Thursday, July 11, 2019

When Publishers Fold

Recently, author Delilah Devlin hosted me on her blog, where I wrote about what to do with books and stories "orphaned" by the closing of a publisher:

Rescuing Orphaned Works

In re-releasing the fiction mentioned in this post, I had the advantage that those novels, novellas, and short stories had been thoroughly edited before their original publication. Therefore, I could have confidence that professional editors had already deemed them to be publishable. Still, I welcomed the opportunity to comb through them again. It's a rare piece of writing that gets into print with no typos, not to mention examples of minor stylistic awkwardness that need a bit of polishing. Also, one of the publishers that closed, Ellora's Cave, seemed to have an irrational aversion to commas. I'm delighted to be able to put the punctuation in those stories back where it belongs. As an English degree holder and former professional proofreader, I cringed to imagine that some readers would think I didn't know the right way to punctuate a sentence.

As you may know, the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust is publishing its final installments of the Darkover and "Sword and Sorceress" anthologies this year. I'm sure lots of other readers and writers will miss those books as much as I will. The Trust has also decided to let many earlier volumes go out of print. That was disappointing news, because I'd expected my stories in the older anthologies to remain available in perpetuity. Thanks to the Internet, e-books, and self-publishing, I was able to collect my "Sword and Sorceress" contributions in a Kindle collection. (The MZB estate gave Darkover contributors permission to reprint those out-of-print stories, too, but unfortunately I didn't realize until too late that the files were no longer on my hard drive. Luckily, Amazon has many used copies of the Darkover volumes for sale, so the books and their contents haven't faded into nonexistence.)

In addition to minor edits and corrections, another decision to face in re-issuing older works is whether to update the settings into the contemporary era. With my first vampire novel, DARK CHANGELING, I had a definite in-universe reason for the year of its action, because of when it made sense for the protagonist to have been born. Therefore, I didn't change the time period, with the result that the date of the direct sequel, CHILD OF TWILIGHT, explicitly set thirteen to fourteen years later, couldn't change either. That's one difficulty I could avoid with several of my fantasy stories; the culture of "fairy-tale realm" or "vaguely Dark Ages England" remains unaffected by advances in computer or cell-phone technology.

In a way, it's a pleasure to have control over the presentation of some of my older fiction. On the down side, a self-published author also bears the full burden of marketing and promotion. How does one stimulate fresh interest in books and stories that readers have already been exposed to in earlier releases?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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