Friday, January 15, 2016

Orphaned . . . again

Yesterday the unwelcome news came that Five Star Publishing, publisher of my Steve Martinez police procedurals, was shutting down its mystery line and no new titles were being acquired from writers.

Five Star will publish all those whodunits it has contracted for through March 2017, but after that, nothing. The scores of books languishing on its approved-but-yet-to-be-contracted for list will simply be orphaned, returned to their authors’ doorsteps without a goodbye. My novel The Riddle of Billy Gibbs, approved by an acquisitions editor more than nine months ago, is one of these waifs.

Yes, the fifth Steve Martinez novel, Tracking the Beast, will be published as scheduled March 16 and will be available for sale online as well as to libraries.

Five Star did not say why they were dropping the mystery line, but it’s not hard to guess the reason. Their wares are sold primarily to libraries and not marketed in bookstores. Mystery readers are getting older, demand for the genre has dropped in the libraries, and this marginal part of the publishing industry has had to retrench. (Five Star will continue to publish Western and frontier fiction, for which demand seems to remain high.)

It seems unlikely Billy Gibbs can find a home at still another publisher. When the Steve Martinez series was dropped by Tom Doherty/Forge Books, its original publisher, Five Star was happy to take on my new books in the series. It addressed a different market. But a second rescue is unlikely, for publishers expect their new authors to produce more and more over the years—and I’m 75. What’s more, the Steve Martinez well just possibly may have gone dry.

Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I crushed? No. I've been there before in this dog-eat-dog business.

After leaving Forge, I asked for the rights back to my first three Martinez novels and republished them as ebooks on Kindle and Nook, and produced an Amazon CreateSpace paperback omnibus edition called Porcupine County as well as three large-print books of Season’s Revenge, A Venture into Murder, and Cache of Corpses.

Unless a miracle drops from the heavens, I’ll do the same with The Riddle of Billy Gibbs. Look for it about Nov. 1 from CreateSpace, just in time for the holiday season.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking about a children's book or two featuring a hearing dog for the deaf named Trooper. That seems to have interesting possibilities.


  1. Sorry to hear about Five Star's decision, but you sound like you are prepared for the next chapter. Keep taking photos of Trooper, as you are now, for the children's book. Thanks for sharing this pothole in the road of life, but the journey continues. Carl Morrison

  2. Bummer, Henry. Just when I was getting all set to approach them with my thriller.

  3. Do I see a "Adventures of Trooper" book in your future? Not a children's book, but one based on your posts about the process of obtaining a service dog and the ongoing adventures.

    Waiting for "Billy Gibbs" in whatever form it takes.