Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Life in Publishing Hell, Part II

Courting the Seventh Sister

Doing the EBook Limbo

After the usual round of universal rejections, I had actually relegated Sister - a story about the world's most perfectly run adulterous affair - to the "cold case" file, and had gone on to marketing my next novel, Gabriella's Voice. In one of those rare moments of simultaneous acceptance, I received two offers for Gabriella, two days apart. (Before you begin the ethics investigation, they both requested samples, but not exclusively.) It ended up going to Dead End Street Press (more on that later), and then I had the awkward job of telling the second press, an ebook publisher called Online Originals, that the book was no longer available. Bless their hearts, they were gracious enough to look at Sister as an alternative, and seemed to like this one even better.

Based in the UK, O.O. was one of the first all-ebook publishers. I saw no reason not to give the new technology a whirl, especially since ebooks were suddenly a hot topic in publishing and technology circles around the world. Besides, it gave me a chance to dig Sister out of its undeserved grave and give it a chance to be read. Very soon, it received a featured spot on the well-designed O.O. website, and we were on our way.

To, pretty much, nowhere. As much as people were pushing the new technology, no one was actually buying ebooks. People were just too attached to the traditional paper-based book.

I have had high hopes of resurrecting Sister yet again - I really do love the story, and the setting, inspired by my years as PR director at the Villa Montalvo Arts Center and mansion in Saratoga, CA - but have largely been blocked by the publishers. A conversion to print-on-demand entails a large fee to the author, and a much-needed rewrite (a rewrite that I have already performed) would require even more fees. The only way out would be an offer from a standard-print publisher - and even that's tricky, because any potential publisher would also, naturally, be interested in ebook rights, which are held by O.O. I currently count Sister as a lost work - perhaps waiting for that day when my Pulitzer win/Oprah appearance/marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow thrusts me into the spotlight and forces somebody to pay Online Originals massive sums of money for the rights. Meanwhile, I have consoled myself by resuscitating two of the main characters, Scootie Jones and Audrey LaBrea, and inserting them into subseqent novels.

Next: The Breakthrough: Gabriella's Voice

Art: The title image for Courting the Seventh Sister from the Online Originals website:


J. M. Strother said...

Interesting piece. I'm wondering if there is some contract language you've since learned about that you would recommend other authors inserting so that they don't also end up in publishing limbo?

Love the illustration on this piece, by the way.

Michael J. Vaughn said...

Yeah, they do beautiful work with their images. I think this is actually a very unique situation, so I doubt that this would come up these days. And sadly, I wouldn't really recommend ebook-only publishing. Perhaps the second generation will bring ebooks to common use, but right now it's not really happening.

Michael J. Vaughn said...

My, how things have changed. Since I wrote this piece, I have published several books on Kindle. The next generation arrives quickly!