Talking About a Book: Headed West

Last month I started a series of posts called Talking About Books. Over the years I’ve written some really fun novels, and some strange novels, and some just downright weird novels. Some of the books bored me, some were a blast to do, others were hard, others were easy. Every one of the 90 plus novels has some sort of story about it. So I figured I’d tell a few of the stories right here, from my old and sometimes scattered memory.

A story about a book I don’t even count in the 90 plus books I say I have written.

This book you won’t be able to find, unless you are frighteningly lucky. So consider today this is a discussion about how sometimes in publishing even the best projects can go really wrong in a lot of really, really strange ways. A prime lesson why no author ever wants to depend on one project or one book.

This book I wrote (well, sort of wrote) under my own name is called Headed West. I am fairly certain that wasn’t my title.

Headed West

Notice the weird size of this. Actually it’s even wider than it looks in the picture. This isn’t one of the eight Adventure Boy young adult books I did, but instead they took the plot I wrote for one of the books, the cover and interior art they had done, had someone boil down a few lines of my dialog and put it as captions for the characters or subtitles, and then release it as this young adult picture book.

I had no clue this was being done until after it was done. They didn’t even bother to send me copies.

It’s about 20 pages long, 10 inches wide, 6 1/2 inches wide, and was only released with three other books in limited release in 20 Meir and Frank Department Stores.

That’s right, a book with my name on the cover that I didn’t know about, had never seen, and was only released in a few department stores before the company went out of business.

You have to love this business.

I found this copy on Amazon when a book dealer had one for sale. Almost two years after it came out.

Now, understand, this Adventure Boys company started off fantastic. They hired a top editor and that editor hired top writers. Mike Stackpole, Loren L. Coleman, Kevin J. Anderson, Steve Perry, and I did multiple books for them. Many of us even got paid. I did. And they paid a lot, which was nice.

And the idea was great as well. Six different series of books for boys along with a cool web site, lots of toys with each series, and even possibly a theme park. I did this western series called the Wild Boys and wrote four books for them. The books were short, but paid like normal novels. I also did a world traveling series set in the 1970′s and did four books for that as well.

  • TREASURE RAIDERS: THE HIDDEN CITY written under the pseudonym Sandy Schofield, Adventure Boys Publishing, 2007.
  • No book ever got published actually except for the few into the 20 department stores. Even the Treasure Raiders copy and another of the western series I show here were just test copies. The web site never got past the beta stage. They spent millions and yet never got one book into actual print.

    Now understand, in my publisher days, I started with $2,000 borrowed in 1987 and ended up publishing over 250 different titles before shutting down Pulphouse in 1994. I have no idea what they did with the money, although they paid me a nice bit.

    Image

  • WILD BOYS: DEAD HORSE CREEK written as Dean Wesley Smith, Adventure Boys Publishing, 2007.
  • What was even more annoying was that writing the books was a great deal of fun, and I am very proud of them. Even this silly picture book holds up after someone took just snippets of my dialog and patched it into a book.

    Down the road I might be able to do something with some of these books. Time will tell on that. But for the moment, understand that when you see a blank area in a writer’s life, it might be because the writer had life issues, the writer was working on a long project, the writer was working under hidden pen names, or the writer was working for a company that never published anything he wrote.

    Eight books, a good time, good money, a really fun writing project. Only problem is, no one but me and the editor ever saw them.

    Welcome to the new year. How’s that for motivation? If you can’t survive that happening, stay out of publishing. This isn’t my only horror story by a long ways. But the important thing was that I was writing.

    And I am proud of what I wrote and I got paid very nicely for what I wrote and I enjoyed writing the books. In this business, those are the most important things. Having the book finally come out is just a bonus.

    I know that sounds odd to all of you thinking of publishing. But the truth is, it is the writing that’s important. If you stay focused there most of the time, the craziness of the business will only sting for a short time when things go sour. And they will.

    Cheers, Dean

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    8 Responses to Talking About a Book: Headed West

    1. Chris Welsh says:

      What a story! I was recently turned on to your blog and have been eating up everything I can find; Heinlein’s Rules, the Slaying of Sacred Cows (eagerly awaiting the next one!) and stories like this one.

      I’m working on my first novel, but I have done work in the graphic novel world. I have six finished scripts, only one of which has been published so far, and of them the best may never see the light of day. I’ve wrestled with the disappointment that, as you said above, no one but the editor and me will ever see it. Lately, though, I’ve turned those feelings down and turned up the excitement to be writing and working on current projects, and the ones after that, and so on.

      Thanks again for sharing so much of your wisdom and history. I know I am not alone in benefiting from it.

      Best,

      Chris Welsh

    2. Steve Perry says:

      I can’t even find my copy of the Detective Mysteries that Mike Stackpole and I did. I know I had it, because I scanned the cover, but it seems to have vanished. Appropriate …

      My favorite is a job I got for a computer game company, doing a novel tie-in for an upcoming release. I didn’t want the job, but they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Before the book published, they were bought up by a larger company that didn’t want to go in that direction. I got paid, very well — but the book will never see the light of day …

      • dwsmith says:

        Steve, if you can’t find a copy, I got one. I got a copy of all six of the “test” copies they put out. Glad to send it to you. These test copies have to be some of our rarer books. No one cares on my stuff, but for you or Kevin Anderson or Mike, they might. (grin)

        Luckily, these books were short. But I did eight, plus all the bibles and two screen plays for two of them (I wanted the huge word rate.) I’ve got a couple of full-length novel horror stories as well. Been around as long as we have, the stories add up, don’t they? I loved your story about Cycle Sluts… you just posted. Sure hated to not get that into print, glad Don finally did. So guess I’ve been on both sides of this equation. The publisher not getting a book into print and the writer not having a book make it to print. I really have been at this far too long. How did that happen? I’m still one of the kids in the field I’m sure.

    3. mbaesq says:

      Wow, excellent advice Dean…again, written from the hard-won Voice of Experience.

      Yes, one has to be aware of this potentially happening if one wants to make a living in this field.

      Something similar happened to me too…with *one* book, where I got paid, wrote the work, the marketing department had cover art allocated for it, and then the plug was pulled.

      It didn’t do more than sting – I *did* get paid, after all. But I was convinced at the time that I was the only writer on the planet that this happened to.

      Ah, sweet naiveté…

    4. Millions spent, and it went down the drain.

      WOW! Was it bad business management, or did they suffer the first trip in the eventual full-on economic collapse?

      • dwsmith says:

        Not a clue. I was just the hired writer. Never on the inside of anything. And glad I wasn’t from watching from the outside.

    5. Steve Perry says:

      It’s here somewhere, Dean. I’d never throw it out, the trick is figuring out where I cleverly moved it, last time I cleaned the office. Not as if I need to read it, since I still have the file on a disk somewhere.

      Thanks, though.

    6. Louis says:

      Interesting and educational story there. Nice moral to the story too.

      I must say really too bad about those novels. “Treasure Raiders” is the type of story I was reading when I was young adult. I didn’t read that many westerns though. Actually, come to think of it I was a little before that age. I was a little advanced in my reading.

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