I’m going to let you in on a little publishing secret: Our best laid publishing plans sometimes get thrown a curveball. This most often happens with established series. Series branding is a very important aspect of publishing. The design (cover and interior), the way the books are titled, the way the books are numbered…all of this is essential information that must be as consistent and informative as humanly possible so that the reader (newfound or longtime fan) knows that each book is part of that series.
But what happens when a brilliant author tends to write out of order? Well, she’s brilliant, so you accommodate, but sometimes you must work miracles to do so.
The author I’m talking about is the amazing Kristine Kathryn Rusch. If you’ve followed me (or her) for years, you’ll know that the Retrieval Artist series encountered such an event. After Kris wrote Anniversary Day and Blowback (the eighth and ninth books in that series), she realized that they were not standalone novels but rather books one and two of what would turn out to be an eight-book story arc we named the Anniversary Day Saga. This meant we’d have to republish the first two books with the saga information (and some other additions). We did that in late 2014. The rest of the saga was published in 2015. You can find all of those books here.
Republishing those books in 2014 wasn’t a huge deal at the time, although we were locked into our original title and subtitle information because that’s tied to the ISBN, which is tied to your sales rankings and algorithm data. It’s a big deal to publish a book under a new ISBN. Plus, the old book never disappears in this new world because of third-party resellers, so it can be confusing for readers. We don’t like to confuse readers. Ever.
But I encountered a huge problem with that 2014 decision last week, when I went to drop the price of the paperbacks on Amazon from $18.99 to $14.99. I could successfully drop them on all of the titles except one: Blowback. For some reason that one book wouldn’t accept the update because of the series information from first publication and it wanted me to add a number 9 (as in Retrieval Artist series, book 9) to the cover and interior. No other book in the entire series has that. The Book Two of the Anniversary Day Saga was confusing the bots. Clearly, they thought, it was book two, not book nine. Sigh. After much investigation and discussion of our options, I managed to outwit the bots and get the price lowered. It’s not ideal, but it’ll do for now.
With an inventory as large as ours (700+ titles), managing our books is a full-time job that we don’t yet have the staff for. We will, but not yet. For now, it falls to me to get creative. Fortunately, I can be very creative.
This skill came in handy again recently when we were faced with publishing the newest Diving Series novel—a 263,000-word behemoth called The Renegat. It’s a fantastic book, worth every word, but the challenge came in figuring out how to fit that many words into the KDP publishing restrictions on page count so that we could publish the book direct to the Amazon universe. KDP has a strict 776-page limit.
When we ran the book using our established interior design parameters for the Diving Series paperback novels, it came in at 1,000 pages.
Originally, when faced with that information, we resigned ourselves to only using Ingram-Spark, which allows for more pages. I was still out on medical leave at the time, and we couldn’t figure out a way to cut 225 pages from the book without cutting content.
But once I returned (and, more importantly, my brain power returned), I decided to give it a go. I was an award-winning designer long before I became a publisher, so I was the best suited to such a task. But as publisher, I’m also the most expensive employee we have, so that was a call I had to make. And thanks to an amazingly successful Kickstarter for the Diving Series, we could afford me doing a redesign. So, I did.
A lot of this is very technical design stuff, but the short of it is, I redid everything: margins, fonts, type size, tracking, leading…. And I individually adjusted at least a quarter of the paragraphs in the book to gain space and reduce page count. This is not something you can do with the fancy new publishing software we happily use for other projects. And I still had to keep the feel of the Diving Series paperbacks, because the branding is so important. I leaned on all my professional design experience to pull off a miracle.
And pull it off I did. The new proof of The Renegat is exactly 776 pages (the max KDP limit). I’ll be honest, I was pretty stressed there toward the end that I would have to go back to the beginning and shave more, but it just fit.
(Brain surgery, you are so four months ago!)
This redesign has caused a slight delay in our Kickstarter reward fulfillment of the paperbacks, for which you have my humble apologies, but we’ll get things to you as soon as possible. And in the end, you’ll thank me, I think. The new book has a 2-inch spine (well, 1.94 inches, technically) and weighs 2.5 pounds. I’ve shared a photo of my 9-year-old daughter reading it. She thought it was pretty awesome. But we’re all glad it wasn’t any bigger!
The Renegat will be released Sept. 17, but you can preorder it in ebook here. And if you supported the Kickstarter, you should already have received an electronic copy. If you haven’t, please let us know here.
And now, I have a very large proof that I can’t wait to review.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.