Saturday, February 19, 2011

Identity Crisis and a Cover Blurb

Multi-award-winning, NYT bestselling romance author *Jennifer Blake* recently provided a lovely blurb for one of my novels, Spoil of War (aka Cameliard Rising). The novel has direct ties to the Arthurian cycle, and is set in the time when Romans were first conquering Britain.

She's agreed I can use it as a cover blurb, even if I self-pub as an ebook. I couldn't be happier!

Spoil of War is a fascinating account of early Britain, a gripping tale of lust, love and the horrors of ancient warfare. Beautifully written, filled with myriad period details and compelling characters, it takes you deep into the heart of a brutal era—and into the nature of feminine honor, feminine courage. I was enthralled.
The book is a cross-genre work, too gritty to be a true romance and too focused in on relationships to be a true women's historical. I've pitched it as both, giving it different titles for each genre.

Industry feedback on the quality of the novel has been good. It made it to two publishers' Editorial Board meetings. And I've gotten revision letters from two agents who've said:
  1. I read CAMELIARD RISING with much interest and think that your voice is fantastic. Equally good are the plot elements. In fact, I like the novel so so much.
  2. I really enjoyed the read and literally could not put the manuscript down. You create a compelling world and do an even better job of illustrating why that moment in time is so fascinating and placing it in a larger context.
 But even they agree revising this book means tearing it down and building it back into something it's not.

In the end, it comes down to marketability. Where do you shelve a book that speaks frankly to the sexual abuse of women and young girls in an era where such practice was commonly acceptable, that details not just battles but their tragic aftermaths, yet still offers in the same breath love and a happily-ever-after?

I think the answer is that it gets shelved online where readers can decide if they're ready to try a little grit in their romance or ready to experience love in the midst of medieval warfare.

It needs cover art, a final edit, and a marketing strategy. And time enough to get Extinct off the ground and selling. So maybe it'll launch in May. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting on Sector C. It's mainstream enough to have a chance at traditional publishing, I have the full out with a handful of agents, and there are some upcoming opportunities to submit it direct to publishers. Many thanks to those of you who helped talk me down from the ledge concerning its fate.

Look for more thoughts about some of the common mistakes in story structure I was seeing in the submissions for Extinct on Monday. Note the Query Queue is empty!


Matt said...

How long has it been since you submitted CR?

laughingwolf said...

some good, at least...

Phoenix said...

@Matt: It was October when I realized a serious retool in strategy was in order.

@LW: There is one more possible piece of good news from all this, but it's not something I can share publicly. Hopefully in another 6 months or so...

Orlando said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orlando said...

It's great to hear you will make it happen. I'm cheering for ya. It sound intriguing, I'm looking forward to reading it, so let us know when it comes out.

fairyhedgehog said...

So where is the book going to be shelved online?

Phoenix said...

@Orlando: Thank you!

@FHH: Good question. The beauty of online storefronts is that a book can be metatagged multiple ways. I need to verify, but I think Amazon lets you choose 5 metatags when you upload (if I'm wrong, I'm erring on the low side), meaning the book would show up on multiple online "shelves":
- Romance
- Historical
- Women's Historical
- Arthurian Fiction
- Medieval Fiction

This is one reason online storefronts work so well for cross-genre type books.

Extinct will be multiply tagged, too:
- General Fiction Anthology
- SF Anthology
- Fantasy Anthology
- Speculative Fiction
- Short Stories

If I can use more metatags, I can tag by each author's name as well.

fairyhedgehog said...

It sounds good being able to label both books under several different genres. I was wondering if you'd use other platforms as well as amazon.

chelsea said...

I know it's a weird thing to say, but agents don't always know what will sell. They know trends, and can often predict things, but sometimes a bunch of agents will overlook something that goes on to sell millions.

"Mists of Avalon" did Arthurian legend from the female POV, and it's (IMO) one of the most amazing books ever written. So it's really too bad the agents who liked your story didn't feel they could market it. But maybe it's an issue of timing. A lot of people are doing sex abuse/child trafficking right now (I imagine because people are realizing how prevalent these things really are), so the time for a novel like yours may be just around the corner.

For what it's worth, I love Arthurian legend, books that don't pretend sex abuse doesn't exist, and female-driven stories. And I can't be the only one.

Phoenix said...

@Chelsea: I appreciate the encouragement! Funny you should mention two things:

Marion Zimmer Bradley (Mists of Avalon) also played editor and it was she who acquired my short stories for her anthologies, so I'm sure I learned from her :o)

As for timing, well, the above-mentioned learning occurred many years ago, and J. Blake mentioned that while my novel would have been snatched up 15 years ago, times they have a'changed. So just waiting for that pendulum to swing back. Maybe I'm actually a little ahead of the swing - I can hope!

Phoenix said...

@FHH: I'll be looking at the following venues for Extinct and later for this novel. I'm sure not all of them will work out, but I'm sure there will be more to check out as well:

•Barnes & Noble's PubIt!
•Powell's eBooks
•Apple iStore

chelsea said...

I saw that about Marion Zimmer Bradley in your bio. So amazing! She is one of my absolute favorites.

I think you're on to something with the pendulum thing. If the work is that great (and it sounds like it is) I do think it's just a matter of time.

Whirlochre said...

Setting aside questions of whether the books should fit the shelves erected for them or the shelves accommodate the books, this is a dinky blurb to have under your belt, even if you're a farm girl in dungarees.

Sounds like you're in the Amorphous Zone, where your project could go either way and it may be that what you need is more rumination time and more information.

Whatever you decide, I'm sure your blurb contributor will help out with comments.

fairyhedgehog said...

You seem to have it pretty well covered!

Kay Elam said...

Congratulations on such a prestigious blurb. Cool beans!