There was a time when a romance author’s backlist was something that gathered dust in the publishers attic. Occasionally, a favourite would be dusted off and reissued in an anthology, but after the first round of publication in the US, UK, Australia and around the world, most of the books only saw the light of day in three-in-one reissues in places like Lithuania unless an author moved into mainstream and hit the New York Times bestseller list.
Authors like Tess Gerritsen, Nora Roberts and Jennifer Crusie then found their romances dusted off and published in fancy new covers, annoying the heck out of their new readers who thought they were buying a mainstream Tess, or Nora, or Jennifer, but making everyone a lot of money. Including the authors.
Suddenly, however, the backlist is no longer in the back room.
With the wild success of the eBook — something everyone said would never happen — they are hot property. Many of my earlier books were digitised a couple of years ago by Harlequin when eBooks were just beginning to take off and they were testing the waters. And then the Kindle and Nook arrived and my reading life changed forever. A book at the press of a button, any size print I want. It’s an obsessive reader’s (one with dodgy eyesight) dream. But… but… While it’s great that those books are out there for the readers who missed them the first time around, how I would have loved to give them a make-over, bring them up to date, freshen the writing to reflect twenty years of experience.
Then Amazon gave us KDP and the world changed again. Now I’m not just an author, but a publisher, too.
Last year I dug out the Beaumont Brides trilogy, longer romances written for a British publisher in 1996/7 and gave them a new lease of life. It was a steep learning experience and earlier this year, after re-editing them and giving them to a new “clever clogs” to format them for me, I republished them all, along with a three-in-one volume containing all three books. The first of the individual volumes, Wild Justice, is free, so it will cost you about the same whether you prefer individual downloads or the big one — 300,000 words for $4.99.
Out of the sixty books I have written for Harlequin, just four titles have reverted to me and those are getting that lovely makeover. New covers — oh, the joys and frustration of hunting for the perfect image! — an update, if appropriate, to take note of modern technology, changes in currency in Europe, the fact that the Eurostar no longer leaves London from Waterloo, but St Pancras (I’ve been on it, and it’s fabulous!)
The first of these, Eloping With Emmy, was published this month and will cost you less to download now, at $2.99, than it would have done to buy it as a paperback in 1998 ($3.50). That is a serious bargain.
I’ll be following it with Old Desires in a month or two. The cover is done (here’s a peek), but I can’t get stuck into the serious editing until I have the book I’m writing off my desk. And moved house.
And of course, the icing on the cake, was the chance to put together everything I’ve learned in my twenty year career and pass it on to a new generation of authors in Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance.
It’s a new world out there and I am embracing it with both arms.