After 16 years of being continuously under contract with Big 5 publishers--
which also meant being continuously on deadline nonstop for 16 years—I decided upon completion of my 20th book (not counting several middle grade novels) that I owed it to myself to finally take a bit of a breather.
So I did.
I turned in the last installment of the very long and very complex Inferno Club series, pretty well exhausted by that project, and in need of some time to rest, reboot, reinvent—and digest the seismic shifts going on in the publishing industry.
Behind the scenes, I have been a very busy bee. It might have looked to the world like I was being very quiet (if anyone even noticed), but it was a year of deep work overhauling many of my basic paradigms about what it means to be an author and how to run my business in new ways that’ll better serve my readers and also be sustainable for me for the next leg of my writing journey. Some of my particular areas of focus included:
The funny thing is, I never actually meant for a full year to pass between releases, but something totally unexpected (and, um, traumatic) came up along the way. I will now share my woe because, like all my stories, it has a happy ending. Isn’t it true, after all, that we always seem to benefit the most from things that seem awful at the time? So here goes.
After finishing with the Inferno boys, my original intention was to give myself 6 nice, lazy months doing all this thinking and refiguring, while working at a leisurely pace on the next kidlit book in the Gryphon Chronicles series. (OMG, I love that book so much. Do me a favor and read Rise of Allies. You won’t regret it! J)
Well, as Rise of Allies swelled to a tome of 140,000 words (most Inferno’s were 100,000 words, to give you a comparison), the time it took to finish it kept expanding, too.
It ended up taking 8 months, but I was still well under a year, so I wasn’t too worried. When Rise was done, I simply turned my attention to my next Regency. I had a new series idea in mind, and my publisher had been quite lovely about giving me my break.
This was when the traumatic part hit. Within four months, I was nearly done (80,000 words clean and ready to go) of what was to have been a 90,000 or so full-length Regency when…the entire book fell apart on me.
This had never happened to me before. (I can sense my fellow authors’ collective shudder of dread reading this right now. Apparently, most everybody goes thru this sooner or later. A career rite-of-passage, I guess, like getting that first “hated it” review.)
I had sent the manuscript to my wonderful agent to get going on negotiations for a new contract, and she pointed out a few "small flaws” with the story set-up and the characters. They seemed at first like no big deal to fix, but when I dug in to try to straighten things out, I realized these were not little tweaks but huge structural defects. Basically, my book died on me.
To say I was freaked out would be the understatement of the year. I could not fathom how someone who had been hitting bestseller lists consistently for a decade could make such idiotic mistakes and not even see it until the whole project was nearly done.
I told my publisher I’d be in touch with them when I was ready to try again, but I realized that could be a while, at least on a Regency, because by that time, I was on the verge of panic attacks over my writing and wondering if I was just a total loser who did not know how to write her way out of a paper bag. (My haters can stop agreeing now. J) I admit I did briefly consider walking away from romance altogether in favor of the kidlit, which is doing very well.
Thing is, I love my readers, and I really don’t like quitting. Give up? Me? Let some problem defeat me? Hells to the no. Quitting is for wimps and whatever my flaws, wimp is one thing I am not. I just felt stuck and…lost. But then my darling husband sat me down, looked into my deer-in-the-headlights eyes, and asked me a pivotal question. (God, I love that man.) He posed the question:
“If you could do any sort of book for adults again, what would you LOVE to write?”
Ah, that is the question…and the resulting book is the one coming your way in mid-July! Which is why it is extra meaningful for me to share it with you.
By the time I had completed the new book, it had opened up new worlds for me—highly entertaining worlds of imagination and possibility. Along the way, my subconscious must have solved whatever “issues” I’d been having, because by the time I finished it, I was ready and raring to go back to Regency with a whole new, reinvigorated approach. I guess I just needed a break!
THE AUTHOR-ENTREPRENEUR FACTOR
Rather than go thru the long, drawn-out process of submitting the "new thing" to New York and sitting on my hands for 2 years waiting for it to come out and leaving all of you hanging, I just decided to release it under my own independent label, the same way I do the middle grade novels.
