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Friday, May 6, 2011

Oh, Those Wacky Publishers! OR What The Heck Were They Thinking?

Long story short.  I published a book with St. Martins/Thomas Dunne in 2002.  It was called Bayou Moon.  It's a mystery set in Louisiana.  (Did the Bayou part give it away?)  It sold okay.  About 4000 copies give or take.  Then it dwindled into the place where authors go who don't sell a million copies on the first hit.  (HIM and I still giggle about when I first sold the thing and HIM's boss seriously asked if HIM was going to quit his job because I was going to be an AUTHOR.  Haha.  She had no idea how much authors really make.)

Here it is:
Bayou Moon by me, a mystery
2002 by Thomas Dunne
Anyhoo, there it is.  It's not my best work.  But it's okay.  Southern Gothic mystery.  An artist returns to her Louisiana roots to find out what happened to her mother, who's been missing twenty or so years.  Lots of dripping Spanish moss and y'alls.  It was originally another name but my editor, who shall remain nameless for the sakes of all, said, and I'm quoting because it was funny, "It needs to have a name with 'bayou' in it because bayous are sexy."  Never mind the fact that I had to go back and change a couple of the swamps mentioned in the book into bayous.  Never mind that I got people from Louisiana saying I never lived in the south and I cornfused everything.  (Yes, I meant CORNfused.)  (It's FICTION, y'all.  It's made up.  And I did live down south for a long time and I'm married to a man who's from there.)  So Bayou Moon it became.

The editor at Thomas Dunne passed on my second effort and I tried like hell to do my stuff.  (I found another literary agent.  The literary agent dumped me.  I kept writing books and trying to find another 'good' agent.  It didn't work out.  It's beginning to sound like a very lame soap opera.)  Then ePublishing came around and wow, I went ahead and put out just about everything I have.  (Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!)  Some of the stuff is genre.  Some of the stuff was meant to be published under a pseudonym.  Some readers don't like that I genre hopped.  Some readers love it.  I won't apologize.  I love to write and I tend to have a little romantic thing going on it each of my books.  (The one that a lot of people seem to dislike is The Life and Death of Bayou Billy, probably because it's pretty raunchy, but it's also funny as hell.  An infamous outlaw dies and two neighboring towns fight to get the right to bury his body in their town.  Corpse-napping and other hilarity ensues.)  But I'm digressing.  Once I got all the books out there, I made most of them free just to give people a taste.  Unfortunately I couldn't do this on Amazon but I did it on many of the other epubs, notably Barnes & Noble.  And some of them are doing very well.

For example, Bubba and the Dead Woman is a favorite.  Bubba is a good old boy involved in a genuine murder mystery and everyone thinks he done did it.  (Incidentally this is FREE at B & N and, so if can download it, YOU REALLY SHOULD.)  It's so popular I wrote a second one that will be published in the next couple of days.

Here's the second one, Bubba and the 12 Deadly Days of Christmas for the Bubba-ites.  Good old country boy Bubba gets involved in another set of murders, except it's all funky and to do with Christmas.  I'm just finishing with the editing so next month it should be out there.  Yea, Bubba.

So as soon as things start getting popular what does St. Martins do?  Well, for years and years Bayou Moon has been available on Kindle at Amazon for $10.99.  The price alone made me wince.  (And in case it's not clear, I am NOT the one who set that price.)  However, as soon as Bubba and the Dead Woman does a booming business on B&N, guess what happened?  St. Martins puts Bayou Moon out on Nook and some of the other epubs.  And surprise they lowered the price to $6.99, which Amazon matched.  And because some of these readers really like some of my other work, they're buying Bayou Moon.

All of which should be a happy thing for me.  Except I'm not fond of publishers who want the authors to do all the work and then only reap 7.5% of the proceeds and in this case, St. Martins ain't paying me dick.  My literary agent went out of business in the middle of the last decade and St. Martins won't send me any of the quarterlies.  (I'm going to have to find a lawyer who will write them the dreaded LETTER and threaten them with some kind of legalities that frankly make me irritated at best and have a rash in the nether regions at worst.)  I don't expect the royalties to be much but they should be paying it to me.  Hell, I've even bought a couple copies of Bayou Moon on Kindle just because I got a Kindle and people I know have Kindles.  (Incidentally, I'm probably going to buy a Nook, too, because I like both of them.  Yea, ePublishing!  Power to the paperless!)

Am I saying don't buy Bayou Moon?  No, that would be like shooting myself in the foot.  But all of the melodrama aside, there's more.  I was recently googling my book names because a) I'm vain, and b) I want to see if people are repeating things about my books.  So I found a little thing about Bayou Moon that I hadn't seen before.  (The technical phrase for this is to, 'add insult to injury.')

Here's the link:  It's got stuff about recycled cover art.  Some of it is similar stuff.  Some of it is exactly the same.

Case in point:
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
published by Virago, 2003

The Chatham School Affair
by Thomas H. Cook
Published by Indigo, 2000

Bayou Moon
by me
Published by Thomas Dunne, 2002
Hmm.  This seems to be suspiciously
familiar, doesn't it?
Anyone can see the first one is a little different.  But the latter two are the same damn picture.  And I remember the editor yammering about how hard the illustrator worked on the stupid iron gates.  Hah.  (He worked hard at copying the jpeg of the iron gate.)  I wonder who was fooling whom?  Thpppt.  I never realized how much the publishers are recycling.  I've seen romance stuff that has been uber recycled but here's the other stuff.  And it's a bunch of stuff.

It's a lesson to authors.  It wasn't like I had a choice in the cover.  A word to the wise to would be writers out there, marketing is the publisher's forte.  They don't want the author having their input in the cover or the artwork.  (Of course, if the author wants to plunk down thousands of dollars in separate publicity, then by all means, go for it.  They love it when authors spend their own money on making the publishers more money.)  When the editor first sent me a jpeg of the cover I really liked it.  I thought it was cool.  There's this whole descriptive thing about the gates in the novel and I was thrilled to death that their graphic artist had picked up on it.

What a goober.  I'm glad I do my own publishing now.  I hope my fans will forgive my less than sterling editing on the books in exchange for free or very low priced books.  I hope they understand that I work hard on the books and try to be entertaining because it's what I truly enjoy.  I hope they like the work.

So who did my covers for Bubba?

Me.  Nothing complicated.  A program called Gimp.  (Free software rules!)

May free enterprise never die.

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