Day 15, In Which I Discover that Money isn't Everything

First off, today's deal. It's LORD OF DANGER, the first of the only two medievals I wrote, for 99 cents at Amazon, good in the US, UK and Au/NZ, and for the Nook!  There are all the rules I have to follow -- certain books aren't allowed to be free and those that are can't go on the Nook, etc.  But at 99 cents this one's a treasure.

Speaking of money. long ago, in a golden time, I was the flavor of the month.  Almost everyone wanted me for historicals (which was never what I would have expected but I'll talk about that another day) and I came down to NY and met with various publishers and then went up for auctions.  I already mentioned my idiotic mistake in rejecting Avon without hearing an offer, right?  Well, numbers came in, and then a publisher with, shall we say, not the best reputation trumped everything with a really large offer.  So large that I simply said "Holy shit" when my agent told me.  I took the offer.  I figured I could take the money and run, that even if they screwed up publishing the books I would write more books, and I could get the rights back and it was so much money, how could I lose?

Ooops.  The publisher did its best, but for some reason their former expertise with historicals had vanished.  A good friend of mine was able to extricate herself from her contract when she saw how bad things were going and even managed to resell, mid-series, to her previous publisher, the offer she should have taken in the first place.  I would have loved to do the same.

Things were going bad.  The first book had the most incredibly tacky foil cover.  So did this one.  Purple gilt, I think. I loved this book.  The hero was a wizard, an Alan Rickman-inspired, deliciously wicked man, and the heroine was a plain young woman who offered herself to an arranged marriage with him in order to save her beautiful sister, and the wizard accepted the switch.  And oh, my ...

But the books were tanking.  I watched these books go down the toilet and managed to keep a calm equilibrium. I wrote another Georgian-era historical (book #3 in the contract) and they took the cover design from another of their writers, not even bothering for a new look.  By the time I'd written the fourth and final book in the contract (also the first and only time I took a four book contract) they were going through the motions.  And unfortunately I wrote a book I fell in love with.

Lady Fortune is only the second medieval I've written (not counting novellas) and … okay, all modesty aside … I adore it.  It's simply funny as hell.  The hero is a spy disguised as a court jester, and he drives everyone crazy with his bells and his rhyming and his acrobatics.  He has all the jester tricks down pat, but beneath it all he's a double spy who's irresistibly drawn to the daughter of the lady of the manor.  We not only have their love story, which is both hot and funny, but we have the story of her young mother, who's in an arranged marriage with a knight who's always loved her, someone she's always loved, but they never knew the other cared and they're both walking on tiptoes.  Damn, I just really love this book!

And it was going to be published by a company who'd lost all interest in me and was basically just going to toss it out there, despite the fact that they paid a shitload of money for it.

I wanted it back.  No one else would give me that kind of money, and I didn't care.  I could manage to find the part of the advance to pay them back, and then I had little doubt I could turn around and sell it for about half of what the first company paid me, and I didn't care.  It was breaking my heart to see my beloved book disappear.

There was only one problem.  I was in the midst of leaving my agent, and taking way too long to do it because we were friends and I'd kept hoping things would get better.  Perhaps it's just a simple fact that some agents are right for one stage in your career, and some agents are better for another.  But because I was dithering, if I pulled the book it would have been a whole lot of trouble for my agent, and she would have the rights to resell it, which would have presumably involved a multi-book contract, and it would have kept us tied together when I was trying to gracefully break free (and instead I blew it completely -- you can read about it in my posts on huge mistakes I've made).

So Lady Fortune came out with a small print run and a lousy cover, and for the only time in my life I hired a pr person to do what they could for it (they helped).  And it fucking broke my heart.

And so I learned -- a six figure plus advance on a book is simply not worth it if the publisher isn't going to cherish the book, or understand what a treasure they have.  Maybe I should remember that 4 book contracts are also bad -- it gives them too long to screw up and lose interest in you.

So no more being blinded by money.  In the past I'd taken smaller advances for the chance to write something that interested me (or write with someone whose work I admired), and in the future I took smaller advances hoping the publisher would do a better job than the higher paying one.  That one backfired as well, but as someone said, Publishing isn't a business, it's a casino.

There's a happy ending to all this.  My mantra had always been, "you're building your backlist" when a book came out and didn't do as well as expected.  And now I have glorious backlist up the yin-yang.  BelleBridge is doing a lot of them, and doing a glorious job.  I got to reread and neaten up LADY FORTUNE and I fell in love all over again.  They've just released it, the cover's beautiful, and my baby is finally cherished.

I'm a happy woman.