The publishing process is relatively easy and fun, and hassle-free. Because of the E.G. Foley releases, we've already developed a network of excellent freelancers for things like editing and cover design.
Having 16 years of professional experience in the business and being already groomed to perform at an international level is also a big help. There are things I can do as a small business owner that the New York behemoths cannot do based on their multinational corporate model. For example, I'm happy to say the e-book will be very affordable and readers in the UK, Australia, and Europe won't have to wait. Everyone will get the book at the same time.
Of course, there are things the big guys can do that no small author-publisher can.
The downside will be for those who are still 100% reading only print books. There will be an exquisite, library quality, Print On Demand trade paperback, but my small company cannot reproduce it at the low, mass-produced prices of Big 5 publishers printing a couple hundred thousand copies at a time. It's just impossible. It's going to be more expensive to purchase than my mass market paperbacks. It's just a reality.
Also I obviously do not have the Big 5's corporate sales force that would go out with each previous GF release and make sure to get placement in the book chains and grocery stores and big box chains to make sure it would be everywhere. For this one--if you want the paperback--you'll simply have to order it online and get it delivered to you.
This does not only mean Amazon, by the way. It will also be carried on the Barnes and Noble website and through any indie bookstore that has its print book offering online for customers to order and chooses to carry it. It'll just be unlikely that you'll find my new books sitting in the front of bookstores as before.
I apologize to any inconvenience to you on that, dear reader, but from the author's point of view, frankly, I'm fine with it. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt. There are tons of ways the bookstore model can go wrong, anyway. Like last year, when Secrets of a Scoundrel came out, here at my local big chain superstore, where I'm a local author and have actually done events at that store, they fricking LOST my book during the critical 2nd week of my new release.
The manager could not find it anywhere in the store or in the backroom or any place, even though the computer said they should've had multiple copies on the front tower--where my publisher had paid thru the nose to have it prominently displayed. This is not just bullshit, it's breach of contract between said store and publisher. To me, it was just a slap in the face and very, very telling. Though far be it from me to complain. :)
If my local store where they know me can SO NOT CARE, after the thousands & thousands of dollars I've made that company with my books, then sorry, but I'm not worried about them. Perhaps there is a reason they are constantly teetering on bankruptcy. They can't seem to get their act together, and I'm supposed to trust my whole career to these clowns? This is a chain that has always had a snotty attitude about romance books, anyway. So screw 'em.
If you want something done right, do it yourself...
FYI, my Regency series launching this fall will also be released under my private label, so I hope you're on board. I may eventually one day go back to working with a big publisher, at least on some projects, because I've actually always had good experiences with the two of the Big 5 I've worked with. I'm simply not one of those authors you hear railing against them.
But times have changed. It is only prudent that an artist retain ownership of SOME of the intellectual property that she creates, rather than giving up her rights on that piece of work for the rest of her life plus 70 years after she's dead. That is how long the publisher continues to make the lion's share of the profits on any book nowadays. That seems a bit much.
Anyway, I actually think this will prove to be MORE convenient to most readers, because this way, you won't have to drive around to five different stores trying to find it. One click and it'll be winging its way to YOU. Like I said, the paperbacks will cost more, but the e-books will cost less. Why not go digital and save yourself some clams.
So, having come through the fire and risen from the ashes with a newfound ferocity and passion, what I learned from it all is really enough to fill a whole series of long workshops, but you came here to be entertained, so I won’t bore you.
(Actually I think I may do some free online video talks on this, come to think of it, but if so, they’d only be available to my newsletter subscribers, because frankly this stuff is too private/personal and too hard-won and valuable just to fling it out at random into the world at large.)
Suffice to say the end result of it all is that I have blown out the walls on the little box I once put myself in. Expect the unexpected! I am no longer playing by the old rules. Which, if you read my books, really ought to come as no surprise, since I was never big on rules in the first place. (As someone once said, lol, I’m the writer your mother warned you about.)