Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Power of a Book Out of Print

Note: The following was originally written last night as a bit of encouragement to some of my fellow authors who will also see their books go out of print when Booktrope closes today, for many and varied reasons.

I was asked to post it again, and so I am posting it here. I hope it gives hope to anyone who has ever put a book out there and then either removed it from circulation or had it taken down with the closing of a publisher. It's a story about a book that went out of print before I was born, and how much it means to me, still.


Some forty-one years ago, when I was just a scrawny little thing with hair the color of straw and enormous blue eyes too sensitive to open wide in the sunlight, there was a library in a small shopping mall not far from our home.

The mall had a restaurant, a candy store, a book store and a few shops of sorts…but my love was the library.

On one trip to that library, my mother discovered a book that would become my favorite; The King’s Procession, by James and Ruth McCrea. 

Brightly illustrated, it told a story about bravery, kindness, and loyalty.

How I wanted to own that book.

The only trouble was it had gone out of print years before; and so the only way to get it was to keep renewing it from the library.

We did that—renewing it instead of returning it—for a good long while. But then one day there was a request from another reader for the book, and so it had to be returned. My heart was heavy as I gave it over to the librarian, somehow I knew I’d never see it there again.

In two weeks or so when it was time for the book to be returned, Mom and I made a trip to the library but alas, no King’s Procession. The book was not returned on time.

The book was never returned at all.

Week after week we’d check, but the librarian would only shake her head. Someone had simply decided, it seemed, to keep it.

The idea of stealing a book from a library was hard enough for me to comprehend, but then came the worst shock of all to my four year old system; one week we went back to visit the library and found that it was gone.

Without warning the place had just closed up. I remember standing on my toes with my forehead against the window, peering in to see the empty shelves, rows and rows of them.

I don’t remember if I cried that day, but I know that I sure felt like it.

They never did bring the library back to Northville Square.

The little mall still exists, I found, and last year I took a walk through it for the first time in almost forty years. It’s sparsely populated with boutiques now, including a small antiques store I wished I could have browsed longer before my asthma started complaining. I love antiques, but my body does not love their unique, vintage fragrance.

There is a point to this story, though, and one that I want everyone who is feeling lost right now, whose books are going out of print tomorrow, to remember.

I never forgot about The King’s Procession, and I searched high and low for it for thirty years. Then long about the time I was going to turn thirty-five, I realized that we had a marvelous tool now called a search engine, and surely someone must have heard of the book or had a copy at some point. Maybe there was one on Ebay for auction, maybe someone had one in their home and had no interest in it. 
Maybe a copy for me was out there, just maybe.

I found it on a site called Alibris, a fine condition copy that had been from a library. It even had the dust jacket (rare).

Then I found they had another copy from another seller. No dust jacket, but it was in splendid condition as well.

Immediately I ordered them, one for myself and my daughter and one for my mother. And when I held that book in my hands after thirty years, it was like reuniting with an old friend. I remembered, somehow, every illustration, the poetic turns of phrase, and the sweet simple message it contained; that new is not always improved, and love and loyalty are the most important things of all.

Today, that book is one of my most prized possessions: a book that went out of print during the decade before I was born. A book I happened across that made such an impression on me that I never forgot it; and I will never forget it.

The authors will never know. I don’t know if they’re even still with us in this world, but they will never know what their book meant to that little girl and means to this grown woman, whose own books are now going to be out of print.

This experience gives me hope; that maybe one of my books will stay with someone, any someone, out there, so much that one day they will wander to a site like Alibris (which is now selling used copies of my books… talk about coming full circle) and find a copy of a book that means something to them, for whatever reason.

It could be your book they go searching for and find, and cherish even more for its rarity.

So don’t despair if you’re not sure how you’ll get your books out there again right now. Trust that they have touched someone out there already, just by existing. Someone knows your characters’ names, imagines their faces and voices, and understands the story you were trying so hard to tell.

As I prepare to place the rest of my novels up on what I imagine to be the world’s biggest public library (Wattpad) I do so with the hopes that as many people can check my books out, as it were, as they like; and that they might see something in them that will stay in their hearts.

Here’s to you, James and Ruth McCrea. How sad you must have been on the day when The King’s Procession went out of print; but how happy I like to think you’d be, if you knew that your story lives on in my family, passed down to the next generation, and cherished between us for all our lives.

