Editors, Relationships and a Space Dog, by Enid Richemont
Imagine this. You are working with a professional colleague you respect, but have never met (blind date). This colleague has already stated that he admires your work (you now have a relationship of sorts). Indeed, he has commissioned one of your books for publication (it has taken him and his company four years to get to this point) and you have received and signed the contract and the cheque (at this point, the relationship has become more concrete).
He expresses active interest in other works, especially one. You are now both considering a work as yet unborn and in gestation, so cooperation, encouragement and loving care will be needed to bring it to life. At this delicate point, your colleague vanishes. Emails are routinely unanswered. You wait. Perhaps he's ill, had an accident, even died? Maybe the gestating work you've shared is no longer loved or needed. Will he pay you the respect of telling you? You can take it - after all, you've been in the business for over twenty years - maybe this one must be aborted. But no, nothing. This attitude pervades the publishing industry at present. Expertise, track records, count for nothing. Pitch, even with an agent (and I have an excellent one), and you will be ignored. How many of us have reached the point of semi-nervous breakdown over this we will never know.
It wasn't always like this. When I was first published by Walker, and working with people like Anne Carter and Wendy Boase, the encouragement and nurturing I received acted like fertiliser on the fragile plants which were my ideas and stories. It wasn't always like this for Ann Jungman, who was our guest blogger a little while ago, either. Ann's (over eighty) books for children were hugely read and admired. Then, slowly, established authors began going out of print. Ann's fight-back was to start her own company, Barn Owl Books, re-publishing titles people kept asking for and couldn't any more find stocked in bookshops. Then in turn, Barn Owl itself went down - you can read the full sad story on Ann's recent blog.
There seemed to be no way out of this, until the emergence of ebooks. Self-publishing, so-called 'vanity' publishing as we knew it, would have been out of the question for any professional author, but suddenly the propect of taking control of our own work seemed inviting, if challenging (the question of quality control still vexes us, and there is an awful lot of dross out there).
I've recently re-published six of my out of print books on Kindle, and one never published title, DRAGONCAT, which did astonishingly well in a KDP promotion a few weeks ago. My most recent ebook, THE ENCHANTED VILLAGE, has just come out. Aimed at people of eight plus, it's a fantasy about offended Greek gods taking over the small Cornish village of Constantine, and it was launched in the village primary school, with teachers and kids dressed up as gods and goddesses. I love the cover image by the very talented Mark Preston - it's just perfect for the story (which not all book covers are).
The germ of the idea behind the plot was a very personal fantasy. Cornwall is beautiful, but its weather can leave much to be desired. My daughter and her partner had planned an open-air wedding ceremony in a meadow sloping down to the Helston estuary. But what if it rained? Yes, they'd thought of that one, but there's not a huge amount you can do if it decides to bucket! So I dreamed up gods who might hold the weather in that small area in a state of sunshine, and it happened - in life as well as in the book.
This same daughter designs puppets and marionettes for theatre companies, and her latest one is a dog marionette. She brought it with her to work on when she stayed with us recently, and its prototype took on such a life of its own that we couldn't stop ourselves from stroking it each time we walked past it - suddenly the story of Petrouchka began to make total sense. The story will be based on Laika, the Russian dog who was sent into space in the late Fifties.