Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Sad news in YA publishing

I, of course, heard about this yesterday, as Strange Chemistry quite properly informed its authors first. But the actual news hit today: Angry Robot is closing down Strange Chemistry (its YA imprint) and its new Exhibit A imprint (mysteries), effective immediately. No more books will come out with those imprints, period. Angry Robot says, and my agent said this too, that YA is just a supersaturated field right now, very hard for the mid- and small-sized presses to compete in.

This is not a big problem for me personally, I want to say that up front! What matters most is that Strange Chemistry is being very correct and honorable about how they handle things, so there is no issue with reverting rights to unpublished titles or anything of that kind. Therefore, I see three possibilities, all of which are acceptable to me:

a) Angry Robot, which remains in good shape, will fold some of the Strange Chemistry titles into its own lineup. I could most easily see them doing this for the titles that they think will sell the best (practical) or for second and third books where the first books are already out (compassionate). Or both. I don’t know about the former, but the latter would apply to Jensen’s STOLEN SONGBIRD, Lam’s Micah Gray trilogy, I believe Horward’s Katya series, Karen Curren’s DELETE (third book for her trilogy), and no doubt others. This would be ideal for me personally, since not only would it mean nothing changes for my own PURE MAGIC, but also I would get to finish all four of the above series. I already own one or two books of each.

b) Angry Robot is most likely negotiating with other publishers who may pick up the Strange Chemistry / Exhibit A titles. This might not be quite as good for authors as (a), because there’s no telling whether a new publisher would actually get behind the titles they pick up that way, but it would be acceptable.

c) I, and probably others with a Book II or Book III stranded, could simply self-publish. In that case, PURE MAGIC will come out basically on schedule, though I might aim for March or even April rather than February to give myself a little more time to get my ducks in a row, since all of the ducks will be in my hands at that point. I always intended to write a BLACK DOG III and quite possibly a BLACK DOG IV and V as well, even if Strange Chemistry did not pick up additional books in the series. Wanting to write a longer series is especially practical for self-publishing, in fact, so if this happens, it will only shift me from one publication method to the other a bit sooner than otherwise.

UPDATE: I meant to add, this does suck most for anyone whose first debut novel was in the pipeline. I sure hope they all get their books picked up by a new publisher! I would HATE to try self-publishing without building a readership first via traditional publishing. And, it also sucks for the Strange Chem and Exhibit A staff, who are going to be scrambling to tie up the loose ends in a very unhappy situation. I sure hope people get through this with the least amount of wear-and-tear possible and that everyone lands on their feet!

If option (c) is the way it works out, I will personally be particularly glad to have experimented with self-publishing other works this year. I have an update about that, in fact: I will definitely be self-publishing THE MOUNTAIN OF KEPT MEMORY this year. Caitlin likes KEHERA and wants to try to put it out with a traditional publisher, and that’s fine with me, so MOUNTAIN is the title I’ve settled on for my first foray into self-publishing. I’ve just finished talking to the artist and look forward to showing you the cover when I get to see it — the contract just got signed, so nothing to show yet.

I will also definitely be publishing a short story collection set in the BLACK DOG world (ebook-only this year, probably expanded to include more stories and then put out as a print-and-ebook release at the end of 2015). I may have mentioned this already, but the stories I’ve written for it so far:

a) Natividad and Keziah go Christmas shopping.

b) Miguel tries to manipulate Grayson into doing something; complications ensue.

c) Thaddeus begins to work out his place in Dimilioc, plus we get flashbacks of his earlier life.

d) A prequel story involving Ezekiel.

e) and maybe another story or even two, plus the essay about black dog genetics because why not. The total length right now is about 150 pages. I definitely plan to bring this out before PURE MAGIC and use it as a promotion, so unless things go dramatically wrong somehow, you can expect that to happen.

Now, as far as self-publishing goes this year, in my case, though I am interested in trying Kickstarter sometime and seeing how that works, I simply don’t have time to invest in a Kickstarter campaign this year. Nor do I have either the time or the interest to invest in learning how to deal with ebook conversion etc etc etc — all the nuts-and-bolts that go into translating a word document into a book and getting it distributed to all the ebook outlets plus a print version made up and so on. My eyes glaze over just thinking about it. Not my thing. So I am currently pursuing the very simplest model for self-publishing, a tried-and-true method called “I’ll pay you money and you do it for me.”

After I’ve worked through the first couple of self-published titles, I may try Kickstarter. If any other traditionally published writers want to know details about the services I used and what I thought of them, and how much various things cost, and what I did to promote, and how satisfied I am with the results — I will be happy to discuss all of that as things go forward. Every author and every book is different, I know that, but I also I believe it would be very helpful to us all to compile a running and constantly updated list of self-publishing methods and results.

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7 Comments Sad news in YA publishing

  1. Mary+Beth

    I just read the news about Strange Chemistry this morning, and mentioned to my roommate over breakfast how worried I was for you and for PURE MAGIC, so I’m very glad to read this discussion of your options. (And I’m glad that Strange Chemistry seems to be on track to treat its authors better than other imprints and small publishing houses have done, under similar circumstances).

    I’ll buy PURE MAGIC whoever publishes it, but I certainly hope for the best for you and all the other authors affected.

  2. Andrea+K

    I’m glad this won’t have too large an impact on you Rachel. [Especially since I want to hear more about Natividad’s world!]

  3. Cheryl L

    I read the news on the Locus site this morning and thought of you immediately. Also of Martha Wells, who just seems to have no luck with publishers at all. I’m so glad that you have a contract in place with Random House!

  4. Stephanie+Burgis

    I was so sorry to hear about this, and I was also, completely selfishly, really worried about how I’d get to read more of the Black Dog series, so I’m SO glad that you have all of these different options and plans in place. I can’t wait to buy more Black Dog books no matter who publishes them!

    (And btw, if you already have your cover designer & formatter in place for your self-publishing projects, please feel free to ignore this whole paragraph, but just in case you don’t, I’ll mention that Jenn Reese at Tiger Bright Studios and Patrick Samphire at 50 Seconds North both do amazing cover designs, and Patrick also does ebook formatting. Patrick – who is my husband, so I am being completely nepotistic but also honest – just did my cover for the novella I’ll be self-publishing in August, and I love it. No matter who you end up hiring, though, I cannot wait to read the books!)

  5. Elaine T

    Please do print the Black Dog genetics essay!

    i’m sorry to hear this about Strange Chemistry, but glad you have other options. Kristin K Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have blogged a lot about self-publishing, so poking around their sites will probably turn up good info on how to not get rooked if you hire someone to make it happen.

  6. SarahBeth

    So sad to hear about Strange Chemistry. I had just discovered their line of YA books and have been enjoying finding new authors. I will be looking forward to more Pure Magic in whatever format you choose to publish. I hope the other authors with this imprint find ways to continue on with their series.

  7. Rachel

    Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and for thinking of me. I sure hope there are lots of people who will be excited to see PURE MAGIC come out, however that eventually happens. It means a lot to me that you all are behind this series.

    Cheryl, yes, I would love to see Martha Wells, nail down a really good contract from one of the Big Five and then bring out a book that sells like hotcakes.

    Stephanie, shoot, I have already arranged cover art for a couple of projects, but I will have to go check out your husband’s work because I’m sure I will be doing a lot more projects as time goes on.

    Sarah, I think many Strange Chem authors are definitely planning to make their sequels happen one way or the other — and of course it’s still possible another publisher will pick them up.

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