August 17, 2011

After The Call: Even Award-Winning Authors Get the Blues

Have you guys heard about the controversy surrounding Rick Yancey and his Monstrumologist series?

If you haven't, here's a quick recap:
Rick Yancey is an author who has published nine books---four for adults and five for teens. A few years  ago, Rick signed a three-book deal with Simon & Schuster to publish his YA horror series, The Monstrumologist. The first novel earned a Printz Honor and the second was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize. The third novel will be published later this year, and Yancey had hoped to extend the series by another three books.  
But, recently, Simon & Schuster decided not to purchase Yancey's next three novels, citing low sales figures. Disappointed, Yancey posted the news on his Facebook Fan Page, which caused a mini firestorm in the YA blogging community. A campaign has been started to petition Simon & Schuster to buy the rest of the series, although it appears unlikely that this will happen. 
Phew!

I've read The Monstrumologist--on my belated honeymoon in St. Lucia of all places--and I loved it. The voice. The characters. The goosebump-inducing horror. It was a fantastic novel and I'm pretty bummed that this series won't be extended.

Other fans are disappointed too. Numerous librarians and bloggers have asked their readers to please buy a copy of these books to boost sales. Or to send letters to S&S. On the writing forums I frequent, a few authors have shared their alarm over this decision, worried that their own series may be cancelled if their sales don't improve.

Ah, publishing! It sure seems scary sometimes. But, through this whole ordeal, I think I've gained a few insights that help me as I tread on this (hopeful) path to publication.

1. Sometimes books or series get cancelled (or, in this case, not extended). It's a part of the business. 

In an interview with Bookshelves Of Doom, Yancey mentioned that he has been writing professionally for eight years and has had another series cancelled as well. This made me blink. Wow. Another series? This was incredibly sobering--and it made me think about the other series I've fallen in love with that have been cancelled or not extended. From the top of my head, I can think of three.

At the end of the day, publishing houses are businesses that need to turn out a profit. And to make this profit, sometimes hard choices have to be made. Like canceling a series. Or not extending a contract. I'm sure this was a very tough decision for all parties involved.

2. If you find yourself in this position, don't let this discourage you. Cry a little. Or a lot. But then dust yourself off and focus on a new project.

In thinking about this whole situation, I'm trying to frame it in television terms. Every fall, the four major channels roll out their new shiny shows for the season. Some of these shows become big superstars (think Glee or Modern Family) while others are cancelled even if they find a small devoted audience (think Jericho and Arrested Development). It's not often fair--have you seen Arrested Development?!--but it's a stark reality of the business.

The important thing, however, is to brush yourself off and to keep going, despite the heartache and the agony. I thought Rick said it best in his interview with Bookshelves Of Doom:
I've been writing professionally for eight years now and have had two series cancelled, and I moved on. You have to. You gotta be able to shrug it off. Oh, well, it didn't fly, something wasn't right, fix that and make the next one better, etc., etc. That's what a pro is supposed to do. Because if you don't, you're dead. The bloated corpse of your dead story will drag you into the grave with it.
I think he hit it dead-on with that last sentence. The bloated corpse of your dead story will drag you into the grave with it. We can't let this happen to ourselves.

3. The series doesn't have to die. 

With self-publishing on the rise, this means a series can still have a shelf life even if it has been canceled. Perhaps this isn't the most glamorous of options but it is a viable way to finish a series and to satisfy a built-in audience. And, perhaps, the series can gain new life if it catches on in the e-publishing world.

Plus, higher royalties, right?

Fortunately, Yancey is intent on finishing out the series, even if it may take some time. "I will do everything within my power to publish the conclusion to The Monstrumologist," he said in the previously mentioned interview. "The last three folios will be released. At this point, I don't know when (I gotta make a living!) or know if that will be through another publisher, self-published, or posted somewhere on the internet."

Huzzah!

So yeah. This is a sobering story, isn't it? But I hope that it doesn't get people down or discouraged. If anything, I'm grateful to learn about this sort of thing now so I can feel a bit more ready---a bit more prepared---as I try to navigate the world of publishing.

And lastly, you should definitely read The Monstrumologist. Just sayin'. :)



4 comments:

  1. I've heard really (REALLY) good stuff about his Monstrumologist series, especially around the book blogosphere world (and from book bloggers who know their stuff), and now hearing this I really must go see what all the fuss is about. It's definitely a sobering thought to think that even such a well-off author is beset by such troubles, and I think this just goes to emphasize how much publishing is business.

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  2. The publishing industry is in flux right now, it's difficult to see where it is headed. It's sad that much-loved writers can be dropped. And I loved Arrested Development.

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  4. Just found your blog - LOVE your design.
    Your post is a bit depressing but helpful info. We unpubbed masses think the grass is golden on the other side - but it gets flattened there just the same. I think Yancey's goal (like any writer's) is to not be defined by his latest work. A writer writes; it's a business as well as a calling and melding the two is the art of success.

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