As a less sugary Halloween treat, I have been running a Twitter campaign all this week to highlight my backlist e-book Spellfall, a fantasy thriller set over the week of Halloween ending with ‘the Opening’ at midnight on 31st October, when the boundary between worlds grows thin. In Spellfall, this boundary lies between our familiar world of supermarkets and trick-and-treaters and the enchanted world of Earthaven, where unicorns roam and spells grow on giant trees. My heroine Natalie is the child of an Earthaven mother and a human father, which means she belongs in neither world yet has power in both. When the evil Lord Hawk (an exiled Spell Lord) kidnaps her for her Earthaven powers, she is forced across the boundary with only her mother’s magehound and Hawk’s terrified son to help her.
|originally published by Chicken House UK/Scholastic US|
And yet… and yet… I get the feeling that some people see e-publication of this book and my other backlist titles as more of a "trick" than a "treat". How dare I, an ordinary author, consider my old work worth keeping in print? I can imagine my original publishers sniggering behind their hands at my tiny sales, saying “I told you so” and breathing a sigh of relief that they were sensible enough to let it go out of print in the first place. I can imagine my readers rolling their eyes and muttering (with various halloween curses) “Not that old stuff again… why doesn’t she stop wasting our time with ancient history and write something new...?”
Well, I am working on something new – if you want evidence, the first book of my new Pendragon Legacy series “Sword of Light” is due out as a beautiful hardcover in February. I’m only using time that would otherwise be wasted watching TV or cleaning the house to work on my e-books, so don’t worry!
Yet those imaginary readers and publishers do have a point. The e-book option for backlist titles is fairly new. Previously, only big selling and highly promoted authors would have their backlists kept in print, with the majority of books allowed to die a quick death for economic reasons, the market deciding what lived and what died. Now authors can decide whether their work should live on. I know you think we've all got egos the size of bankers' bonuses, but this is a difficult decision for an author to make, because even from a distance of many years an author’s view of their work is distorted. In my darker moments, I cringe at the thought of publishing a single word of mine, and my older books make me cringe all the more because I can now see all the things wrong with them that I didn't at the time.
Reissuing a title does offer a chance to revisit it, however, which is not an option if a publisher keeps it in print, so I’m taking the opportunity to rewrite some parts of my Seven Wonders series. But I’ve let Spellfall stand as it was originally published except for the removal of one four-letter word, which drew a lot of flak from American librarians and shows you how careful you have to be with words. (Yes, a single word in 70,000!) If you’re curious - young readers look away now - here is the offending passage, Redeye being a mouse:
Redeye soon put him right. How do you think Spell Lords recycle them, then? Eat ’em and shit ’em out the other end?
And here is the rewrite:
Redeye soon put him right. How do you think Spell Lords recycle them, then? Eat ’em and poop ’em out the other end?
If there are any librarians reading this, I hope you think this is now more acceptable and will forgive me (and my editors) for letting it slip through in the original text?
So the question for readers everywhere is this: Do you think I, and other authors whose books have gone out of print, should be republishing our older titles as e-books? Or should we let them die a quiet death, and move on to new and hopefully better things? Be honest, do you see our backlist books as "tricks" or "treats"?
More about my work (old and new) can be found on my website: http://www.katherineroberts.co.uk/
My unicorn muse blogs for younger readers here: http://reclusivemuse.blogspot.com/