a reversion of rights

I got some of the best news of my writing career last week and I’m still OVER THE MOON about it.

Lo These Many Years Ago, I wrote a trilogy for Harlequin’s quick-to-fail Bombshell line, which were meant to be action-adventure romances, James Bond type stories where the heroine was the Bond character.

The line flopped badly for a lot of reasons, and the books I wrote never made any money, but I had a WONDERFUL time writing them and always wanted to do more. In fact, despite the books not doing well, despite it having been the better part of 12 years since they were published, despite everything, I’ve had readers ask regularly over the years if I ever *would* do more.

Well, there was a problem with doing more. It’s stupid and complicated but basically it goes like this:

I didn’t have the rights to publish the books myself. Those rights resided with Harlequin, because right-to-publish is basically what they’re buying when they give you advance money. And there’s always a clause in the contract that says under what circumstances those rights can revert to the writer, and what the publisher has to do in order to retain the rights. In these contracts, I wasn’t even supposed to ask for rights reversions for 5 years after publication, and the publisher had the right to reprint them within 18 months of me asking, if they so chose.

And those contracts were signed before the E-Book Revolution. So there was *no* language in them defining out-of-print in a world where e-books could be produced for almost nothing*…which meant that when the 5 year window *I* had to wait was up, they turned around and released e-books of the trilogy…which then sold basically No Copies At All, because they were under a different name, there was no demand for them, etc etc etc.

That happened two more times over the next EIGHT YEARS.

Now, there was no actual reason for the publisher to keep the rights. They were making no money off the books. They wouldn’t even re-release them under the CE Murphy name, where they almost certainly WOULD have made money. But every time I asked, they found another market to release them in as e-books, and thus re-started their 5 year window.

SO! The problem with writing more books in the series was that I could either:
1. write more books and NOT MENTION the first three, hoping that the lack of sales would someday allow me to get the rights back, or
2. write more books, talk up the first ones, try to get them selling, and therefore be certain I would *never* get the rights back, or
3. spend years gnashing my teeth and trying to get the rights back without talking about them very much, much less writing more.

I chose option #3 and my friends and family will attest to the SHEER FRUSTRATION I have vented over the past decade about the whole situation.

Eventually there were digital amendments added to the contracts, which gave me some of the language I needed to argue my case, and I put in Yet Another Reversion Request.

AND THIS TIME I GOT THEM BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mes amis, there was actual screaming involved. Like, fist-pumping foot-kicking incoherent bellows of joy. I kicked my feet so hard MY SOCK LITERALLY CAME OFF. I may have cried. I’m nearly crying right now, writing this blog post, in fact. I am SO HAPPY to have these books back and I am SO EXCITED to FINALLY GET TO DO WHAT I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO WITH THEM!!!!!!!!!!

I’m working on revising the original trilogy. Not LOTS of work, but some: updating the dated stuff (to my huge amusement, my heroine was carrying data around on a mini-CD, which was like the Height Of Awesome when I wrote the books *laughs and laughs and laughs*), trying to future-proof it a little, fixing some continuity errors, etc.

Once the revisions are done I’m going to run a Kickstarter for new cover art and book layouts. Kickstarter backers will get the revised books right away, and they’ll be re-released to the general public probably around the middle of next year.

Then over the next several years, I’m going to write the sequels on the side and run little Kickstarters for editing, cover art, layouts, etc. Backers will get the books more or less as they’re written (I’ll be doing the Kickstarters AFTER the books are written @.@) and eventually, when the entire series is finished, I’m going to do a year-long book-a-month release to put the whole story out almost in one big chunk.

I am SO EXCITED OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG I CANNOT WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIT I AM SO HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!! *KICKS SOCKS OFF AGAIN*!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*E-books cannot be produced for almost nothing up front. All of the heavy costs–paying the author, editing, cover art, book design, copy edits–still have to be done, and that costs money. However, in this case, because books had already gone through all of that, producing e-books was cheap and quick.

2 Comments


  1. Just got this news from your newsletter and wanted to wish you huge congratulations! This is super exciting for you, and I wish you the very best on sales of the books under your actual name! :)

    Reply

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