You could say I’ve been around the block a few times in the publishing business. Maybe I’ve even run a marathon by now. I’ve experienced a wide assortment of industry glitches–publishers who never get back to you on books they’ve contracted, editors who have the audacity to go out on maternity leave and pass you off to other editors who just don’t understand you, publishers who always seem to have a crisis when royalties are due.
But in my 17 years of being a published author, I’d never had a publisher go bankrupt (okay, insolvent) until 2014. Said Publisher had bought one completed mystery (CLEAN BURN) and contracted a second book in the series. CLEAN BURN was published without a hitch, coming out in trade paperback, ebook, and a lovely audio edition. The reviews were terrific, including great quotes from authors James Rollins (“Blisteringly paced, authentically told”), Brenda Novak (“Chilling, engrossing and addicting”), and Lynn Hightower (“an ex cop P.I. heroine with attitude and a haunted past”).
It was in the midst of writing the second book, HANGTOWN, when I got the sad news that the editor I’d started with at Said Publisher would be leaving the company and I’d be assigned another editor. I’d really liked editor #1, and while it’s always an unhappy day to lose an editor you like, it’s especially unsettling when it happens when you’re in the middle of the project. But I forged ahead with HANGTOWN, eventually passing the completed manuscript on to editor #2.
Editor #2 and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a number of issues, but that sort of thing happens. I stood my ground where ground-standing was important, but any writer worth her salt knows that editors can save your butt by not letting something stupid slip into the final edition. So it’s always worth it to listen to them.
I told editor #2 I wanted to read over the Advance Reading Copy so I could vet it for any errors that might have squeaked through. I waited for the ARC. And waited. We were getting very close to publication date and still no ARC.
Then Bad News #1 dropped: HANGTOWN would not be coming out in print. It would be an ebook only.
As someone who has several e-only books published, this was not a massive tragedy. It disappointed a couple of friends who only read paper. But to me, an ebook is a book, and earns royalties just like a paper book does.
In and of itself, the fact that Said Publisher changed their game plan for HANGTOWN wasn’t an issue. It was the WHY that set off giant, screaming red flags in my mind. I didn’t learn nothin’ in all my years of being a published author. My writer’s instinct was tingling, telling me that somethin’ was up and there was more to the story.
Sure enough, Bad News # 2 dropped not long before HANGTOWN’s publication date. Said Publisher was filing for insolvency. They would not be publishing HANGTOWN in any format, print or e (even so, the book was published on Kindle for a very short period).
I was irritated and exasperated but not totally surprised (writer’s instinct and all). My irritation grew quite a bit when a deep-pocketed white knight whisked Said Publisher from insolvency by purchasing them, and shortly thereafter SP offered a six figure advance to a well-known author.
The upside was that I got rights back to both books, and although it took me more than a year, I’ve got CLEAN BURN up for sale and HANGTOWN available for pre-order. You can find all the links to buy here. And don’t worry, I’ve cleaned up all those untidy ashes so they won’t clog up your e-reader.