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.
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.
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.
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.