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I had a good question in e-mail, and my reply has turned into this blog post:
One of this month’s reissues had a circuitous road from the story in my head to the published book. I wrote The You I Never Knew on spec, meaning I had no contract with a publisher to write the book. I just wanted to. Since I had a track record and a publisher, why would I do such a thing? A few reasons.
1. This was a new genre for me. I’d published historical romances and historical novels. This new story was contemporary women’s fiction. The early drafts had a literary voice (which I later toned down because it got in the way of the reader’s enjoyment). I didn’t expect my publisher to experiment with me. Mira was working to build my readership for the historical romances. Pulling a switch early in the game wasn’t playing fair.
2. When I try something new, I like to give it my best shot. It’s not enough to say “I can do that.” I have to do it to prove to myself and to the world that it’s possible. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I’ve got a great idea for a book! It’s a surefire bestseller!” But of those ideas, how many actually turn into books? And if I hear this a lot, imagine how many times editors hear that line.
3. Selling a completed book rather than a partial manuscript minimizes the risk you’re asking a publisher to take. Why? Because on the balance sheet, a finished manuscript is an instant asset; it’s in the black. A partial is actually a liability–the publisher’s money is in the red until the author turns in the book. With a complete book, the publisher starts earning money almost immediately by licensing subsidiary rights to audio, foreign publishers, book clubs and other formats. Imagine buying an unfinished house from a builder you’ve never worked with before. You don’t get to live in the place for months and months, yet you keep having to pour money into it. Compared to buying a completed house, buying the partial feels risky.
So how did I end up selling this spanking-new, finished book to a publisher? (Again, this is of greater interest to writers rather than readers.) I’m off to pack to a trip to New York City, so I don’t have time to go on. Watch this space for the scoop tomorrow.
July 18, 2008 in authors, bestsellers, books, fiction, literature, Michael Hauge, novels, Pacific Northwest, prize drawings, publishing, reading, romance novels, women's fiction, writing, writing classes | 1 comment
Breaking news–Just Breathe has been selected to appear on the September Indie Next List –”Great reads from booksellers you trust.” Here’s the announcement from my publisher: mira-books-announcement-just-breathe-indie-bound Thank you, Booksense!
It’s a triple treat this month—three reissues! Even better, I’m on sale, dirt cheap. The You I Never Knew and Passing Through Paradise are near and dear to my heart because they’re my first full-length books with a contemporary setting, and they rocketed my writing off into new directions. The original publisher, Warner Books, has changed hands. Now held by a French company, Hachette, the imprint is called Grand Central Publishing or GCP. What’s remained steady is the readership. My agent calls these “iconic” books, meaning they define a certain type of story with broad appeal. Boy, I hope so. The books are back in stores at a special price—$4.99. And in Target, they’ll be just $3.99 the week July 14. At Sam’s Club, they’ll be part of a 3-for $10 promo. Grand Central Publishing has a fun new web site—check it out here. There’s a bio and a couple of articles here.
[Thanks to the ultra-clever Celeste Faurie of Writerspace for the peeling cover art.]
Okay, people, this is way too much fun. The Horsemaster’s Daughter is a top-fifty bestseller on the USA Today list. A thousand thanks to all for buying the book!
May 26, 2008 in authors, bestsellers, books, fiction, grief, horse racing, horses, novels, parenting, publishing, reading, romance novels, stepfamilies, Virginia, women's fiction, writing | 4 comments
I can’t watch the footage of the horse race. You know which one I mean. No wonder I prefer to stick with fiction. It’s so much more manageable than reality. The Horsemaster’s Daughter is just hitting the stores now. There are chills and thrills in this novel, but I promise, no horses were harmed in its creation.
I love the new cover art. It’s nicer “in person” than online. There’s a muted quality to the illustration and a nice antique-y matte finish. There’s a pale cast to Eliza’s skin which brings to mind all those vampire covers that are so wildly popular these days–not that this is a vampire book. I’m not normally a fan of green in cover art, particularly green foil lettering, but this is eyecatching and beautiful. It’s a good fit thematically, too, since the book is about redemption and renewal.
The one bit I’m not so fond of is the shoutline at the top of the back cover copy: “An unbroken horse, a broken man, an estate that needed her.” What a strange and awkward phrase. I hope people will read right past that. (For the record, the author almost never writes the cover copy.) With the exception of the shoutline, the book’s description is spot-on. Reading over it reminds me of how much passion and tenderness I had for the characters, back when I was writing this book.
By far, my favorite feature of this new edition is the inclusion of a coupon good for $2 off Just Breathe, my upcoming book. Clip it out! Make note of the very limited time offer–it has to be used between August 26 and September 2.
“If there is one thing worse than being an ugly duckling in a house of swans, it’s having the swans pretend there’s no difference.”
A good book review can tell you what there is to like (or not) about a book. A great review illuminates the theme of the book and places it in the canon of literature where it belongs. I love a truly great review of my books, because they tell me what my theme was. While writing, I don’t usually know what the theme is. The most thoughtful of readers will do this, tell me what meaning they’ve taken away from the book. That’s why I love this review of The Charm School. It’s a discussion of the book’s meaning to this reader. When I wrote the book, I was aiming for a rollicking romantic adventure, but this reviewer mentioned the deeper meaning of Isadora’s storyline, and its relation to the darker theme of the book–bondage (institutionalized, and emotional) and the terrible toll it takes, and the joys and rewards of throwing it off. When I read this bit:
Isadora’s plight and flight are plausible due to deft handling of the hero and heroine and to Wiggs’s creation of secondary characters who exist in other types of restrictive societies. Journey’s wife, Delilah, and others are shackled by the institution of slavery. They, no less than Isadora, are freed emotionally and physically while Wiggs delivers a powerful message with great moral effectiveness.
…I realized, finally, months after finishing it, what my book was really about. So thank you, Sue Klock! You really nailed it with this one. It celebrates everything I love to write about, including my pet theme, the power of love to transform a person’s life.
I often tell people this is one of my “money-back guarantee” books, meaning if you don’t like it, please take it back to the store and ask for a refund (most bookstores will comply). Because honestly, it’s one of the most “likeable” books I’ve ever written, even with that naughty, naughty rain forest love scene with the funny cigars. (The review cited above offers readers a warning about that….) When you’re writing about a young woman’s sexual awakening, you find yourself thinking up stuff like this.
The Charm School, first published in 1999, is a USA Today Bestseller again. It was the first of my books to appear on this list–I still have the printout from April 1999. Here we go again. So happy for Isadora, Ryan and the motley gang aboard the Swan. And very grateful to the readers who are embracing this book.
I rarely know; my novels are stitched together with bits and pieces like a crazy quilt. By the time I finish, the inciting idea has morphed and changed so much that it’s virtually disappeared into the fabric of the story.
Not so Isadora. She appeared full-fledged before me, demanded her story be told and refused to morph. I don’t recall why I was paging through an ancient book about Boston, but I came across this illustration:
And…voila! Isadora was born. I knew she was miserable and smart and repressed, and had a fine story to tell. When I finished writing The Charm School, I sent a copy of this portrait to the publisher because in their art questionnaire, they wanted to know what the main character looked like. >>sound of art director howling with laughter<<
Here is Isadora in the illustrator’s imagination, along with a toothsome Ryan. It’s a before-and-after Extreme Makeover. Also note the butterfly, mentioned in yesterday’s post. It’s visible through the die-cut window.
And finally, in stores now, is the 2008 Isadora. She’s looking very fit indeed, Ryan is as flamboyant as ever, and I kind of like that their facees are left up to the imagination.
What about you? Which cover do you prefer?