Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The hammer fell yesterday: The publisher of my three Upper Michigan mysteries announced apologetically that it couldn't take the fourth, Hang Fire, which I'd submitted away back in October, and was cutting me loose.
This was hardly unexpected.
My mysteries have been widely and well reviewed -- they've earned favorable notices in Marilyn Stasio's New York Times Book Review column on crime fiction -- but they are regional whodunits. They take place in the rural setting of a part of the country not many people visit. They do bring in thousands of readers -- but not enough thousands. Not in this economic climate. The bulk of mystery readers live in big cities, and most of those want their fiction set in urban jungles, not wilderness thickets.
Also, these days publishers are hurting. So are bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Hardcover book sales are down, way down.
As a result, midlist writers -- those whose books earn only modest profits for their publishers -- are being let go everywhere. And so I've joined that melancholy crowd.
My agent tells me that moving a commercial fiction series from one publisher to another is very difficult. But she's going to try a small house that has been known to adopt orphaned series, and see what happens.
I'm hoping good things will. But if they don't, I've got a Plan B: Self-publishing.
Not of printed books. All too many authors spend thousands of dollars to have their work published by a subsidy house, but even with sweaty self-promotion, their boxes and boxes of books almost always languish on skids in the garage. I'm a retiree and don't have that kind of money to waste.
But there is a solution: publishing the novel as an e-book with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple. The overhead is minuscule, so the initial layout of dollars is small.
The tough part will be getting the news about a new e-book out to all my old readers. I've got some experience -- not a lot -- in book promotion. I'm a veteran of the bookstore and library circuit, but without tangible goods for the bookstores to sell and the libraries to lend, those may no longer be workable venues. (How do you autograph an e-book, anyway?)
Still there are ways, and in the coming months I'll tell you what they are.