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Conwell: Even a blind dog finds a bone


Last updated 12/4/2012 at Noon

A few months back, I did a column about being orphaned as a writer. To rehash the incident without boring anyone, I’d been publishing with Avalon for about twenty years and Leisure, an imprint of Dorchester, for about seven or eight.

Then bing, bang, and bong!

Avalon sold out to Amazon and the next week, Dorchester went on the block. Amazon put in a bid for Dorchester and around the end of September, won the bidding.

So now, my snug little writing homes were blown sky high. My security blanket was rudely jerked away with the same alacrity that Snoopy employs when he yanks away Linus van Pelt’s blanket.

Old Charlie Brown was right when he said, ‘happiness is a warm blanket.’ I can tell you, it is mighty cold out there in the publishing world when your blanket is abruptly taken away.

Some of my friends say it’s getting colder. On the surface, it might appear as such. Traditional mortar and brick bookstores are being forced to rethink the way they do business.

One thing is certain. Publishing today is a heap different than fifty years ago, than twenty years ago.

Now Amazon did say they were going to publish all of our backlists in paperback and ebooks.

And they have. At least, they’ve started. My first with them is ‘Murder in a Casbah of Cats,” a Tony Boudreaux cozy on the edgy side. I say without shame I posted an image of the cover on my Facebook page.

The beauty of Amazon is they offer the books in Kindle at around four bucks; in paperback at around eight; and hardback for around fourteen or so.

In all the years I was with Avalon, I had no paperbacks, only hard cover. You see, Avalon’s primary subscribers were libraries, so all of our books were hardcover with accompanying prices.

And who could blame any reader for not wanting to fork over twenty plus bucks for a writer they didn’t know. Even if they knew a writer, most would prefer a six-dollar paperback to one three or four times the cost.

Then seven-eight years ago, Leisure bought one of my westerns. They put out one a year for the next five, all paperback. I was on a roll. I figured within a few years, I’d have ten, fifteen soft covers out there selling and reselling, drawing those royalties.

Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, drawn from a Robert Burns’ poem, said it better than I, ‘that the best laid schemes of mice and men often go astray.”

My dreams of royalties from fifteen or twenty books went up in smoke as Dochester went down in flames. My sixth western with Dorchester/Leisure was caught up in the bankruptcy and has yet to see the light of day.

The old world of publishing is changing.

Do I like it?

I’m like all old codgers. Not crazy about change as some of my faithful critics will testify, but I’m smart enough to know everything changes. This last presidential election made that clear. It’s like I always taught not only my own children but those hundreds in the classroom during forty-one years in education. “If you’re not moving forward, then you’re going backward.”

I still prefer the physical book that I can dogear, crumple, stick in my back pocket, toss up behind the seat or level a table.

But electronic books are coming fast.

Last year I put three young adult books up on Kindle just to see what would happen. They were the kind I grew up reading, but they haven’t done too well. I guess that tells me something about how I fit in today, huh?

I did make contact with a European publisher with whom I signed a contract for several books, all electronic. I kept all other rights. My first one comes out in March. It is another Tony Boudreaux mystery titled, “Galveston.”

Here in the United States, I have three or four under consideration with the brick and mortar publishers.

And who knows what lies ahead. I’m like that blind dog looking for a bone. Maybe I’ll stumble on it sooner or later.

In my writing classes in Continuing Education with Lamar before the last Texas legislature cut funds, I always started my classes by telling students that if they had a choice between writing and bullfighting, they’d be smarter to take up bullfighting.

But then, as writers reading this little opinion piece are aware, writing gets in your blood—for better or worse.


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