Those of you who read this column already know that Polis Books is publishing the original three Matt Jacob novels as e-books, individually and as a set, then my new one, TIES THAT BLIND, both as an e-book and paperback. What most people are less aware of is the preparation it takes to create a successful relaunch/launch, for both the publisher and me.
If you’ve been to this site before you’ve probably noticed some significant changes with more to come. First and foremost are all the new covers for each book. Soon there will be links to where they can be bought. And while I cherish Michael Paul Smith’s cover designs that I used when on my own, I also appreciate the care and concern that Jason Pinter, founder and publisher of Polis took to create each of the new ones.
One striking difference from now and my experience at traditional publishing houses was Jason’s desire to include me in the cover design process. A whale of a change from when I’d see the covers of my books only after they were published. That’s just how it worked. Instead, Jason sent me multiple mock-ups of each book’s cover. Not only was I given a choice of the different pictures, but also the opportunity to mix, match and discuss the results with him.
For those who never worked with legacy publishers, that sort of care and connection was (I can’t speak for the present) non-existent. To say I’ve been pleased to have embraced this new world of publishing would be a huge understatement.
But where the rubber really met the road was in working with Polis Books after I submitted TIES THAT BLIND. Again, I was used to editorial demands to change the novels’ main character. “How can anyone drive having taken a 5mg valium pill?” Or, “It’s time to place Matt into a 12-step program.” Or, “Change the ethnicity of a character in NO SAVING GRACE.” How about being told that a murder needn’t happen in the first forty pages, then getting thumped when I didn’t have a murder in the first 40 pages? And these were only a few. Each submission was the beginning of a fight. An ugly fight I came to despise.
So you can imagine my pleasure when I received well thought out comments from Jason. Comments that made sense and helped make Ties a better book. This was the first time I didn’t have to argue about Matt’s personality, a book’s interpersonal relationships, or engage in “comma wars.” He also appreciated that this novel doesn’t adhere to the traditional detective fiction framework. It’s been something that I was edging closer and closer to from STILL AMONG THE LIVING to TWO WAY TOLL, and finally NO SAVING GRACE. In fact, this is a wave that’s been happening with other detective fiction authors and one that fits with my work. As I’ve mentioned in other columns, I think detective fiction and jazz are related. Some musicians have broken through the boundaries of their time and redefined their contemporary music. They feel as if they can experiment with the form, create innovations and variations, but it’s all jazz nonetheless. I can’t claim I’ve done that with TIES—but I can say it’s an honest attempt to place all the characters’ relationships at the forefront and let them define and drive the drama.
Truth is, if it wasn’t for this new age in publishing I probably would never have written this book. Writing is difficult and this is a novel that occurs at much later point in time than the first three. Truth also is that I’m grateful in many ways. The book allowed me to maintain continuity, but also move beyond where Matt had been before. It forced me to look at the aging process in terms of Matt’s personhood, lifestyle, and listen to his older voice. And I’m extraordinarily happy that I did because it stretched my abilities. Something that I still enjoy.
There are a lot of people to thank for their support and encouragement along the way. Kent Ballard for covering the fort on alternate Monday columns while I finished my revisions. Sue for her encouragement, and Sherri Frank for holding my feet to the fire and providing insightful comments all the way through. It ain’t easy reading the same book twenty times or more to get it right. And getting it right feels harder than it had been—I don’t know whether that’s because I’m smarter now or just older. But whatever happens with TIES, I’m truly pleased that Polis Books helped make the book the best it could be. And, although it can stand on its own two feet, I really hope people take the time to read the first three e-books. It’s always richer to know how a character grows and changes. I think it’ll add to the enjoyment of this one.
The trouble with young writers is that they are all in their sixties. ~ W. Somerset Maugham