Setback

There’s disappointing news about The Star Shard. At the very last stage before acceptance, it was rejected by the people who control the purse strings.

As many of you know, the book was under very serious consideration at a large, first-rate publishing house. I had heavily revised the book with the help of an editor there who believed in it enough to invest a significant amount of his time in pro bono work, making careful notes for me on changes he’d like to see. Last fall and winter, I did an overhaul of the story following his suggestions, and we all felt the book became much better.

Then my agent made a long list of detailed notes for recommended improvements, and I did yet another draft. With this invaluable help from two industry professionals, The Star Shard reached its best shape yet, and everyone was excited about it.

The editor at [Big Publisher] loved what I’d done with the project. He quickly gained the enthusiasm of the editorial director there. There was whole-hearted support from the editors. But then on Wednesday, the sales and marketing people overruled them.

I guess I’m not supposed to get into particular reasons in this public forum. In short, it’s a reflection of the corporate world and probably the economic times we live in. It’s just incredibly frustrating that the book got so far as completely winning over the editors, who ought to be the decision-makers.

I just want to commend the work of my agent and the selflessness of that stellar editor at [Big Publisher]: the latter gave of his time and expertise to make a book better, without compensation, and you see the “respect” these people get from their marketing departments. This is a guy who loves the stories and the storytellers, and does what he can to prosper them, beyond the bounds of salary and job description.

Anyway, Lord willing, this is just a temporary setback. We still have the same book to send around–the book that lots of good people have helped to make better, and the story that many Cricket readers have responded to with enthusiasm. My agent already knows where the book is going next.

It’s “about the tenth hour” (4:00 p.m.) on Good Friday as I’m writing this. In our journey toward Easter, the Lord has finished His work for us. Now come the closed book, the dark emptiness, and the tomb.

But Easter is ahead.

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13 Responses to “Setback”

  1. John Says:

    Aw, man! Now what the heck is my wife supposed to get me for Christmas, hmmm? Did those sales people consider that?

  2. Jedibabe Says:

    Somehow I don’t believe it is a coincidence that you got this news on this particular day. While Good Friday is a solemn day, it is the most hopeful day of the calendar, sure Easter Sunday gets the glory, but this is the day when it all began.

    I woke this morning, as I do every morning, to NPR on my radio. Today they were discussing the growing cost of FDIC insurance to banks. I had what I thought was a completely random thought; “I wonder what effect the economic crisis is having on the publishing business?” I dismissed my thought as inconsequential- after all, people really need a good story in these difficult times. Minutes later I got this disappointing news about your story, Fred.

    Part of the wonder of most of the great stories we love is the story of how they came into being. That background story tends to be the one that we all marvel at once we have come to know and love the story itself and can’t conceive of our world without it. Whenever I have seen cellular mitosis I have marveled at the hand of God at work. It is not a process I would have ever thought up on my own, and yet it is a glorious process that brings new life into a dying world. We are watching the hand of God at work here. The Star Shard is a great story, and it will be published, I have no doubt. But your story, and its story, is still being written. These are the moments that try us, that stretch us, but the Lord knows us and he writes His story through us.

    It would have been great if The Star Shard had found its home first time out of the gate, but where would the story have been in that? The exciting part now, is knowing that you are a character in a story God is writing. Though it may be difficult, enjoy the journey! He tends to write wonderful endings.

  3. Eunice Says:

    I don’t know what God’s purpose is in this disappointment and frustration, or if it will ever make sense on this side, but just write me as another friend who cares and is disappointed and frustrated right along with you.

    (And, as if! I don’t think John would have WAITED for me to buy it for him for Christmas!)

  4. Chris Says:

    Fred, well, that really sucks (to use proper technical parlance). What I see in the world of industry is that the Marketting Groups are sometimes (not always) disconnected or lack appreciation of the “concept” except as a hook by which to sell the item. What is frustrating as a scientist (and as an artist) is to pour heart and soul into a project and have it hit marketting to be excessed for economic reasons. When decisions are made around the “business” aspects it appears to be often driven solely by “return on investment”. It is quite easy to decree the “axe” to those things which don’t appear to be a big monetary winner.

    This is why the “Digital Press” revolution will help folks like you. True art doesn’t always seem like a good “investment” if the return is going to be low. As you know the fear of “remaindered books” and “excess inventory” is scarier to the people of the purse as any monster you can write about.

    If short-run full-scale presses can be made which offer the same quality of product with almost no “excess inventory” necessary then real art can make it out the door.

    Again, sorry to hear your set back. Considering the amount of good press you seem to be getting from the Cricketians it would seem a slam-dunk to get this book out there.

    (Sorry but I can’t look for supernatural subtext to this. It seems like just a crappy business decision by people who make such things. Philistines, surely.)

  5. I join the chorus Says:

    Dearest Friend,
    Triumph is born of tragedy, and there is no conquest without suffering.
    I join the other posters, and the thousands upon thousands of Cricket fans, in expressing my sorrow at this setback, for that (as you have correctly noted) is what it is — a setback, not a defeat.
    As you consider what has happened, recall that the glorious LOTR trilogy would have been a much lesser, two-film likely disaster had the fools at Miramax taken on the cost. Were it not for them, no New Line and no LOTR as we know it.
    It may well be that The Star Shard has been dimmed on this day of sorrow so that it might rise in resplendent glory at a time and place unlooked-for.

