connieI’m just going to get out of the way really quickly here because Connie Brockway, one of my favorite writers, has some news.   So, without further ado, here’s our newest AAR interview with the author.

Connie, you’ll notice no headline or teaser giving away your news, so what’s up?

I’m going rogue, Sandy. Heading over the wall. Striking out for uncharted territory. Boldly going where (only a few thousand) have gone before! Which is my long-winded way of saying that the next book and very probably the next two full-length historical romance novels I write will be available solely as eBooks.

Though in the interest of full disclosure, I will be part of collaboration from Avon out in 2012.

So, what are the major reasons that you’re making the change?

Oh, there’s reasons a-plenty. First off, the contract I was offered was not good either monetarily and elsewise, the elsewise being in terms of eBooks. It doesn’t take too much business acumen to look at recent eBook sales history and project that eBook readers aren’t going to pony up the same amount for an eBook, that exists only as a virtual entity, as a paper book which costs substantially more to produce  (printing, shipping, warehousing, distribution, covers etc.) Or if they do, they aren’t going to do it often. And if the publishers set the price too high, it’s the authors that lose the most. I hate losing.

Of course, this was more than a business decision. Strictly as a writer, I’m squealing with joy at the notion of being completely free to write the stories I most want to read. And, I sincerely believe, that my readers most want to read.

For years, I have been trying to convince a publisher to let me do sequels to As You Desire and All Through the Night. Waste of my breath. Now, I understand from a business perspective that it doesn’t make sense to publish a book that is the sequel to one owned and still being published by another company, but let’s be honest here. There’s more to it than that.

Over the last couple years, as print publishers have been facing numerous financial crises, it has felt like they’ve become less likely to buy a book that doesn’t fit snugly within the parameters of last month’s success and since last month’s success was dictated by the previous month’s success (and so forth and so on) there hasn’t been a whole lot of room left in which to play. And I dearly love to play.

No one was or is going to buy a book from me that is set in Egypt. Or Italy. Or take a chance on my riff on the Tarzan story. And while my Facebook page poll on where readers want their books set told me loud and clear that the publishers are right, most readers do want their historical romance set in England, there’s that hallowed  word “most” to consider. My core readers have never been “most” –otherwise I would have long ago sprung to the top of the bestseller list. I like to believe that my readers are picking up my books because they like my slightly different settings or characters or time periods.

There’s evidence that there’s a huge pool of readers out there who got left behind while the legacy publishing houses were tightening their parameters, and who are starving for a gritty western or an gentle American or a bloody medieval or, blush, an off kilter sheik story.  Why, Masha Canham has topped 6000 eBook sales on Kindle since the first of the year re-issuing her wonderful pirate novel, Swept Away. And she’s done so without benefit of a Facebook page or one single tweet. Because there’s an audience who have been waiting, hunting and searching for a pirate saga. With eBooks, those readers can once again find those that speak to their romantic fantasy, not necessarily everyone else’s.

My best books, not necessarily my most successful books, but those that won awards and keep showing up on all-time favorite lists have always been the ones I wrote while  following my instincts and had very little editorial input in their concept. They were books like The Bridal Season and My Dearest Enemy and As You Desire.

I’m excited and eager to get back to having a rip-roaring good time writing, to just shooting the place up and worrying about the mess later. And I promise, the mess will be cleaned up. I have no intention of trying to pass off an unedited manuscript on anyone—especially with my storied history of typos (Harry isn’t the only one with visual dyslexia!) I’ll be working with both an editor and a copy editor to make sure the format is squeaky clean and the prose is polished.

And as an added bonus (at least for me) I’ll be designing the cover. Not many people know that when my husband was in medical school I paid the rent as a graphic illustrator. I’m working with a very talented photographer to produce some delicious, sumptuous covers.

So, you’re controlling the pricing, cover art, hiring an editor and a copyeditor – there must be incredible freedom in this. Does freedom make for better books?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? (Actually I’d be happy with a lot less!) I don’t know. It certainly makes for writing with a sense of anticipation and optimisim. Some of that excitement and pleasure can’t help but translate onto the page. At least I hope so, because if it does, the books will be killer. On the other hand, maybe the freedom will go to my head and I’ll populate the As You Desire sequel with hookah smoking rabbits or write the sequel to All Through the Night from the point of view of a body louse. Hmmm…

Connie, let’s talk the future for a moment.  Do you envision other once New York-published authors taking the plunge as you are?

Absolutely. I’d like to claim the position of vanguard but there’s a number of NY print published authors who are already writing both eBooks and for legacy publishers or solely eBooks. Barry Eisler recently wrote an excellent blog about his own decision to go the eBook route.  You can read it here — just hop right over the icky frog digression midway through—yeow!

The thing is, for the last several years the publishers have been strongly suggesting that their authors do more than just write. “Do you have a Facebook page? Are you active on Twitter? Do you have a Web site? How often do you update it?” Ah, hell. They don’t suggest, they insist. And in doing so they’ve trained their authors to take over a part of the business traditionally done by publicity and art departments. Most of the authors I know write their own back cover copy, or as much of it as makes no difference, have integral input in the cover design, and promote themselves using social media (You ever read Squawk Radio?) And while some authors have a publicity maven working overtime on their behalf—hallooooo, Pam Jaffe! (Not sucking up. I’ve never worked with her. Just watched in awe from afar)—most authors are left to their own devices and they’ve learned how to wield those devices with sometimes dazzling skill.

So, at a certain point, an author has to ask himself, “What exactly will a publisher be able to for me?”

The answer may be quite a lot or it might be not nearly enough and if it’s not enough well, that’s the point where authors start planning for a different sort of future. And let me tell you it’s a helluva a scary future; I’m not going to kid you. I vacillate between being completely stoked and sick to my stomach, afraid that I might write the best book of my entire career and no one will find it to read it. That’s the biggest challenge I see in electronic publication, finding the audience. On the other hand, if I write a clunker and no one finds it…well, if an author bombs in the electronic woods but no ones read it, does it still stink?

As someone who’s waited years for Giles’ story, in particular, color me pleased.  What’s the timetable for the books to come?

Well, I’m glad I’ve made at least one person happy, Sandy! Right now I’m having two out of print books,  Promise Me Heaven (the book where Giles Strand makes his first appearance) and Anything for Love, scanned and formatted. Next week we’re doing the photo shoot for the new covers –you can keep posted on my Facebook page to see the results—and hopefully with 4-6 weeks they’ll be available for download.

The next step is to write a short story that will bridge the time period between As You Desire and it’s sequel (title to be announced—anyone got a great title? Write me!) I plan to offer the short story sometime this summer for free on my Web site to people who’ve signed up for my newsletter. So please, sign up here.  Then, sometime around Christmas, I plan to release the book.

I plan to be working concurrently on Take Me Through the Night (and if you think this title sucks, let me know!), Giles Strand’s story. I have a whopper of a dark, sexy, grim gothicy tale cooked up for poor Giles. His happily ever after has been a long time coming but he’s still going to have to work for it.

And speaking of work. I better get back to it.  Thanks, Sandy!

And thanks to Connie for her honesty. I think this is good news piled on top of good news.  Frustrated by traditional publishing, an author I love will have the opportunity to write the books of her heart that she’s wanted to write for years.  And,  lucky me, I will finally get to read Giles’ story.

What do you think?  Are you looking forward to those long-promised sequels? Any thoughts for Connie about the kinds of books you like to read?

– Sandy AAR

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