Last week, I signed a contract with Clayborn Press to publish the Compact Universe series, including all existing stories, the three novellas planned, and Storming Amargosa, the final installment of The Amargosa Trilogy. Clayborn Press is a small, independent publisher in Arizona.
Now some of you may be asking why I’d sign with a small press that’s essentially in startup mode after last week’s rant about the death of independent publishing and a dismissal of small press. That’s a very good question. The short answer is I don’t have to chase beta readers and do all the marketing. Obviously, I have to do some. With Clayborn, I can keep the covers and cover concepts I already have but outsource future cover designs, as well as editing and some of the marketing. It also gives me a pool of resources to draw from rather than try to do this myself.
One thing that came about during the discussions was organizing the series. Jonathan Clayborn (putting the Clayborn in Clayborn Press since 2009) suggested that the larger Compact Universe series needed titles for story arcs to fit them around The Amargosa Trilogy. So The Magic Root (to be retitled The Root of War for reasons I’ll get to momentarily), The Marilynists, and Gimme Shelter will become The Seeds of War arc; Broken Skies, Warped, and Tishla will become The Homefront arc; and this year’s planned novellas will become The Gathering Storm arc. That should make it easier for readers to follow along.
But what, you ask, is to become of No Marigolds in the Promised Land? It will continue to be serialized in the newsletter until its completion this fall. I will do a revision on the full novella before handing it off to Clayborn Press and starting a new serialized story, one tied to the events of Storming Amargosa. However, those of you who read yesterday’s post will know that I had to make a change to the setting. Apparently, Barsoom, the way it appears in the story, cannot be used. Sure, the copyright’s expired, but trademarks do not expire. And the Burroughs estate likes their trademark. So rather than annoy the rightful owners of the name, I’ve reduced the reference to John Farno’s musings on the planet’s name and deciding to find out why Barsoom was considered. The planet is now called Farigha, which means “empty” in Arabic, and Farno calls it “The Big Empty.” Barsoom becomes little more than a literary reference that prompts Farno to pull up an audio version of the John Carter series.
“But you also said run, don’t walk, from small press. Why the sudden changeup?”
The contract is loose, designed for a writer to move on if a larger press comes calling. Jonathan Clayborn is a known entity and has a proven track record putting his own and other people’s books together. The opportunity is there for better marketing and a bit more credibility walking into a bookstore to ask if they can shelve my books. So why did I say run, don’t walk, from small press?
Consider that using my own covers is an option. I know several authors who have signed with a small press, then have to get their own covers, go get an editor, and do almost all the marketing. That’s not publishing. That’s giving someone a percentage of your profits to slap their name on your work. You’re still doing all the heavy lifting. Also, in the past two years, I was contacted by a small press that was aggressively signing new writers I knew in the SF field. The trouble was that they appeared to be doing what my only traditional publisher did about 14 years ago, namely try to boost sales by signing every author who could string two words together. I already had been burned once. I watched this other new press closely and saw they were headed in the same direction – oversigning, followed by a collapse and some very angry authors. No thank you.
Jonathan came to me and pled his case. I liked what he had to say and what he showed me. So I signed.
“What will this do to the crime novel sitting on that big publisher’s desk?”
Nothing. We have no agreement, and this isn’t even in that editor’s ballpark. If it fails where it is, I will market it to agents and go through the whole slog once again. In the meantime, I can focus on writing the follow-up and completing The Amargosa Trilogy and its attendant novellas. What more can a poor boy ask?
“So when’s this happening?”
Right now, the plan is to The Children of Amargosa edited and repackaged by the end of August with The Magic Root (as The Root of War) shortly thereafter. Jonathan and I haven’t discussed the rest of the series yet, but this gives my betas some much-needed relief.