When a publisher shuts down there are huge repercussions for all involved. Please welcome author Debra H. Goldstein who has firsthand experience with being orphaned by the loss of a publisher….
Orphaned by Debra H. Goldstein
My husband was in his sixties when he became an orphan. I will always remember this six-foot-four two hundred plus pound person lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, plaintively saying, “I’m an orphan.” Some friends and relatives told him losing his ninety-year-old Alzheimer stricken mother was a blessing while others said it was the natural course of things. I knew it was neither – it was a permanent and final loss. For writers, becoming an orphan is an experience that is faced repeatedly.
For every contract renewed, there are many authors who have two to three more ideas, but don’t get the opportunity to continue their series or characters. An equally common experience of late has been the number of publishers ceasing operations and leaving their authors with orphaned books. It hurts.
Although a few traditional publishing sources will adopt a series that already exists – often by focusing on a different character as the protagonist or moving the story forward a few years, most won’t. Agents and Editors smile, console, and then tend to recommend that rather than wasting energy, the author should write something new or consider self-publishing. No alternative feels good.
I know. I’ve had two books accepted and published and both have become orphans. The first, Maze in Blue, was published in 2011. It won an IPPY Award in 2012, and two weeks later, the published announced it was closing its doors. I was lucky. The publisher freely gave back rights, files, and artwork. Because of the good relationship with the publisher, which many who try to get back their work don’t have, I was able to fulfill my speaking and signing engagements by publishing a new edition via CreateSpace. Maze in Blue’s lifespan continued fairly solidly and then got another boost when Harlequin Worldwide Mystery bought its mass market rights and made it a book of the month in May 2014.
Even though I loved the characters, I accepted that Maze in Blue, for now, was orphaned and wrote a new book, Should Have PlayedPoker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery. It was purchased by Five Star, a division of Cengage, in 2014 and is scheduled to be published on April 20, 2016. This time, with a little more knowledge under my belt, I made arrangements and reached out in advance for PR opportunities. Everything seemed to be going along perfectly --- edits, final copy, and a great cover. The people I worked with were wonderful, but then Cengage informed its mystery stable that it would be discontinuing its mystery line in 2017. The 2016 catalog, which includes my book, is being fully honored as are the first few months of 2017, but the upshot is that I’ve been orphaned again. Just like last time, I’d like to continue writing these characters, but I’m moving forward. I’ve written a third book with a third set of characters.
I could have sat and moaned about being snakebit, but writing takes time and life goes on. Waiting and hoping for a second chance for either book wouldn’t bring them back. Instead, my best hope for moving forward from being an orphan is to continue writing short stories and novels. So, I’ve shed a tear and will gladly share my current books with the world, but my eye is on a future prize – the publication of a book that actually has a published sequel.
This is the only way I’ve been able to handle being orphaned. How about you?
Debra H. Goldstein ©2016
Judge (ret.) Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star Publishing - April 2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. She also writes short stories and non-fiction. Debra serves on the national Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter and Alabama Writers Conclave boards and is a MWA member. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, Joel, whose blood runs crimson.