Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Editors, Relationships and a Space Dog, by Enid Richemont


Imagine this. You are working with a professional colleague you respect, but have never met (blind date). This colleague has already stated that he admires your work (you now have a relationship of sorts). Indeed, he has commissioned one of your books for publication (it has taken him and his company four years to get to this point) and you have received and  signed the contract and the cheque (at this point, the relationship has become more concrete).

He expresses active interest in other works, especially one. You are now both considering a work as yet unborn and in gestation, so cooperation, encouragement and loving care will be needed to bring it to life. At this delicate point, your colleague vanishes. Emails are routinely unanswered. You wait. Perhaps he's ill, had an accident, even died? Maybe the gestating work you've shared is no longer loved or needed. Will he pay you the respect of telling you? You can take it - after all, you've been in the business for over twenty years - maybe this one must be aborted. But no, nothing. This attitude pervades the publishing industry at present. Expertise, track records, count for nothing. Pitch, even with an agent (and I have an excellent one), and you will be ignored. How many of us have reached the point of  semi-nervous breakdown over this we will never know.

It wasn't always like this. When I was first published by Walker, and working with people like Anne Carter and Wendy Boase, the encouragement and nurturing I received acted like fertiliser on the fragile plants which were my ideas and stories. It wasn't always like this for Ann Jungman, who was our guest blogger a little while ago, either. Ann's (over eighty) books for children were hugely read and admired. Then, slowly, established authors began going out of print. Ann's fight-back was to start her own company, Barn Owl Books, re-publishing titles people kept asking for and couldn't any more find stocked in bookshops. Then in turn, Barn Owl itself went down - you can read the full sad story on Ann's recent blog.

There seemed to be no way out of this, until the emergence of ebooks. Self-publishing, so-called 'vanity' publishing as we knew it, would have been out of the question for any professional author, but suddenly the propect of taking control of our own work seemed inviting, if challenging (the question of quality control still vexes us, and there is an awful lot of dross out there).

I've recently re-published six of my out of print books on Kindle, and one never published title, DRAGONCAT, which did astonishingly well in a KDP promotion a few weeks ago. My most recent ebook, THE ENCHANTED VILLAGE, has just come out. Aimed at people of eight plus, it's a fantasy about offended Greek gods taking over the small Cornish village of Constantine, and it was launched in the village primary school, with teachers and kids dressed up as gods and goddesses. I love the cover image by the very talented Mark Preston - it's just perfect for the story (which not all book covers are).

The germ of the idea behind the plot was a very personal fantasy. Cornwall is beautiful, but its weather can leave much to be desired. My daughter and her partner had planned an open-air wedding ceremony in a meadow sloping down to the Helston estuary. But what if it rained? Yes, they'd thought of that one, but there's not a huge amount you can do if it decides to bucket! So I dreamed up gods who might hold the weather in that small area in a state of sunshine, and it happened - in life as well as in the book.
 
This same daughter designs puppets and marionettes for theatre companies, and her latest one is a dog marionette. She brought it with her to work on when she stayed with us recently, and its prototype took on such a life of its own that we couldn't stop ourselves from stroking it each time we walked past it - suddenly the story of Petrouchka began to make total sense. The story will be based on Laika, the Russian dog who was sent into space in the late Fifties.








 





5 comments:

Catherine Czerkawska said...

This lack of communication - ironically enough, at a time when communication has never been easier - is now endemic in our industry - and you're right. It didn't used to be like that. Their excuse is that they are swamped with submissions, but that doesn't explain the lack of communication even when you are in a professional relationship with them. And the sad thing is that we become so brainwashed that we are afraid to complain when in any other area of partnership we wouldn't stand for it. I recently read a blog post by a successful US writer who had started to employ an intellectual property lawyer instead of a literary agent, and experienced the revelation of being kept in the loop, copied in on all emails and letters to and from publishers,and the progress of everything, instead of the usual silence. Glad to hear of your success though!

madwippitt said...

That is a really fabulous and eye catching cover! And I love the dog marionette - looks like a touch of wippitt in there perhaps?

Not sure how you will get a children's book out of Laika though. Her story is yet another appalling example of man's casual cruelty: the way in which these stray dogs were kept and 'conditioned' for the trips was dreadful, and the Russians knew that Laika was on a one-way trip and it's most likely she died in terrible fear and pain. Even the scientist in charge admitted that nothing was learned from it, and that they hadn't been expecting to gain any helpful information either.
This was no canime heroine, but a stray and a victim who deserved better treatment.

Susan Price said...

Madwippit beat me to it (as so often!) Laika's story is shocking, cruel and unbearably sad. Painful to think about. I hope your space dog has a happier time altogether!

Enid Richemont said...

Sorry, people, but Laika's story isn't mine. It belongs to the English Touring Opera Company, the people who've made it into an opera - possibly a tragic one, but haven't yet been told the plot. Our Laika is a marionette made for the company by our daughter, Jude. She's modelled on Jude's own beloved dog, Hattie.

Author Roast and Toast said...

I can't add much but to say that Ilove both your cover and the marrienette and how I agree about the treatment of 'Little Laika'. I have often imagined what fear and distress that poor little dog must have suffered. As a Science fiction writer I love the idea of space exploration - but not at the expense of defenseless animals. So tragic.

Your daughter is obviously very talented, and I'm glad the weather gods were kid for her wedding.