Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reprint, Resurrection, or Reincarnation?

Since today's chocolate is a repeat of the yummy Green and Black's Maya Gold (see here for original post), I'll talk today about a subject with which I am familar on a number of levels: publishing reprints.

If you are an avid eBook reader and have followed the recent dramas of ePublishers closing or faltering to the point that some authors, you might be inclined to check up with favorite authors to see what will happen to their previously published works. I've seen the process from both sides: as an author, I have pulled works from ePublishers and placed them elsewhere. In all but one case, I revised and lengthened the stories in hopes of generating some more sales appeal. In the case of my story The Stars Look Down, I felt I couldn't do much more with the work and now offer it as a free read through Phaze Flares.

As a publisher, I have worked with authors wishing to place previously published works with Phaze. The situations vary: some are from defunct pubs, others come from expired contracts and the authors are seeking a better alternative. While it is flattering an author would think of us in the respect that their work could perform better under our logo, there is also the concern of becoming a clearinghouse for "used goods." This is not to say we will stop considering reprints. In fact, two reprinted titles (Emma Wildes' The Arrangement and Bridget Midway's Fascination Street) have done very well for us. Also, there have been situations where a reprinted title led us to bigger things. Alessia and Will's Artistically Inclined, formerly with Venus, spawned a sequel, which led to the print book we gave away at RT this year.

Reprint publishing isn't exclusive to eBook publishers, either. Case in point: Janet Evanovich, who cut her teeth writing category romances with Bantam's defunct imprint, Loveswept. Some time after those titles faded from view, Evanovich gave birth to a juicy, profitable Plum and interest was renewed in her earlier works. Those romances went through a makeover and are now available again. Also, consider Anne Rice, who published several works under two pen names before becoming a household name with her merry band of vampires and Mayfair witches. Works like Belinda and The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty found new life as credited by Anne Rice, writing as Anne Rampling (or A.N. Roquelare, in the case of the erotic works). If there is the possibility of finding a new audience for older works, reprinting a book can be beneficial to an author's pocketbook.

There are also instances where a book, once available exclusively as an eBook or POD, made the transition to a wider distribution through a traditional publisher. I believe Vivi Anna's Hell Kat, now with Kensington, started life as an eBook with a smaller house. Amanda Brown's Legally Blonde, which has been adapted for screen and stage, was actually a self-published novel with 1stBooks.com before the author sold the rights to Dutton.

In my writing career, I have moved four titles across the virtual street. The Healing (M/M, vampire) and Under Covers (shifter, romantic comedy) had once been with Venus Press, and I was fortunate to get the rights back before they imploded. Of the two, The Healing perfomed better with Phaze than it had with Venus, but I attribute that to the popularity of M/M works among Phaze readership. Under Covers is a more challenging sell: it is first person, and contains F/F scenes. The romance is not showcased as much as the humor is, and that may account for the slower sales. Also, I tend to notice that work not of M/M or Dareville origin tends not to leap too far from the starting gate. I have that to consider, too.

Standing Guard (formerly Venus) and The Stars Look Down (formerly Silks Vault) were shorts, under the Phaze word count, and I hadn't the energy to work more with them, so they became free reads.

Under my real name, I have five orphaned works. Two are cozy mysteries formerly with Wings ePress (Saints Preserve Us, Pray For Us Sinners), one is a co-authored thriller formerly with Echelon Press (Dangerous Words), one is a mystery that I briefly self-published (Murder Most Trivial), and one is an inspirational that bounced between two publishers (Little Flowers, with Highbridge Press and Wings ePress). The reasons for my pulling these works vary. Dangerous Words was a collaboration with an author inexperienced with eBooks and e-marketing. Also, it was not a romance and proved a harder sell compared to other Echelon titles. I understand now Echelon focuses more on mystery now, but in 2002 romances were big there in my view.

The Wings titles were pulled because I did not feel at the time I could effectively promote the works while acting as Phaze's publisher. Also, they were mysteries and sweet stories in an industry where erotic romance is the 500-pound gorilla. Little Flowers especially is a niche book with Catholic characters and backgrounds, and is a challenge to sell to inspirational readers who prefer non-demoninational stories.

Eventually, I would like to revive the cozy mystery series, and may consider injecting a bit more sensuality in the works...enough but not so much as to compromise the characterizations. Dangerous Words has the potential of being a great erotic thriller if I could have the opportunity to revise it, but the co-author refuses to cooperate. I've offered to buy his share of the rights, and he refuses to sell. One note of caution among you who partner with writers, have an agreement for these kind of situations.

Now, it appears I will have a few more free agents. I am working to release three stories from Midnight Showcase. My relationship with or perception of the publisher is not the issue, however. As I am finding the balance to publish/write as Kathryn and write as Leigh, I want the opportunity to do better by three stories I chose to pull. I would like to revise, expand, and maybe serialize them to attract a broader audience. I won't divulge sales, can't even recall them off the top of my head, but I believe I can do well by adding a fresh pint of blood. Two other stories I have with MS will remain there, as they are tied to a particular series, and removing them wouldn't be in their best interest right now.

So, what will happen. Could lightning strike again and even brighter with these works? It's possible, but before I open those files I will prioritize original writing. Dare to Dream is coming along nicely in its second draft, and I am 600 words into Why, Why, Zed? for the Phaze Urban series. Time for some new blood before I tend to others in triage.

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