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Why I went Indie with THE GIFTED DEAD: a Frank Discussion

GiftedDead_119KNext Tuesday (September 23) is the official release date for The Gifted Dead, my contemporary epic fantasy novel. Unlike the vast majority of my previously released books, The Gifted Dead is not being put out by a traditional New York publisher. Instead, the ebook version is an indie release (produced with the help of my literary agency) and the print edition is a small press publication (that small press being Aardwolf Press, which is solely owned and operated by my husband).

I’m sure many of you are wondering why I chose to go the indie/small press route, so I thought I’d give you the straight-talking, unvarnished version here. Be prepared for a bit of a long story.

When I finished the first draft of The Gifted Dead, more than a year ago, my agent and I were both super-enthused about it, and we both thought it likely that this would be my “breakout book,” the one that would lift me out of the mid-list dungeon (where I’ve done perfectly well over the years, thank you very much, but what writer doesn’t dream of being a bestseller?). This was right about the time my publisher for the Nikki Glass series decided they didn’t want the fourth book in the series, which was already under contract. We sent them The Gifted Dead, and my editor was over the moon about it. He said the publisher would happily take The Gifted Dead in place of the Nikki Glass book they didn’t want.

That was when I faced my first big decision about this book. Should I take the bird in the hand without knowing whether another publisher might offer me a better contract? It seemed such a shame to write this potential “breakout book” and then just hand it over to the first publisher who showed interest. My agent and I decided to test the waters and see if the publisher would show the kind of enthusiasm we thought the book deserved, and we asked them to contract a second book in the series. We figured if they really loved the book and planned to to give it the kind of attention (and the kind of promotional push) we wanted, they would offer a contract for a second.

Despite my editor’s best attempts to persuade the higher-ups at his publishing house to offer for that second book, they didn’t do it. There was much angst and much discussion between my agent and me about what to do. Should we give my publisher this book with no reason to believe there was any deep commitment behind it, or should we hope for a better deal from a different publisher?

For me, the decision came down to comparing two worst-case scenarios. The worst-case scenario if I went with the bird in hand was that the publisher would eventually get around to publishing the book in a couple of years, with an indifferent cover and minimal (if any) fanfare. There’d be one copy (spine-out) in some bookstores, and no one would even know the book existed.  The worst-case scenario if we went wide with the submission was that no publisher would buy it and that I would end up having to self-publish. (At that point there was no doubt in my mind that this book was going to be published one way or another.) I decided that Worst Case #1 would totally gut me if it came about. I would forever wonder if I could have done better, if I had killed my series before it even started by not being willing to take a risk. Worst Case #2 would be disappointing, but I wouldn’t have to live with so many regrets or what-ifs.

And so I decided to reject the bird in hand and go out on submission.

Never have I had so much positive feedback from editors as the feedback I received for The Gifted Dead. Time after time, editors fell in love with it and decided to take it to their acquisitions committee (buying decisions are never made by just one person but by multi-departmental committees). And that was where we ran into problems. Because a common way of presenting books in these committees is to point to the success of similar books–and there were no similar books out there.

As I mentioned, The Gifted Dead is a contemporary epic fantasy. There are tons of epic fantasies set in imaginary lands, but none that I know of that are set in our modern-day world. There are tons of contemporary fantasies (including all those urban fantasies that have been so popular over the last few years), but none that I know of with an epic scope (where there are multiple point-of-view characters and multiple interconnected plot lines). The consensus among the various committees  can apparently by summed up as: “We don’t know how to market this, so we’re going to pass.”

So Worst Case Scenario #2 came to pass, but though I was disappointed, there was a part of me that was also relieved. Publishing the book myself meant I would have control of the cover art (the thought of this book with an ugly stock-photo cover and yucky font  was enough to give me nightmares), and I would be able to bring it out this year instead of having to wait until 2015 or (probably more likely) 2016. My dark cloud very definitely had a silver lining.

And that’s how The Gifted Dead came to be. No matter how it does, I will have no regrets about my decisions. I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out (and that cover!).

Here’s some more information about the book, about how/where to pre-order it, and about the giveaways that will be ending very soon.

Politics and magic make dangerous bedfellows.

Deep within the Order, the seeds of corruption have taken root. While younger generations of the Gifted have embraced modern democratic values, a secret society of old-guard zealots seek a return to the past, when only European men of distinguished bloodlines held power.

Now, three venerable European families and a maverick American each plot to seize control of the Order and shape it to their will. A cutthroat game of political intrigue will decide the winner; and the stakes couldn’t be higher, for ruling the Order carries with it the power to grant—or deny—an afterlife.

What begins as a battle of wills could turn into an all-out war. And magic could prove deadlier than any missile.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

Enter the Goodreads giveaway (ends Friday, 9/19)

Pre-order from Amazon.com

Note: The ebook will be available from all the usual places on or around the official release date. The print book should be available through regular bookstores, although in all likelihood they’ll have to order it for you rather than having it in stock.

If you’d like to read some of the book before deciding, I’m revealing the first three chapters one scene at a time through my blog tour. There are also 10 e-ARCs and a $100 gift card up for grabs. (Be sure to check the previous stops to get the whole excerpt.) The tour ends Friday 9/14, and you can click on the graphic below to get links to all the stops.




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