    …deep roots are not reached by the frost …

  6. Catherine Says:

    I’m sorry. I really don’t know what else to say. I’m really sorry, and I hope (and pray!) things work out better next time.

    If it’s any consolation, I absolutely love the metaphorical symbolism you used in this posting! Please keep it up. You are really good at that sort of thing.

    And may you have a blessed, happy Easter.

  7. Shieldmaiden Says:

    Dear Fred, I haven’t commented on your post yet because I had no idea what to say. I had such hope that [Big Publisher] would say yes, this seemed as close to a sure thing as I can imagine it gets for a first book in a series. It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that they (for whatever reason) didn’t take a chance on The Star Shard. I know in my heart someone will… it just has to be a part of that small stack of favorite stories on my shelf! Not to mention the fact that until Shard gets turned into a book, none of us will get to read the rest of the series [unbearable!]

    I hope you find the right publisher for your beautiful story, there is a perfect fit out there somewhere. Thank you for keeping us all posted. I (and the many, many readers that are with me) will continue to keep all fingers crossed. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Good luck with the next stage of your story becoming a book. I can’t wait to read it! And if you knew me, you’d know how true that last statement really is.

    By now it is already Sunday afternoon over there, many blessings to you and a Happy Easter.

  8. Jhagman Says:

    I am quite a bit less forgiving of these “big publishers” than the other commentators. In my slightly paranoid way I see a connectivity between the business philosophies that have destroyed banks, and the stupid greed that guides the publishing houses. Great books and great business successes are built around human relationships, since these “marketing gurus” can’t quantify it-they won’t publish it! Calculators for Souls! What makes a book truly wonderful is beyond them. As a bookseller who has worked for over twenty years, I have seen their failures! I would laugh if I did not feel like crying. There is no algorithm for beauty, and sure as Hell no MBA for publishing success.

  9. Daylily Says:

    _The Star Shard_ is elegantly written (the part of it I got to read) and already has a loyal following. I have faith that you will find the right publisher! I look forward to reading the novel.

  10. Preacher Says:

    Fred,
    So sorry to hear about the setback. I still have no doubt that it will be published, though. I met an editor at a writers conference who had been rejected by the marketing department on the last FOUR books he had brought to them. It got to the point where he was telling people in his interviews that good writing didn’t matter–his publishing house was only looking for “fill-in-the-blank” type of stories. He was pretty frustrated. Another editor told me how he had pushed a book pretty hard only to have it rejected by the marketing department. The book was put out by another house and quickly sold 40,000 copies. He went back to the group and gave them an “I told you so” lecture. The “marketers” are just not very smart sometimes. I know the Shard will be in bookstores one day. He is Risen indeed!

  11. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thank you all! My agent told the story of a VERY prominent writer (he named names; I won’t here) who had a novel rejected by a marketing department even though her previous books with that publisher had been showing in increase in sales.

  12. Eilonwyn Says:

    Hi, I’ve never posted before (never even been on this site before), but I’m an older Cricket fan who just finished reading the last part of Star Shard, and immediately went to the Google machine to see if (when!) it would be published. I’m really sorry to hear that it’s not working yet, but I know that I’ll buy any and all Star Shard books you write whenever they come out. I haven’t read a story this good in a while, especially in a kid’s magazine – it’s the only thing that had me waiting obsessively to see if Cricket was in my mailbox each day. I just wanted to say that I really loved this story and can’t wait to get anything related to it, and I think once it’s published I’m sure it’ll do excellently. Thanks.

  13. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thank you, Eilonwyn! And welcome to this blog! I hope you’ll feel free to visit here all the time! I really appreciate your taking the time to seek out this space and to leave a comment. It’s always wonderful to hear that something has connected with a reader! And I’m also very grateful for your kind words about “The Star Shard.” It especially makes me happy that this story crosses over and appeals to adults as well as children. As I think back, the books that have meant the most to me have been those kinds of books: kids can read and enjoy them, and adults can do the same, even if they may be enjoying different aspects.

    As you may have noticed from the Cricket site, I hope that The Star Shard will be Book One of a series which, for now, I’m calling Halcyon Fey. The version of Book One my agent is shopping around is more than twice as long as the story was in Cricket, although it begins and ends in the same place — so there’s a lot more going on between and among the adventures you’ve read so far.

    This blog is the best place to come for regular updates, but for a full bibliography of what I’ve got out there, I have a website at:
    http://www.fredericsdurbin.com/

    Finally, do you know about my novel Dragonfly? If you liked “The Star Shard,” you may like this one, too. The paperback can be had for pennies on Amazon; or else there’s the illustrated original hardback edition still available from Arkham House (www.arkhamhouse.com); or else, if you’re interested and have any trouble getting a copy, just let me know!

    Thank you very much again — I’m so glad you took the time to write!

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