Okay, when I tell you that Dave Patneaude is a friend, that is a serious understatement. He and I have been in critique groups together off and on for years. He was the first person I called for help when it looked like the pile of notes I had were going to be a novel (Hattie Big Sky). And he and his wife Judy are Winston the Wonder Dog’s trusted caregivers when we are out of town. I am honored and excited to host him here in celebration of the rebirth of his thought-provoking novel, Epitaph Road.
When I left my day job (19 years ago this month), my co-workers gave me a plate to hang on my home office wall. The inscription: “You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.” I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or offended, but I’ve gotten six more books published since then, and although I’m definitely no younger, I continue to learn new “tricks”.
I’m still writing books for young people and still hoping to get published and sell books the traditional way (agent/editor/publishing house/bookstores/libraries), but due to a combination of happenstance and choice, I’ve decided to test the waters of self-publishing (sometimes referred to by people who don’t feel comfortable with the “self” label as “independent” publishing).
What happened was that Egmont USA, the publisher of EPITAPH ROAD, decided to pull up its tender roots in the US and retreat to their century-old home headquarters in Europe. Hard times make for hard choices. So a few years after publication, my book, and my hopes for it, bit the dust. No more production, no more distribution, no more sales. You could still get print copies online from secondary market sellers, but the supply would eventually dry up and the e-book was no longer available.
At one time, this situation would have left me with no options. But with the coming of e-readers and e-book apps for computers and tablets and phones and the e-books designed to fill the increasing demand for reading material, along with the ease (relative, to be sure) with which writers can work with Amazon and other companies to get their writing published, options became available. I decided to take advantage of them.
When Egmont went out of business in the US, they returned the rights to EPITAPH ROAD to me. And I still had the electronic record—the final edit prior to the book’s publication. So it wasn’t difficult (frustrating, sometimes, but not exactly “difficult”) to do some (okay, quite a bit of) research and figure out the formatting and interfacing and submitting process with Kindle Direct Publishing and then hit that final “publish” button.
But one thing I had to deal with along the way to that button was the fact that although the rights had reverted to me, those rights didn’t include the cover. Fortunately, my daughter Jaime, who’s not only an accomplished graphic designer but also has experience designing book covers, “volunteered” to do the cover for me.
She came up with a bunch of sketches before settling on the final version, and I love it. It does what a good cover is supposed to do: represent what’s going on in the story, but provide more questions than answers. The story is set in a pseudo-utopic future, but the illustration has an old-fashioned creepy feel to it. Haunting. It reminds me of the original Edward Gorey covers of the books of John Bellairs. They invited you in, if you were brave—or curious—enough to enter.
Several positives came out of the process. The cover is one. Another is that I was able to go back in and make some revisions that I believe enhance the story. And then there’s the price. I was able to set it, and I set it low enough that readers might be encouraged to give it a shot. (from Kirby: buy the book here.)
More “tricks” to follow. Next up: a revised print-on-demand paperback edition.
David Patneaude began writing seriously (more or less) in the 1980s. His first novel, SOMEONE WAS WATCHING, was published in 1993. His books have been named to dozens of state young readers’ lists and honored by the New York Public Library, the Society of School Librarians International, the Winnetka (Illinois) Public Library’s “One Book, Two Villages” program, and the Washington State Public Library. His latest is EPITAPH ROAD, a nominee for the 2013-2014 Nebraska Golden Sower Book Award. When he’s not in a coffee shop writing, or at a school or library or conference discussing writing, or on the trail thinking about writing, he’s home in Woodinville, WA with his wife Judy, a junior high librarian.