So my books will be out of print after tomorrow; there will still be some of them ‘out there’ and that makes everything, all of it, worth it to me. 


Friday, May 27, 2016

Wishing Cross Station's New Cover

Designed by the lovely and talented Ida Jansson... this will be Wishing Cross Station's cover when I publish it on Wattpad.

Also of note, this will be the first story I'm posting at Wattpad that I will be giving a 'mature' rating. It has what I consider a strong PG-13 rating (overall theme and scenes near the end) and as a result, just to err on the side of caution I will be rating it mature, as it was always intended for an adult audience anyway, even though it contains nothing that is truly graphic.

NOTE: I have just gotten input from someone who read WCS and feels it does not fit a mature rating, but should at PG13 qualify for the general Wattpad audiences rating. Curious what you think? If you've read the book please drop me an email at the address on the sidebar and weigh in! Thanks! 

You can read the first chapter here. 



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Last Goodbye to My Publisher

It’s getting real now.

With only four business days left until Booktrope closes its doors forever, books have started disappearing from distribution channels.

It’s a painful thing to watch, to feel, to experience.

Painful, too, is wrestling with the knowledge that my books won’t be back in print in a month, or a year, or ever. I’m not republishing them; they won’t be back.

My only comfort right now is knowing that they will live on, on Wattpad, where readers all over the world can explore them without money ever preventing them from doing so. Anyone who has internet access and wants to read my books will be able to. Full stop.

Aren’t readers the point, after all?

I’ve let it get too much inside my head, this idea of being a ‘published novelist’. Being a published poet, essayist, and artist didn’t have the same effect on me. I don’t know why the ability to say “Yes, my books are published,” felt like such a huge thing. Most people have still never heard of my books anyway, so why am I so hung up on this?

Ego, I suppose. Evil, vicious ego.

Well, no more.

Ego and his buddy Pride can go take a flying waltz... I've no use, or room for them in my life.

The important thing, I have to keep reminding myself, is reaching the readers. And I have already reached many, many more readers on Wattpad than I ever did selling books.

I’ve enjoyed interacting with them more than I’ve ever enjoyed the process of seeking reviews, promoting, marketing. More than I ever enjoyed the business of publishing.

Those things got so far inside my head that they shoved writing right out; and that is something I do not know how long it will take to fix.

I honestly don’t know if it’s still my medication that is interfering with my desire/ability to write, or if the whole Booktrope collapse was the final straw, but something is blocking me, and it’s persistent.

Still, even if I never write another novel, I’ve written several. Five of which were published; a couple more live in a trunk somewhere (and always will) and there are other bits and pieces of prose and poetry that I have written solely for myself. Those things live on. Those things make me a writer, still; even if I’m not cranking out novels. Not everyone does, after all.

And even if I never wrote ANYTHING ever again, that doesn’t take away what I’ve already done, either. I just need to keep reminding myself that I love the five novels that were published; each has its own reason to be special to me but none more than the first and the last. If I hadn’t written the ones in between, then I wouldn’t have come to the place where I was when I wrote the last one.

A last look at the Booktrope editions of my pretty novels...

So, life goes on.

It just feels like there should be something so much more to say than goodbye, but really, that is all that’s left to say.

Goodbye, Booktrope.


P.S. In my next post I’ll reveal the new cover design for Wishing Cross Station by Ida Jansson. It’s beautiful!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"For one brief, shining moment..." Or, My Thoughts on the Closing of Booktrope

The other day, I was struggling to find a way to define what Booktrope represented to me as a writer coming in, and then as an author published through their team-publishing model. Then, someone online (please forgive me, I forget who it was: if you let me know I will correct this post to include your name and credit you properly for the reference) compared what Booktrope was to Camelot, and I thought, Bingo. Nail, head, hit.

It was a place where everyone worked (at least for a time) as a team of equals. Sure, there were issues with some teams not working out and people coming and going but overall, since 2013 I published five novels with them, and I am immensely proud of that body of work. I know that the people who worked with me helped to make the books better in countless ways, through editing, cover design,  project management, and even dealing with my absolute inability to correctly use a semi-colon (sorry, Jennifer! Love you! xoxo)

Emotions have understandably run very high since the closing was announced at approximately 5PM EDT time last Friday. I for one was shocked but not surprised; I had seen the writing on the wall for a while. I had even said to my husband within the past few weeks, “Why is it I sense a tremor in the Force telling me that soon I’ll have to cope with my books going out of print?”

