Friday, July 17, 2009

Gold Medal Books: In Their Own Words

Ever wondered what exactly Gold Medal saw in the books they published? In the December 1955 issue of Writer’s Digest (Vol. 36, No. 1), Gold Medal’s Executive Editor Inez Salinger wrote in and addressed what sort of books they were looking to publish, as well as some of the overarching characteristics of the Gold Medal line (“Taboos? We have none, really.”), a brief description of the editorial procedure, and an idea of what they paid per book. An address was also given, in case writers wanted to send in their manuscripts. The cartoon above was featured right next to the Gold Medal advertisement, so I thought I would share it as well. I think it’s pretty funny, and it also reminds me of the image of Orrie Hitt sitting at the kitchen table with his typewriter that James Reasoner described on his blog.

“We are interested, indeed, in seeing mystery fiction, the backbone of almost any soft-cover publisher’s list.


“The word ‘suspense’ keynotes our mystery policy, if we have any such thing. We have found most saleable and exciting those novels which emphasize chase, atmosphere and breathless situations rather than the chess problem or more intellectual type of puzzle. Basically, we have no cut-and-dried preferences. Recently we put out three novels in quick succession by Peter Rabe, whom we consider a bright discovery and a potential shining light of the hard-boiled school. One of our most fabulous sellers is Richard Prather, whose yarns about Shell Scott, a private eye whose tongue is always planted firmly in cheek, have sold consistently in the millions. In our experience, we have found the humorous mystery novel tricky to pull off, but Prather is one of its ablest practitioners.


“Taboos? We have none, really. We ask only for good stories powerfully told that capture the reader early in the game and hold him on the edge of his chair from there on in. To make it easier on both editor and author, we like to see at least four chapters and a well-planned outline of action to come. Our twenty-five centers consist of from 60,000 to 70,000 words, our thirty-five centers from 89,000 to 120,000. We pay on the basis of print orders – a cent a copy on the first 200,000 printed, a cent and a half on each copy thereafter. Our minimum initial print order is 200,000 copies. Scripts can be addressed to any of our editors.”

11 comments:

  1. Fascinating, Cullen. Doing some quick math (alright, i admit i used a calculator) a 200,000 printing would pay the writer $2000. That wasn't bad money back in 1950s. That would probably be close to $20,000 today. (I'm guessing on that conversion rate!)

    Early in the article it mentioned Peter Rae. Surely that is a typo error and they meant Peter Rabe who wrote some great books.

    Thanks for posting this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's a great post- well done for finding this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very Cool. I wonder if there would be enough of these kinds of articles out there to be the basis for a book on Gold Medal and it's writers.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Iren ... sorta like the life and times of Gold Medal and its writers. I'd read it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've always wondered why there isn't such a book already! I'm with y'all - I'd certainly read it. I still haven't even found a complete bibliography of all the Gold Medals. If anyone embarks upon such an adventure I'd love to be involved.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Amazing a print of 200,000. Never happen today.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Taboos? We have none, really." That says it all. What a pity that writers today are obliged to accommodate the timidity of publishers allegedly browbeaten by the PC brigade.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Chap ... It's interesting to compare some books and publishers from this period. This has been a lot of posts of late about Orrie Hitt and his "adult" novels, supposedly very risque, but in fact quite tame. At present I am reading a GM book from the same period, by Charles Runyon, Color Him Dead, which is way more explicit, as well as very well written. Labels! What do they really mean? Gotta think it's all about marketing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Frank - your library must be crazy extensive. I'm certainly envious - trying to improve my book collection all the time, though I figure it will be a life-long project of mine.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Cullen ... Thank goodness there's enough great old books out there that we can dedicate time to searching for them, buying and reading them. It's great fun. It seems like every week i learn about a new author or a book I never heard of till reading a review on your blog or elsewhere. All of this is possible because of the internet and people who have a love for writing and story telling and want to share it. Keep up the great work; it's appreciated.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails