Announcing SFWP’s latest — Paradise, or, Eat Your Face, by Alan Cheuse. A collection of three novellas where Alan does what he does best — breathing life into his characters as they embark on personal journeys to grapple with their own fears, and demons, and desires. For SFWP, this particular road to Paradise was also filled with struggle.
We survived the Kindle shenanigans, which I moaned about in a post right here, and you can spend all day reading about in more detail if you go to this link, where our distributor, IPG, collected all the news that was fit to print about the ebook revolution of 2012…
As the dust slowly settled, it was back to business as usual. All of the SFWP titles went back up on Kindle and we can all now pretend nothing happened…as long as we ignore the sales reports. But I’m used to losing money. Because I’m a publisher. We don’t actually get into this business for the money, right? *shudder*
For me, it’s been a very strange few months. This whole mess with the Kindle led to a sort of seat-of-the-pants snowball effect where an otherwise easy publishing project turned into a full-on book release. The original plan, which I outlined here, was to take advantage of the new Kindle Singles market. Last October, we put the SFWP Singles plan in motion, with the idea that we would crank out monthly shorts from Alan Cheuse, Richard Currey, James J. Patterson, and anyone else we could draft into the project.
Alan Cheuse took the lead, of course. He’s a prolific author of the short form, and there’s always something from Alan floating out there in the lit journals. That’s part of what inspired us to publish The Fires, back in 07, where we collected two of his novellas.
With Alan’s plethora of shorts straining at the leash, we decided to go ahead and get moving with his Kindle Singles ASAP. There were about six of them planned out on my big publisher’s white board when Amazon pulled the plug on February 27th. And that was that. Our books vanished from the Kindle store, and any future releases were blocked out.
Since small presses like mine had been sold hook, line, and sinker on Kindle, there was an angry little period of mourning that derailed me as I retooled my sales strategies over the next month. The Kindle Singles project morphed into a “protest.” We would continue, and we would publish the singles on Nook, the Apple and Google stores, etc. Then we would run around on Facebook saying how awful it is that Amazon has censored our voices, locked out great authors like Cheuse, and generally pulled some sort of Orwellian wool over all of your — the readers — eyes.
Of course, Kindle Singles are fairly unique. A format not quite supported by other ebook stores. It became clear that it would behoove us (or, as my grandmother would say, that we would be hooved) to put together a proper, full length ebook release. 100+ pages.
We split Alan’s proposed Kindle Singles into two parts and, sometime in early April, Paradise, or, Eat Your Face was born as an ebook. We put together the cover art (you just need the front cover for an ebook) and we started yanking and pulling at the innards to get it in line with all the correct formats. By May 1st, things were shaping up.
Alan brings a bit of magic to book promotion. He’s NPR’s “voice of books,” after all. As May wore on, and it looked like we would never return to Kindle, and the plummeting sales reports started to reflect the true power Amazon held over us, Alan shared in my outrage and talked up both Paradise, or, Eat Your Face and the Kindle situation in general. Next thing you know, the Paradise ebook project wass all the rage… With plans to release the ebook on June 1st, we were invited to launch it at Politics & Prose in DC, and Alan made plans to read from it at Capitola Books in California, the Miami Book Fair, the Brooklyn Book Fair, and George Mason’s Fall for the Book.
We were victorious in the creation of this “protest ebook.” It would get wide coverage and we could bring up the Kindle thing at every turn.
Then, in late May, everything changed. Sod’s Law rules publishing. Never forget that. Amazon reached an agreement with distributors and publishers and, with the flick of a switch, all of our titles returned to Kindle. The war was over.
Meanwhile, the venues who wanted to support the Paradise ebook project said that it wasn’t really feasible to do so unless there was also a print version. This called for something of a battlefield decision. I didn’t want to wade into the agony and cost of putting together a regular, print release. Nor did I see how we could possibly do it in time for the July 10th launch party. From when we were told we needed print versions to keep the book tour alive, we had seven weeks till July 10th.
I wasn’t about to let Paradise slip into obscurity simply because my well watered down Scottish blood told me to stop spending money on publishing. We had a worthy book, we had a worthy author, and we had a good tour ahead of us. Full steam ahead. I spent a couple days agonizing over what form a print version should take. We started out with a plan to do a retro lit zine look, complete with a faux-Xerox, staple-bound feel. But the book was too big for that. We then thought about doing it as a sort of notebook, like those old black and white school books, with the stitched binding. But that cost a bit too much. So we returned to our trade paperback roots, like all of the other SFWP books, and we opted to do a limited edition print run of 500 copies, primarily geared towards supplying the tour stops.
Great. No problem. Except we were now at six weeks and counting till July 10th.
The average frontlist release takes about nine months to put together. Much of that is marketing, but, throughout, there’s the agony of book production where layout folks, cover designers, and copyeditors all slowly go insane. My experience is that there’s about three or four months of work that goes into the actual layout, design, and editing of a book. For Alan’s book, in order to get everything to the printer on time, we had about two weeks. We had to finish the cover — the spine and the back — we had to reformat the book, and then we had to negotiate the Byzantine maze of printer-land.
We all worked around the clock to achieve the impossible. And we did it! We got it to the printer and we should have the print version in hand by June 29th, at which point I’ll wildly drive it over to Politics & Prose to drop off their inventory.
Of course, I’m doing this with fingers crossed. When you have nine months to put a book together, you’re able to catch all the problems, leisurely review the proofs, and make it a work of art. And, even then, it tends to be full of little niggling mistakes.
Squeezing that nine months into two frantic, breathless weeks… Well. I have no idea what’s going to happen when I open those boxes from the printer. But, the way I figure it, irreversible printing snafus make this limited run all the more collectible, yes?
No matter the outcome, this road to Paradise has been a grand adventure. As with all great experiments, it helped pave the path for future projects of this nature… Which breathes life into SFWP’s publishing wing. That’s all I really care about…getting back in the publishing saddle again. Doing so now is thanks only to the people who have supported this little literary addiction of mine over the years. For the Paradise, or, Eat Your Face project, it simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Alan’s unwavering and unquestioning support, the professionalism and extraordinary patience of the folks at IPG (who receive a regular barrage of manic-depressive emails from me), and Gwen, who does all of my layout. Without her, there’d be no books.
You can get preorder information for Paradise, or, Eat Your Face right here on Alan’s page.