of her wish to make Joan Ure a correspondent and have this believed by a reader when there is no substantiation for it whatsoever in the correspondence, a fact anybody wanting to discredit the book on the grounds of intellectual dishonesty would seize on, as the DNB would since it got Betty’s middle name wrong and wouldn’t want to admit it. I want that misstatement changed to ‘writing in her own name while including poems etc as Joan Ure’ so no one can infer erroneously she corresponded with me ever as Joan Ure or I with her, or any critic saying that that was implied by the editor’s, ‘and as Joan’, as of course the editor would be implying, falsely.

My beloved publisher finally made it round to see me and within the first five minutes we’d reached agreement even before I plied her with drink and food. The turnabout of the title line got rid of both her confusion whose the correspondence was and that the dates could apply to anything but the duration of the correspondence since (Joan Ure, poet) was bracketed off. The change to ‘while including poems as Joan Ure’ scotches the idea Betty corresponded as Joan while concurring with the title’s defining her as poet as she is in the correspondence more than playwright, and the word’s shorter.

Another crisis blew up, of course, to do with the publishing details page where the copyright to the book derived from it was attributed to an archive other than my own. After a pause for agitation to settle and taking a hint from the publisher, I corrected this with the layout designer who sent me a copy. Assuming my corrections to be extant, I okayed it, downloading it to a flash drive. I took a look at that at home, only to find the designer had reverted to the mistaken attribution of my archive to somebody else’s which in all probability doesn’t exist. I’m not on the internet at home. I had a sleepless night, hoping I could recorrect before this version was sent to the publisher. It’d been sent. Tactfully I suggested it wouldn’t do and the obliging designer asked for my corrections by page and line. I was about to email these when all about me the library computers were breaking down and the one I was on wasn’t extending my time on it into the second hour. The librarian obligingly did this but I had still to find if the computer I was on would fail along with the others. It didn’t.


About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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2 Responses to Publisher’s changes changed

  1. susanscottsa says:

    Unbelievable! You will of course have final say.
    Am reading George Eliot as we speak : Middlemarch. most fine indeed!
    All best,


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