Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Life in Publishing Hell, Part III

Gabriella's Voice
The Breakout

My great love for opera inspired Gabriella's Voice, the story of a young opera singer and her mysterious patron. After a couple of interesting rejections from an academic press that said it was "too plot-driven" and a commercial press that said it was "too intellectual," the book was accepted by Dead End Street LLC, a new publisher in Washington state dedicated to using the new ebook technology to give exposure to worthy books that might otherwise get overlooked.

For a brief while in the latter days of the millennium, the ebook trend appeared to be working. I attended an ebook convention in San Francisco, and was pleasantly surprised to find that a new electronic reading device, The Rocket, was developing a cult following, and that my novel was becoming an increasingly popular entry into the Rocket's memory banks. The Rocket was eventually re-manufactured by RCA, and basically vanished from sight. Wish I could tell you more.

But there were other, plentiful signs that the consuming public was just not ready to read their books in this form - a notion bolstered by the ever-rising prominence of traditional-book chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders. My co-publishers, Ivan Black and John Rutledge, were savvy enough to see this reality, and to switch to the mid-point technology of print-on-demand. Thus, the real "book-book" version of Gabriella arrived in 2001. (And a real book, of course, was what I had been after all along.)

The editing of Gabriella, by Christine Mrazovich, went very smoothly, but we had some consternation with the cover design. The artist had assembled a montage of items related to the story, and it sorely lacked a strong central image. Taking camera in hand, I took my opera-singer pal, Jennifer Der Torossian - the woman who inspired much of the title character - and set her in a pose from the novel's final scene: Gabriella, weeping atop a pile of wardrobe in the dressing room. I sent the photo to the artist, and he came up with his own version, a pleasingly rough piece of art that people seem to really respond to. (Years later, DES came up with a "smoother" cover design, but readers seem to prefer the original.)

I lacked the time or money to pursue an extended tour for Gabriella, but I did manage some local readings. The first featured Opera San Jose soprano Barbara Divis, who joined me in reading dialogues from the book and then performed related arias. The performance, at the Borders in Los Gatos, CA, drew 200, which pretty much blew me out of the water (I suspect most of them were there for Barbara, but I was perfectly willing to make use of her popularity). Two years later, Barbara and I re-created this performance at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble, directly across from the home of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Gabriella also garnered a $3,000 fellowship from Arts Council Silicon Valley. Things were looking up!

Next: Frosted Glass and the Editor-Go-Round

No comments: