The saga of the lost lead

Here’s a question I didn’t get asked at the Authorpalooza event.  And it’s the one I want to answer, here. If Women of the Apocalypse did so well, why didn’t I write any more apocalyptic fiction? Why just one story?

Women of the ApocalypseBecause I’m not actually an apocalyptic writer. It was fun to write (and research), but I write a lot of different genre fiction. (Urban fantasy in The Puzzlebox, paranormal mystery in Seeing the Light, and a sort of science fiction vampire thing in Evolve Two, to name a few.)  I never even considered sticking to apocalyptic fiction, just because I had some success with that story.

What I am is a writer trying to leverage the success of my earlier work into something more. Something bigger, with more appeal to more people. In other words, I wrote apocalyptic fiction (among other things) to find readers who like my style, and my voice, and who might be willing to (eventually) buy my novels.

If you’ve been following my fledgling career at all, you know that I worked with a small group of writers on a number of different projects. Seven Deadly Sins. Women of the Apocalypse. The Puzzlebox. The 10th Circle Project. Writers dropped out, and other writers were invited in. But we always kept the number to four. Four writers, working collaboratively, all with the same goal in mind. Get our best words out, and let people find us.

We didn’t talk about making money on the Women of the Apocalypse project (though breaking even would have been nice!), because (to be honest) the contract we signed was not a good one for us. (It was print on demand, with no book store distribution. The only way we could make money on the book was by hand selling as many copies as we could. If we wanted to see that book in a bookstore, we had to use consignment. Due to the cut the bookstores take, (and us trying to keep the book competitive, price-wise, we lost money on nearly every book we sold that way.)

If it wasn’t a good deal for us, why did we sign? Because we wanted to get our NEXT book picked up by the imprint that HAD distribution, that’s why.  We understood the deal going in, and saw Women of the Apocalypse as our lost lead.

That little book turned into a heck of a lost lead, I must say! We hand sold tons of them–and had some seriously successful book signings at bookstores and other venues around the province. (I honestly thought that everybody sold an average of 20 books a signing…) We made it onto the Bestsellers list in Edmonton and Calgary, and McNally Robinson kept our book on their shelves for years. We won some awards (shiny!) and even got an interview (or two) about it—and about the writers behind it.

That little book did everything we asked of it–and more.

Unfortunately, the ebook didn’t come out at the same time as the print book. I think we would have done even more with it, if we’d had that opportunity. But, we missed the window, and it never did much when if finally did come out online. More’s the pity.

However, it did well enough to convince the publisher to take a chance on our next anthology. The Puzzlebox was published WITH the potential for bookstore distribution, which was exactly what we’d been hoping for. Gotta love it when a plan comes together!

This would be the cover of our book! I love it!

This would be the cover of our book! I love it!

When we started our collaborative writing, the deal was that we’d keep going until we got our own book deals. (Seriously. That was the plan going in.) Most of us had been writing for a while, true. And we’d all had (mainly short) work published. But all of us wanted to be novelists.

I am happy to say that three of us have novels out. (Or have signed the contracts!) With our collaborations, we’d established a bit of a readership for ourselves and our “on our own” books, which is a wonderful start.

Should anyone else try this? Sure. Go for it. Just make certain that you know what you want from a collaboration before you start, though. That way, with everyone’s eye on the prize, you all can make the most of every opportunity. (Besides, it can be a lot of fun!)