On the Merits of Retiring a Book (or Two)

For the last few years, I've had two novels up for sale. Few people knew about them and even fewer people bought them. I can't blame them, but I'll get to that in a second.

If you're wondering, the titles were Scarlet Letters: The Tale of the Vampire Mailman, and The Stargazers.

Again, you probably didn't notice when I took them down. That's probably because you didn't notice that they were there. Or if you did notice, you didn't care that they were there because they were nothing like the dark horror/suspense/sci-fi you've come to expect from me.

And that's okay. Honestly, this whole self-publishing thing is still an act of trial and error. Things change. Authors have books taken out of print all the time, so this is really not that much different. But the main reasons I've taken these books down are as follows:

1. They Suck

Yes, they really do suck. Maybe you liked them and that's great and I appreciate that (and I do of course have a soft spot for both of these books, but for different reasons than any reader would), but to me they represent a lack of refinement and certainty of who I am and who I want to be as a writer. Okay, sure, you can argue that all authors have rough early work out there. The Stephen King who wrote 11/22/63 is certainly not the same King who wrote Rage, and I will give you that but with one caveat. At least when King wrote Rage as a young man, he knew he was an author of horror and dark fiction. *I* knew when I wrote Scarlet Letters and Stargazers that I too was an author of horror and dark fiction -- BUT NEITHER OF THOSE STORIES REFLECT THAT. Let "Aria," which is my earliest horror tale, serve as the representative of my rough early work. But these two other books are a total mismatch, and this has always bothered me. And it's made these books very difficult to sell as well. Which brings me to my next obvious point:

2. They Weren't Selling

Like at all.

Not selling.

At all.

Oh sure, I could GIVE them away, but that wasn't how I wanted it to be. The fact is, the people who like my short stories (which really represent my brand best of all right now) weren't into reading girly fantasy or silly humorous vampire stories. It's one reason why I had trouble penning sequels for either of these books (even though I had ideas for both of them, good ones). But I'm not going to spend the next several months of my life writing a follow-up to a book that hasn't sold a single physical copy in three months. Not gonna happen. not gonna. I have better fish to fry. Like writing follow-ups or expansions to stories I sell the most of every single month (paid sales) and have been at the top of the sales charts on Amazon numerous times. That is where my demand lies, and that is where I must concentrate the core of my work if I hope to make anymore bucks in this business.

3. They Weren't Reflecting My Brand

That isn't to say I will never write something humorous or in the fantasy or other non-dark horror/suspense/sci-fi genre again. I very likely will (and I have since I wrote either of those books). But at least when I do release things "off-genre" now, I'm standing on a very firm platform of being the dark fiction/horror girl who just released a funny story for shits and giggles. Furthermore, those funny stories have a lot more of "me" in them than either Scarlet Letters or Stargazers. When I wrote both of those books, I was still very much finding my way in terms of just learning how to write and finish a novel. They were the equivalent of teething rings. That I even finished them at all was a testament to my desire to write words for a living, period. But that doesn't mean that I had to have those things up for sale. Any other self-respecting author would have stuck those in a trunk and moved on. Me, I tried to query agents and publishers with them and then sell them myself, and for that I am sorry.

4. They Weren't Edited Real Good

The main critique I received on either of those titles was that they needed better editing. Especially Scarlet Letters. And they were right. Editing short stories is a lot easier than editing novels, which is why I hope to have all of my future novels released by a publisher, because at least then I will have a lot more professional help with that process. At the very least, if I do release another novel on my own, it will be put through the wringer much more thoroughly that way.


5. There Is Awesome Shit Coming

Seriously, you guys, there is so much great stuff in terms of novels in the pipeline, I don't want anything sub-par competing with any of it. First is The Last Supper, which is VERY close to its release. Then there is Strings, which I'm so excited about I could just pee myself. There is also the steampunk adventure I co-authored with my pal Ian Thomas Healy being released this September. Colt Coltrane and the Lotus Killer is SO close to being done and you will likely be seeing that one in 2014, provided I haven't found a publisher for it by then. I couldn't be prouder of these books. It's taken a long time to get to this point in my career (five years), but after feeding you a lot of short stories and a couple sub-par novels, I think you will find it worth the wait. That so many of you have been there following along, watching me triumph and fail and find my way in this crazy business means the world to me, and it thrills me to no end that you will be here to see it move up to the next level.

There are a lot of things I liked about Stargazers. It was ultimately a very personal story for me, but told so obliquely that I don't know if anyone actually got that. If anything, I would like to revisit the THEME of that story again someday.

Scarlet Letters is the hardest one of all, because I've re-read that book recently, and I think it's funny and a decent enough read. I am proud of it in a lot of ways, but it was not a book that was written at the right place or the right time. Or by the right author. Either way, it's time to move on.