Though it had been many years since Harold Bell Wright
lived in the Ozarks, he returns in this story to the settings that sold
so many books for him in earlier years.
From Wright's refusal to sell the movie rights to Ma
Cinderella for a low price (he never sold it), it is clear that he thought of this as one
of his better stories, but its sales were a bitter disappointment for
him. Sales of his three previous titles (Long Ago Told, Exit and The
Devil's Highway) totaled only 63,000, with royalties of $15,500 -- a far
cry from the previous three titles with sales of over 500,000 and
royalties of nearly $150,000. Even earlier, he had often seen three
books sell nearly three million copies. But Wright's recent books had not
been like the earlier ones. Instead of simple mountain folk with simple
values, his three most recent books included a collection of Indian tales (Long
Ago Told), a convoluted adaptation of a play (Exit), and a book of
science fiction (The Devil's Highway). In 1931, Wright's total book
royalties amounted to $924.20.
With Ma Cinderella, Wright's 17th book, he hoped to
bring back the magic of the Ozarks and replenish his bank account.
Unfortunately, in 1932 the United States was deep in the Great
Depression. People standing in line for soup were not likely to buy a
book. Nevertheless, Harper and Brothers agreed to become his new
publisher and advanced Wright
$10,000 against his expected royalties on Ma Cinderella. The book,
published September 12, 1932, sold
for $2 and Wright's royalty was 15%, or 30 cents per copy. The $10,000
advance assumed sales of at least 33,000 copies. But by December 31, American sales totaled only about 12,000 copies and royalties
totaled only $3752.93. In March 1934 Wright received a letter from
Harpers, asking him to pay back the unearned royalties in the amount of
$6,247.07. Wright wrote the check but cautioned Harpers not to try to
deposit the check because it would bounce until he received money from
Cosmopolitan magazine for the serialization of To My Sons.
Wright added, "As for advances on the future books----we
will just forget that. There will never be advance royalties on another
Eventually, including reprints and foreign
editions, 27,451 copies of Ma Cinderella were sold, but since reprints
and foreign editions produced very small royalties, Wright's total
royalties climbed to only $3,795.44.
Ma Cinderella is by far the most common of the "furious
five" rare books by Harold Bell Wright. Dust jackets are hard to find. All American first editions are published by Harper & Brothers and they look exactly like the photos at the top of
this page. Harpers also printed a second edition, which is much
less common than the first edition. For details, click on List of
Editions. Musson also produced a Canadian first
edition. Reprints were produced by A.L. Burt and by Grosset and Dunlap,
and in the 1990s Yestermorrow produced reprints for
Barbara Berry's Bookshop. These Yestermorrow copies show up
frequently on eBay.
Review of Book by Dr.
Joyce Kinkead Copyright 1979 by Joyce
Kinkead. Used by Permission
Wright's sixteenth novel, Ma Cinderella, is also set in the
Ozarks, but this novel has more depth and less sentimentality than The
Re-Creation of Brian Kent. The
novel's title is a poor choice, but for the character to whom it refers,
it is a good description. The
Cinderella of the story is Ann Hasket, a widow four times, who rules her
household and the area with a firm hand, so much so, that she has become
almost a legendary figure. Continue >>>