Once upon a time I published Once Upon a Dream, a novella duet with Mary Balogh. Mary’s readership is large and loyal (and includes me!), and never have I ever published a novella as successfully as I did that one. Once upon a dream, indeed!
But all good things must end, and by agreement we de-published the duet when momentum slowed. I tossed the story, Duke of My Dreams, onto the Get Around To It pile to be repackaged and republished some fine day. The companion tale, May I Have This Duke, had been sitting on the same pile for a year or so. In January of this year, I dusted off both stories, and packaged them as A Duke Walked Into a House Party.
I wasn’t expecting much. Both stories had sold well in their respective bundles, and the reader appetite for novellas isn’t what it was five years ago. Then too, I’d taken a different direction on the cover for the repackaging, just because the image appealed to me. The title was a little silly but it fit the stories and the cover.
For these re-packaging efforts, all I’m really looking for is to break even and keep some stories in circulation. I hope to pay for a cover, another proof-read, formatting, uploading, and website wrangling. My second repackaging effort–A Lady Without Peer–conformed to my expectations in that regard. But A Duke Walked In exceeded the job description by an order of magnitude.Wheeee!
Other surprises haven’t been so cheery. There are a few authors will bash other authors and even include it as part of their reader-relationship brand. That one honestly caught me unaware. In all my years of small town lawyering, I can’t think of any instance when one lawyer bashed another personally without getting severely chastised by other bar members or by the bench–or eventually disbarred–for violating the Code of Professional Conduct.
There’s a human tendency to normalize surprises, to shrug them off if they are unpleasant–“Live and learn…”–or to treat them as anomalies if they are sweet. But the book business is so unpredictable and complicated, that I don’t think that’s wise. I want to try more covers like A Duke Walked In, because whatever I did, readers liked it. Or maybe they simply noticed it, or maybe I hit publish in a window when no other dukes were strutting around.
My attempt in Lady Without Peer to strike the same cover note didn’t achieve the same result, so I’m not sure what clicked, but something did, and I want to investigate that something so I can make it click again.
When I’ve minimized a surprise–a boyfriend behaving badly, a backstabbing work environment–I’ve regretted it. Surprises can hold good information, or at least make us ask good questions, and that’s an opportunity for insight I want to take advantage of.
Have you been surprised lately? Can you recall a surprise that made you think or change course? To three commenters, I’ll send out e-ARCs of A Lady’s Dream Come True, which is available now in the webstore, and in print, and will start downloading from the major retailers on June 9.