There is a Chinese proverb that translates like this: “A book is a garden carried in the pocket.”
I think my first garden had quite a few weeds in it. It was published in 1950… That first book was The Brass Cupcake, seventy-four books ago, and probably about 90,000,000 copies ago. It was written as a novelette for either Harry Widmer or Mike Tilden over at Popular Publications. My agent was then Joseph Thompson Shaw, who was licensed to carry a sword cane on the streets of [New York]. He had heard that Fawcett was beginning a new line of original paperbacks and he asked me to increase the length by some twenty-five thousand words so he could show it to Dick Carroll, the editor. It is easy to stuff twenty-five thousand unneeded words into a manuscript and have it come out as sturdy and substantial as junket or cobwebs. I tried inserting more plot incidents, and it began to sound like a reject script for The A-Team. So I started from scratch and wrote a new story about new people and then inserted a paragraph to justify the title. It is a practice I still use with the McGee books. When a book is done I wander around the house until I can come up with a title, and then I hemstitch it into the book as neatly as possible, so the seams won’t show. Don’t tell the public...
At Fawcett the familiar group back in the growth years of Gold Medal were Bill Lengel, Dick Carroll, Ralph Daigh, Knox Burger and Leona Nevler...
I did a sufficient number of books for Gold Medal to become classified as a paperback author. That always seemed to me to indicate some kind of fragility in the area of the spine. It did not matter at all that of my first twenty-five published books, thirteen were in hard cover before they were in paperback.* I had become typecast. I used to fret about nonsense like that, but one day about fifteen years ago I suddenly realized that instead of fretting I should be happy to be published at all, anywhere. Many try, and a few make it.
Now when I go over in memory the list of the people who have published me… Fawcett Gold Medal, Fawcett Signet, Popular Library, Dell, Pocket Books, Pyramid -- in paperback, and Greenberg, Appleton-Century-Croft, Simon and Schuster, Doubleday, Lippincott, Harper & Row and now Knopf in hard cover, it makes me sound flighty. All I can say in my defense is that the only people who change publishers more often than the writers are the editors.
-- from John D MacDonald’s speech at the Bouchercon XIV convention, October 23, 1983.
* This number is a huge exaggeration. Of the first twenty-five published books, only five originally appeared in hard cover. In fact, MacDonald would have to have fifty-five books published before he could make the “thirteen” claim.