Sunday, February 7, 2010
The Skull Ring
Ten years ago, anyone publishing a book themselves was either foolish or an unrealistic fanatic. Two years ago, you were still snubbed by the professional writer's organizations and labeled "vanity press." Today, if you don't do it at some level, you're almost assuredly going to be left behind or turning over control of your content to a major corporation. I know, because I was right there laughing at the writers who used Xlibris and Publish America and turned out awful books that lost them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. I'm not laughing anymore. I am smiling all the way to a cottage industry.
Inspired by success stories like JA Konrath and Lee Goldberg, and thinking of all the different books I have on submission in traditional routes, and grasping this incredible moment in publishing history, the time has come to try an original ebook release. The Skull Ring will be out March 1 for Kindle at Amazon and in most other ereader formats at Smashwords. Because other writers have inspired me with their honest accounting and war stories, I am encouraged to tell the story of this novel.
I wrote this in 2000, and it actually got me my first agent at William Morris. Long story short, The Red Church sold through the slush, the agent liked The Skull Ring, but we were busy with other titles for Kensington and somehow THE SKULL RING never really came up again, because it was a suspense novel and didn't really fit the brand we were all trying to build. The other issue was it featured a Satanic cult, and Satan isn't exactly a hot topic these days--though in the book, Satan isn't assumed to be real, though the cult is real, just as in "real life" there are people who worship Satan and most of us have never seen much direct evidence that the pointy-tailed red dude exists. I even rewrote the novel several times, updating it because back in 2000 cell phones weren't ubiquitous. The Full Moon Press was supposed to publish it in hardcover but the press dissolved after I waited about three years.
Here we are, 10 years later. I love this character, Julia Stone, and if readers like it, I have other adventures planned. There's no way anyone can dismiss it as a "horror novel," because it's clearly suspense, it has a spiritual theme, romance, and no supernatural elements besides a little psychological mindplay that induces suggestion. Sure, readers can dismiss it because it's crappy, or dated, or any of the thousand wonderful reasons that make us all individual readers with perceptions and opinions.
As for my career, though I have been regularly submitting projects and I'm confident a new direction is ahead, I have felt out of the loop the last couple of years, waiting, waiting, waiting. I have five books finished, three more underway, and plenty of ideas. Even if I got a traditional publishing deal, I doubt if all of those books would ever come out, because editors and publishers rightfully like to shape the direction of their investments.
My ebook sales of The Red Church have not been spectacular, but they have been inspiring. The new ebook story collections ASHES and FLOWERS are finding readers while the print versions languished. With the increasing royalty rate for ebooks, it's now a viable way to a professional career, assuming you connect with readers--which still is and always will be the final payoff. If I had 10 books out right now, doing as well as The Red Church, I would be making more than I do in my day job as a newspaper reporter (health insurance aside).
Lastly, there is something satisfying about developing my own vision for my work. If you've known me for a while, you know I love my organic garden, my laying hens, my wood stove, and my simple, low-cost lifestyle. Today I can imagine a cover (with talented support from Neil Jackson, the incredible force behind Ghostwriter Publications in the UK), categorize the book myself, handle the format, do everything a major publisher would do, and take all the blame! I am not sure what the future looks like, and perhaps it will turn out I should have sat on The Skull Ring (there's an image for you...) for another 10 years. But right now, on March 1, I am stepping out onto the ice. I hope you stand by with a rope and a warm cup of joe.
Because this will require either caffeine or a noose...