Bring on the controversy, and strap in for a devil’s advocate view through some eye-opening history, because certain game-changing books were never ‘discovered spontaneously.’ Notably, the profile of these landmark fantasy authors share a profile of mature scope and depth, and stories that open with adult protagonists.
First, busting the myth that Tolkien was ‘discovered’ and broke out by readership word of mouth is not true: Betty Ballantine’s actual account relates how Tolkien’s career blossomed through a publishing scandal.
Allen Unwin first published Professor Tolkien in Great Britain in hardbound. At the time, copyright law in the USA protected up to 2000 unbound copies of a book to be imported as loose pages, to be bound and sold by a US firm. Houghton Mifflin handled Tolkien this way, in routine partnership with Allen Unwin. Nobody paid much attention, though Ian and Betty Ballantine loved the story and offered for paperback rights. Professor Tolkien declined, avoiding what he considered a tacky American edition. Over a period of ten years, when the British edition underwent reprint, repeated lots of unbound sheets of were brought in and sold by Houghton Mifflin in quiet obscurity. Enter a certain paperback publisher’s back room lawyers, who tracked publication records, trolling for the loophole that titles compiling more than the allotted 2,000 loose sheets slid into the public domain. On that legal technicality, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was reprinted as the very lurid paperback professor Tolkien had wished to avoid, and worse, with no royalties owed to the author. Read More »