Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guest Post: From Dorchester to Deadite and Delirium

Cover by John Hornor Jacobs
By Bryan Smith, guest blogger

The publishing industry is changing.

Yeah, that’s not exactly breaking news.  Contributors to this blog, as well as its regular readers, undoubtedly hear similar statements on a regular basis.  Among my colleagues, it’s a subject that has been discussed with ever-increasing frequency, particularly over just the last several months.

I write horror novels.  Until now, all of them have been published by Leisure Books, an imprint of Dorchester Publishing.  As of the summer of 2010, I had sold nine novels to Dorchester, and there didn’t appear to be any end in sight.  My editor, Don D’Auria, had faith in my work.  If not for the aforementioned changes blasting cyclone-like through the publishing world, I’m confident I could have sold Don another nine novels.  And I would have been more than content to go on that way indefinitely.

Obviously I was guilty of a certain level of complacency.  I also suffered from a willful disregard of the changes I knew were occurring.  It’s not that I didn’t know they were happening.  I read the news reports.  I heard the chatter among other writers.  The buzz about ebooks and ereaders was getting louder and louder all the time.  Brick and mortar book stores were hurting.  Some even said those stores were on the brink of extinction.  It all should have been very alarming, and it was, even to me, but I chose to simply not worry about it.

In early August of 2010, willful disregard was abruptly struck from my list of options.  That was when the news hit that Dorchester would be dropping mass market publishing and transitioning to trade paperbacks and ebooks.  Those of us in Dorchester’s horror stable went into full-on panic mode.  There was a lot of speculation that Dorchester was in serious financial trouble and might not survive.  We writers conferred with each other in a lengthy chain of emails about how to proceed.  Many of us expressed serious doubt regarding the company’s ability to right its financial ship.  A lot of different ideas were thrown around, but most of us were in agreement on one critical matter--we wanted the rights to our titles back.  Most of us eventually reached some sort of agreement with Dorchester.  For my part, I received all print rights to my titles back almost immediately.  Ebook rights will revert to me at the end of 2011.

After several years and eight books (the contract for the ninth was canceled), I am no longer with Dorchester.  Since our parting of the ways, I have worked out new publishing arrangements, albeit no longer at the mass market level.  Deadite Press will be issuing new trade paperback editions of all my old Leisure titles and will also be doing trade editions of new novels.  Delirium Books will publish limited hardcover editions of those new books.

I am satisfied with those arrangements for the time being.  Both Deadite and Delirium have been a pleasure to work with so far.  However, I have had a lot of lingering questions regarding the deeper implications of the major changes in the industry.  Most importantly, the tantalizing possibilities inherent in digital self-publishing.  We’ve all certainly followed the stories about the startling success authors such as J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking have experienced with this method.  And, as I’m sure is the case for many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I should give ebook self-publishing a shot.

To that end, I recently made the decision to self-publish via Kindle (other formats will follow) a novel entitled Deadworld.  Deadworld was written in the winter of 2006. Originally, I wanted it to be my second Leisure novel. My first novel, House of Blood, was very much a piece of pulp writing. I won't go into the details of why (because it's a whole other long story), but my whole focus with HOB was to write as fast as possible. The bulk of it was written in just five weeks. Another novel, Deathbringer, was also written very quickly, in just under two months. After I finished Deathbringer, I submitted it to Don at Leisure and waited many months without hearing whether they'd publish a second novel from me. While I was waiting, I started Deadworld. With Deadworld, I made a conscious effort to create something bigger in scope and more carefully crafted. I wanted it to be my second published novel because I thought it would be a good idea to follow up the quickly written HOB with an obviously more accomplished piece of writing.

In the end, though, Leisure wanted to go with Deathbringer as the second novel. The reasoning was that House of Blood was pretty successful and Deathbringer was closer to being along the same lines. Deadworld was just too different, so it was put to the side, where it seemed destined to stay indefinitely.

However, the shift in the way self-publishing is perceived, at least at the digital level, meant that I was comfortable granting Deadworld new life as an ebook.  Though its ultimate success or failure remains to be seen (as of this writing, it’s only been available a few days), I’m happy to have it out there.  There’s an undeniable sense of liberation with digital self-publishing.  Publication via Kindle is shockingly easy.  I control every aspect of the book’s production.  I welcome the challenge this presents.

Because I  know one thing for damn sure--complacency, now more than ever, has no place in this business.  And it definitely no longer numbers among my own professional shortcomings.

Bryan Smith is the author of several mass market horror novels from Leisure Books, including House of Blood, Deathbringer, The Freakshow, Queen of Blood, Soultaker, Depraved, The Killing Kind, and The Dark Ones. Deadite Press became my primary publisher in late 2010, issuing Rock and Roll Reform School Zombies in October of that year. I like beer, loud rock and roll, horror movies, Britcoms, a bunch of the usual stuff. Visit The Blog That Dripped Blood for more information.


Steve Weddle said...

Great stuff. Tie this with the Sara Henry post earlier in the week and it sounds like some great publishing/marketing ideas for writers in today's marketplace.

Lyn Cote said...

I'm experimenting with this new way of doing things too. I wish you much success!

John Hornor said...

Looking forward to see how DEADWORLD sells. Haven't had a chance to read, but I'm excited for it.

Jason T said...

sounds good, i just bought it

Mike Dennis said...

Good post, Bryan. You're not alone in your awakening. Your inner conflict over digital self-publishing is being repeated in the souls of most published authors as I write this.

Welcome to the brave new world. Best of luck.