Northcoast Shakedown: Why Bring It Back?

I’ve been asked over the years if I’d ever bring Northcoast Shakedown back. The questions became more frequent when Kindle took off, and self-publishing lost most of its original stigma.

It took me a while to come to the decision. Part of it was I had no idea if this ebook thing would take off. Another part would be sales. The numbers for Road Rules and “A Walk in the Rain” aren’t exactly burning up the charts. But then ebooks require no cash up front to publish, and they have forever to find their audience. For that, I have nothing to lose.

But there’s more to it than that.

Northcoast very likely would have ended up at a major New York press if I had waited two weeks before signing my contract with a small press east of Baltimore. As it was, I was shocked someone wanted to take a chance on the story, so I signed. Too bad. I was faced with the prospect of having to create a new novel for an agent while fulfilling the contract I’d signed. In short, impatience and naivete got the better of me.

I was stoked. I’d published a novel. I had a second one in the can and in the process of editing. I had a draft of a third novel. Finish this contract, and I could probably move up the ladder to the next step.

Then the bottom dropped out. The publisher went out of business, and like a lot of small presses that fail, there was a lot of denial about the situation. I got my rights back but…


Given the state of publishing then (2006), I couldn’t just turn around and resell the books to another publisher. And I had trouble finding the magic I found with the first three Kepler novels. A story called Devil’s Dance had a more unlikeable protag. Road Rules started making rounds about the time publishing started to get skittish about new authors. And several new projects fizzled on the pad.

Then I started on Holland Bay, what I called my “magnum opus.” That’s a book that’s going to take a long, long time to get right. I’m stoked when I work on that project, but it’s so big that I need time to make it work properly. The writing career that seemed so promising at the middle of the decade suddenly seemed like a waste of time.

About the time I moved in with Nita, I found the box of copies the publisher sent me as a “peace offering.” (I’d told him to destroy them.) I was so disgusted with the experience that I dumped them in the bins out back and sent them off to Mt. Rumpke. A couple months later, I blogged a request that anyone who owned a copy destroy it.

I might have been a tad bitter. Just a tad.

Then I put out Road Rules as an ebook. The six people who’ve read it generally liked it. So why not Northcoast? It’s edited. It’s already out of print. Redoing it as an ebook cost me nothing. I asked Erin O’Brien to get me some photos of the Cleveland skyline for the cover, and it’s her photo that provides the basis for Northcoast‘s new cover.

I plan to bring out the follow up, Second Hand Goods this spring. I also will write a new third Kepler novel, one that more logically follows on the consequences of the second book. But will I try print again?

I think it’s stupid not to try print. This term “legacy publishing” is really shit. I don’t have time for the rantings of some failed midlist writer who’s now complaining no one wants to buy his books anymore. (Really, dude? Try writing better books and telling us why we should read them. Thumbing your nose at New York isn’t a sellling point.) Yes, the ground is shifting beneath our feet in publishing. But last I checked, the only ones saying print is dead are those trying to hawk ebooks. And many of them are selling fewer copies than I am. I’m all for going indie now that it’s feasible. I’m doing it. But not going traditional? Why would you narrow your options?

It’s not either/or. Either/or is suicide. But Kepler will remain an independent endeavor. It’s wholly mine, and I want to control it end to end.


One thought on “Northcoast Shakedown: Why Bring It Back?

  1. It seems like a lot of people who started out in the ‘zines in the late 90s and early 00s had sort of false starts to their careers. Not just in terms of success, but in terms of deciding what they really wanted to write about. Although I have never even completed a novel, I know that the things I work on now are not much like what I was working on 10 years ago.

    I wonder if writers just grow out of the things they start out writing.

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