Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Second Chance for a Published Novel


Madeline (M.M.) Gornell is the author of six award-winning mystery novels. Her current literary focus is Route 66 as it traverses California’s Mojave Desert. Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries, and besides reading and writing, is also a potter. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the High Desert. For more information, visit her at website or Amazon Author Page.


A couple weeks back, Kate Thornton penned a Writers in Residence post on recycling your work, which started me down the road of maybe sharing an experience I’m going-through/learning-through right now, and it’s recycling of a sort. Wasn’t sure if my experience would be relevant for other authors, but I do continue to believe sharing writing experiences is a good thing. And most assuredly, I’ve learned so much from my fellow authors; in particular, many of your experiences allowed me to move on without recreating the much talked about “wheel.” I call it “fast tracking” the learning curve.

Here’s the back-story. In 2009, Andy Zang at Aberdeen Bay Publishing offered me a publishing contract for Death of a Perfect Man (I call it DPM), my second mystery. If it weren’t for Andy, I’m not sure I would have continued to pursue writing—needless to say I owe him a lot! Alas, fast forward to 2015, my rights for DPM have been returned to me. Low sales.

My initial thought was, sell the remaining copies I have, and move on. Then I thought, recycle maybe? But, I’m not sure it’s a common practice to issue a 2nd Edition, or reprint of a book unless the author is dead? Living authors don’t rewrite an old novel, do they? Next thought was, this is going to be a pain. Finally I came to the conclusion—the publishing world is rapidly changing, with evolving circumstances, so what the heck!

Here’s what happened:
  • First hurdle was converting my final Aberdeen pdf to a MSWord file so I could edit! Ha! Not exactly a perfect conversion process. It was like reformatting the darned book over again. Having your final published pdf is a good thing, but it isn’t a slam-dunk to a fresh manuscript—especially if you want/need to make changes.
  • Secondly, while converting, I couldn’t help but rewrite—and it was the most unique editing experience I’ve ever had. It was like editing someone else’s work, I write somewhat differently now, even my voice is different, while it simultaneously didn’t feel right I should change much. I did take out words, combined sentences, removed redundancies—the stuff you never see until reading again down the road. And the mortification at the errors that ended up in the published work! And that’s despite having wonderful and extremely competent editors at the time.
  • Next, what do I do with the new and improved DPM? Here’s where I got lucky, Kitty Kladstrup at Champlain Avenue Books agreed to publish my second edition! I’m awaiting a proof to look over now.

       As an aside, while I  edited/rewrote, I found I still liked Jada Beaudine’s story, still liked the characters in Red Rock City, and I’m even thinking about a sequel. No matter I’m in the middle of a sequel to Rhodes, no matter I’ve already started a whole new series...I’m flitting on.

On a more personal note, Jada’s experiencing the Red Rock and Ridgecrest area for the first time, the scenic imagery from that area, the pottery studio I created in that book, all took me back along with my character to those days when we first moved to Southern California and I was heavy into pottery. Reminded me how much I still like pottery. Working on cleaning up my studio.

And my take away from this experience, and the nugget I want to pass on writing wise is: Just do “it” if you want to! There will be challenges, curves and forks in the road… But the result is worth it—even if only as a learning experience.

22 comments:

  1. What an inspiring post. Why indeed drop an old friend when you have learned so much and can get her into newer clothes and maybe send her in another direction and even broaden her horizons. I published my first four unpublished works last year and it was definitely rewarding. Good for you, Mad.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Gayle. Yes, I have yoor recently published first four novels, and your efforts/success were part of the reason I pushed ahead. You inspired me!

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    1. Thank you, Marilyn, it's interesting how when you go back with "different eyes" and still like a set of characters--which I do. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. "Living authors don't rewrite an old novel, do they?" I doubt there are may authors who wouldn't relish one more pass at a published novel, whether it's to make a few tweaks to tighten up the prose or perform major surgery on a troubling section.

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    1. You've brought up a good perspective, Miko--looking at it as an "opportunity." That was hard for me to do, in that once done, in my mind I've usually moved on rather completely. Thinking positively though, is the way to go!

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  4. I am currently converting a book - wow, it is hard work! Thank you for all your helpful and inspiring words, Maddie!

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    1. If you're talking about the conversion from like pdf to Word, you are so right, Kate! For me, blocking like paragraph breaks, returns, even fonts were all screwed up! But sure does make you reread and see other types of errors that need fixing. Sending empathetic and encouraging hugs your way...

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  5. Well, I'm a living author and have recycled the books that were published by L&L Dreamspell. When they closed up shop and returned rights the choice was to pursue a new publisher or bite the bullet and self-publish. The decision was the latter. So, the Silver Sisters Mysteries did not die but became better. New covers, some editing and increased sales and popularity. Devils Dance and Devils Due were combined and edited to form one novel: Betrayed. It isn't the end of the world if you get your rights back. Make the right decision, though. Some books are literally meant to be with traditional publishers.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Morgan. You and all your wonderful literary trail-blazing have from the first time we met been inspirational. I think you did a grand job getting your books back "out there"!

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  6. A daunting task, but it sounds like a good result. Best of luck.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, John. Probably need that luck you're sending my way when DPM actually comes out again! All the best.

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  7. Excellent post, Madeline, and I wish you the best. I know you've made the right decision. I rewrote and re-released all of my books, and it worked for me. It will work for you, too. I have faith because I love your books. : )
    Marja McGraw

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    1. Marja, all your hard work was also in the back of my mind when I was plodding away--like so many of my author friends (see comments above) you have given me inspiration and a path to follow. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. What an interesting undertaking, Mad. I'm sure it is super hard work, but if you are rewriting it, it can also really be a lot of fun, if I can put that word with rewriting. Can't wait to read the finished product.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Jackie! I am actually looking forward to the proof. The cover is the same, but yes, I ended up doing more rewriting-adjustments (smile) than I expected.

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  9. How interesting. Salvaging a book that didn't do as well as you wanted is such an opportunity and less work. By the way, I love stories set on Route 66. I'm not sure they even call it that anymore, but I am so familiar with that area.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Linda! Yes, Route 66 is very much alive, being "revitalized" in many areas. I'm now living on a town on Route 66 in California's Mojave desert and a lot of visitors "do the road." A wonderful look, I think, into a piece of Americana.

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  10. Very inspiring post, Madeline. I've been thinking about revamping my first novel, Tangled Webs, just a bit... Now I just may do that. Thanks for the encouragement and good luck with the new version of DPM (love that title!(.

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    1. "Revamping!" I really like that word, Susan, and it's perfect. I wish you the best with Tangled Webs--going back for another look was a very interesting journey for me. Good luck to you, too! Thanks for stopping by.

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  11. Fascinating post, Mad. And how interesting that you view the work from a different perspective now. I know the finished product will be terrific and look forward to reading it.

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie! Yes it was interesting, and reliving, sort of, that point of my life was a trip down memory lane--in a good way.

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