by Mary Jo
In the brave new world of indie publishing, there is always something new to try, and a new learning curve to growl about. <G> Having the endless curiosity characteristic of writers, I keep trying new things. I've already talked about audiobooks here, and that was a very interesting process in what I think is a rapidly growing area of publishing. Very business-like of me to give it a try.
So naturally, what I'm talking about today isn't at all business-like. <G> I loved writing my young adult Dark Mirror series despite all the challenges.
The concept is a little hard to describe--time-traveling teen mages in a world where aristocrats despise magic so they send magically talented offspring to a school to be cured of their shameful abilities. Once there, my heroine, Lady Victoria Mansfield, falls through a time portal into WWII, where she discovers that her nation needs the magic of her and her friends to survive. Riiiight. Vampires are much more straightforward.
The Dark Mirror proposal was rejected by a dozen editors. One said she might be interested if I cut out all the WWII stuff. Heck, no! A big part of the series is that I wanted to write about Dunkirk! (I blogged about Dark Mirror here when it was first published.)
The twelfth editor who didn't want it thought the idea might appeal to the editor in the next cubicle, so she tossed the proposal over and Tory and her friends found a home.
However, St. Martin's Press only has rights to publish the books in North America and US territories such as Guam, Midway, etc. So I decided to publish my own English language ebooks to the rest of the world. Not because I think that there are hordes of readers across the global who are desperate to read the stories, but because I love them and wanted to make the books as widely available as possible.
Legally I was entitled to do this, but I don't actually know anyone else who has done a world e-edition of this sort. Hence:
The Learning Curve:
I've already published enough backlist books so I knew the principles, but distribution abroad isn't just Amazons! After much poking around and asking questions, I found a lovely British fellow who gave me an overview of e-book platforms in different countries, many of which I'd never heard of. I won't necessarily be able to upload to them all, but at least I had a starting place.
Then there were the covers. I really liked the one SMP had done, particularly the one for Dark Mirror, which shows a Regency girl looking into a mirror and seeing her reflection in mid-20th century clothing. Brilliant! A perfect representation of the series.
The illustrator, Richard Tuschman, also did the artwork for the second book, Dark Passage. I hoped it might be possible to use those illustrations, and the very nice people at St. Martin's Press gave me contact information for Mr. Tuschman. He graciously offered to license world English e-book rights for his two illustrations at a price I could afford.
However, the third SMP cover was a composite of three photographic images from two different stock photo sites. And these were not general public sites like Dreamstime.com and iStock.com--I learned that there are specialized--and expensive!--sites used within the professional art and advertising communities. The people there I talked to were helpful, but the cost was beyond my budget. So I found an image I loved on Dreamstime, and turned the art for all three books over to Kim Killion, who did her usual brilliant job of creating the covers. (My new Dark Destiny cover is below.)
Even reusing the original images didn't mean the covers were identical. Since I'm not as well known outside the US romance market, and hardly known at all in YA, I listed myself as Mary Jo Putney writing as M. J. PUTNEY. There were other adjustments as well: different fonts, different layouts, and in the case of Dark Mirror, going with Richard Tuschman's original color palette. You can compare it with the SMP version above to see the differences.
The learning curve had a LOT of elements, of which the marketing questions were most challenging. Where to distribute? How to price? YAs are usually priced lower than adult books, but where was the sweet spot? Would too high kill sales? Would too low make the books appear to be of lower quality? And should I release the books all at once for the convenience of readers, or space them out in the hopes of building some buzz and being able to do more promo?
The answers I got tended to be contradictory, so I crossed my fingers and did best guesses. I figure the UK will be the prime market since the Dunkirk action of Dark Mirror resonates so powerfully there. For an introductory price, I decided to go with £1.99 for the first month or so, then probably raise it to £2.99, with equivalent pricing in other markets. We'll see.
I decided to release the books about a month apart, so Dark Mirror is starting to go live today around the world. (Some platforms are fast, some are very slow, so ebook roll-outs tend to be imprecise.)
Dark Passage, book 2, will be published on May 25th, and Dark Destiny, book 3, on June 28th. The short story, "Fallen from Grace," that I wrote as a freeby is included as a bonus in Dark Mirror since it tells the story of how the honorable young Lord Allarde was sent to Lackland Abbey where he would meet Tory, and sparks would fly. I suppose in ebook terms, it's Dark Mirror 1.5. <G>
Even for someone like me who believes firmly in delegating whenever possible, this has been a lot of work. Will be worthwhile? Maybe not in strict dollars and cents (and pounds and pence <G>) terms. But writers want to be read. I wanted to make sure that as many people as possible can read the stories. And that makes it all worth while.
On the right is the new cover for Dark Destiny, which I love.
Ironically, while the ebook version of Dark Mirror is becoming available around the world, I don't have any easy way of sending someone an ebook file. However, I can send a print copy of the St. Martin's Press edition of Dark Mirror to someone who comments on this blog between now and Saturday midnight. I can, and I will. <G>
So--is there anyone here from outside North America who would like to give this book a try? What are ebook markets like in your country? I'm still in learning mode here!