And I was right: that is exactly what is going to happen on May 31st

My five beautiful Booktrope published novels

My books will vanish from all points of sale (aside from third party sellers of paperbacks, of course. Those may stay out there for a bit.) Oh, and piracy sites *laugh* I’m sure that my books will remain on some of those as well. (I just wish I knew how many people had read them through those sites! Honestly, I’m being serious.) All that ever mattered to me was having my stories read; though I did try my hardest to market to the best of my ability and as my health allowed. I gave it all my level best. And that includes for the year I was self published before GODSPEED and OF STARDUST were picked up by Booktrope.

Now… I’m tired. Yet, somehow, I’m renewed and looking forward to what happens next to my stories and all the characters that inhabit them.

I’ve been writing since early childhood, but I’ve only been publishing for the past five years. I’d only become interested in ever becoming published about six years ago, after I lost and regained my eyesight. Somehow, that dream came into being.

First it was poetry and prose in literary magazines, then a few short stories. More poetry and a few paintings were published along the way as I worked with a team of friends and pros to get GODSPEED out into the world.

I was published for the very first time (thank you, Rusty Nail editor and author Craig Hart) just before I turned 40.

Now, just as I am turning 45 this month, I will have to stand and watch as a lot of that work goes away.

Such sad words, these: out of print

I don’t have it in me to indie publish again. It’s not that people haven’t offered to help, or that I haven’t done it before. I have, and that’s why I know I don’t have the health or strength to do it again, let alone times five books.

So I’ve settled up with the teams that worked on my Booktrope books (who showed incredible generosity to me for which I will be forever grateful) and I have decided that the home for my stories is obvious; because two of those five novels already have a had a home there for a long time, and two more did for a time as well.

The answer, for me, is Wattpad.

Therefore, after my books disappear from Amazon, BN, and iTunes on May31 and the rights revert back to me on June 1, I will begin publishing the books that are missing from my collection on Wattpad. (GODSPEED and UPON A TIME have been up there for a long time with Booktrope’s blessing, so I see no need to remove them for the three weeks remaining until shut down.)

It’s going to be a monumental amount of work to transfer the books over (especially if I can’t get that pesky formatting glitch that has plagued me on Wattpad for a while worked out…) It’s going to be hard on my eyes, and I can only work on them so fast. But I hope to get a head start and begin uploading so I can push “publish” on June 1st and have at least part of OF STARDUST back up there to offer my readers.

They loved the book when it was on Wattpad before; it had 1.2 million reads when I had to take it down for contractual reasons. Those reasons exist no more. So back it will go, as will its sequel IN STARLIGHT. I also plan to post the never-available-on-Wattpad-before novel WISHING CROSS STATION. I have to procure a new cover for it first, and will soon start the process of doing that.

Then I can just let people do what I have always wanted them to do: read my books.

No more sales figures or garnering reviews to worry about. No more mandatory social media posts. Marketing as I've known it will become a part of my past.

I’ll have freedom to share the stories with people who would never be able to buy them… and I have heard from so many of them in my three years on Wattpad. It always brings a tear to my eye when someone who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to read one of my books says they love it. It never, ever gets old. I look at Wattpad as the world’s biggest public library; and I love the idea of access to my books for anyone with a phone, tablet, or computer.

Make no mistake, I am heartbroken that Booktrope is going away, and I feel terrible for the eleven people on staff who will be losing their jobs, not to mention the countless authors, editors, proofers, book/project managers, and artists who have all been thrown into an emotional blender over all of this. No one wins in this situation; it is just a sad fact of life that often, businesses don’t make it.

In the end, I will look back on my time with Booktrope with deepest gratitude above all else. They believed in my work enough to give it a chance to be seen on the marketplace; they connected me with wonderful people that I hope to remain in contact with for years and years to come. Many on staff itself have become dear to be because of all the help and kindness shown to me over the years. I won’t ever forget what they’ve done.

Perhaps the team publishing model was too good-- too idealistic-- a thing to last.

But for a time… for “one brief shining moment…” as the Lerner and Lowe song goes… there was Camelot, and it was a beautiful place to be.

Travel well, fellow ‘Tropers. May all your work find a way back into the world that brings you joy, happiness, and above all, peace.

My dream hasn’t died, though I’m parting ways with publishing as an industry. It has only changed… and now I think it could grow to be bigger, and better, than I ever dared to hope before.