Where Have All the Dragons Gone?

This is a bit of a strange post, but it illustrates one of the big changes happening in publishing right now. A number of you have emailed me or left messages here on the blog or on my Facebook pages, asking why you can’t buy some of the Dragonfire or Dragon Diaries books. Most of you have thought there was something wrong at the portal or the publisher, but that’s not what’s going on.

When an author sells a book to a publisher, it’s for a finite measure of time. It’s not forever. Each publishing contract includes at clause that defines when and how the rights to publish the book return to the author. This is called Reversion of Rights. The trigger can be a number of different things – in the case of these contracts, when the number of units sold of a specific title drop below a defined quantity over a certain period of time (in this case, over a year) that title is available for reversion. Once that happens, the author or his/her agent asks for the rights to revert and the publisher has a number of months in which to reply. They might choose to promote the titles and give them new life so they sell  more units again, or they might choose to let them revert to the author.

Flashfire, #7 in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeRight now, Penguin’s rights to the Dragon Diaries, to Harmonia’s Kiss and to two Dragonfire books, Ember’s Kiss and Flashfire, have reverted to me. I’ve made Harmonia’s Kiss available in a new digital edition. The publisher has the right to continue to sell their existing print copies of these books – but not to print more – and they can’t sell the digital editions. That’s why these books have disappeared from online portals, at least in the digital format. You still might find print copies, either at online portals or at bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

Flying Blind, first of the paranormal young adult Dragon Diaries trilogy by Deborah Cooke, UK editionThere’s a bit of a wrinkle with the Dragon Diaries, as Penguin sold UK Commonwealth rights to Allison & Busby for Flying Blind and Winging It. You might find the A&B editions of either of those books – in both print and digital – available for sale in your territory. A&B never did acquire the rights to Blazing the Trail, so they don’t have an edition of the third book in the trilogy. (Nope. I can’t explain that.)

Firestorm Forever, A Dragonfire Novel and paranormal romance by Deborah CookeI will make new editions of the Dragonfire books available once the rights to the remaining six books revert to me. I’ve no idea how long that will take – in a real sense, that’s up to all of you. The fewer copies that sell, the faster the rights to the books can revert to me. When I do republish the series in print and digital, the print editions will very likely be in the same trade paperback format as the final three Dragonfire books, The Dragon Legion Collection, Serpent’s Kiss and Firestorm Forever. I’ll also produce the entire series in audio.Harmonia's Kiss by Deborah Cooke, a Dragonfire story

This is why the publication dates for both the Dragonfire Companion and Hot Blooded, book #1 of DragonFate, have been delayed. I won’t be publishing any new books about the Pyr until I have all those rights back. I’m still working on all of those upcoming titles, so we can have a real dragon celebration once I have the rights to Dragonfire again.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. 🙂

Reader Letter from The Frost Maiden’s Kiss

The Frost Maiden's Kiss, a medieval romance and third book in the True Love Brides series by Claire DelacroixDear Reader;

Welcome back to Ravensmuir!

I was very excited to have the chance to finally return to that fictional estate myself, as there was plenty of work to be done there. The ravens were gone, the keep itself had collapsed, the black horses bred at Ravensmuir had been moved to Kinfairlie because the new laird, Malcolm, had decided to go abroad and seek his fortune as a mercenary—and this despite his brother’s disapproval. Malcolm’s homecoming would be a renaissance for Ravensmuir, in my mind, and he required special woman to help him recover from all he had experienced. I was sure I knew the perfect one. My favorite characters are the ones who have their own opinions about how their story should be told. Catriona proved to be one of those characters—while I believed that I’d known her story and the balance she would bring to Malcolm’s life, Catriona showed me that I had it all wrong. As is so often the case—and is the reason I love opinionated characters so much—her version of events is much more interesting than the one I had planned. In fact, I think this pragmatic and wounded woman is a much better partner for Malcolm than the Catriona I had originally envisioned. I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The next and final medieval romance in the True Love Brides series will be Elizabeth’s book, which is called The Warrior’s Prize. You’ll catch a glimpse of Elizabeth’s story at the end of this book, and there’s an excerpt from The Warrior’s Prize as well. That book will be a December 2014 release and is available for pre-order at some portals now. You can find the links on my website, http://www.delacroix.net.

The family trees for Kinfairlie and my other linked historical romances have also been updated on my website, up to the end of The Warrior’s Prize, and made more pretty by Kim Killion. You’ll find them under the Claire Delacroix tab, all on a page called Family Trees. There’s also a bookmark designed by Kim, which lists all of my books. You’ll find that under About Deborah on the Complete Book List page. These are all PDF files that you can download and print on an 8.5” by 11” sheet of paper.

There is one more exciting piece of news about Kinfairlie and Ravensmuir as I write this: there are audio editions in production for both The Rogue and The Beauty Bride. The Rogue is the first book in the Rogues of Ravensmuir trilogy of medieval romances and was my first visit to Ravensmuir. The Beauty Bride is the first book in my Jewels of Kinfairlie trilogy, which is the beginning of the linked stories about these eight siblings seeking their happily-ever-afters. These are the first of my books to have audio editions, so I’m looking forward to having them available to you all.

Finally, some of you have probably noticed that of the eight siblings at Kinfairlie, Ross will be the only one whose story won’t be told by the completion of the True Love Brides series. In The Beauty Bride, Ross went to Inverfyre, as you might recall, to train under the Hawk of Inverfyre, along with his cousins and that man’s sons. (The Hawk’s story is told in The Warrior.) My plan is for Ross’s story to be part of another series, yet to come—we’ll move up into the Highlands and Inverfyre for that linked series and see some of those cousins married off, as well. First though, we’re going to take a little break from Kinfairlie in 2015 and follow a band of knights as they journey home from crusade. Look for more news about that series coming soon to my website and blog.

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

All my best,
Claire

 

Beguiled

Beguiled, a collection of short stories and novellas by Claire Delacroix and Deborah CookeBeguiled, my new collection of novellas and short stories, is available today!

Tales of fantasy, romance and forbidden love…

A collection of my own short stories and novellas, including:

An Elegy for Melusine by Claire Delacroix
Amor Vincit Omnia by Claire Delacroix
The Leaves by Deborah Cooke
The Kiss of the Snow Queen by Claire Delacroix
Coven of Mercy by Deborah Cooke
The Ballad of Rosamunde by Claire Delacroix

Buy at Amazon Buy at All Romance eBooks Buy at Createspace Buy at iBooks Buy at KOBO Buy at B&N

Reader Letter from Beguiled

Beguiled, a collection of short stories and novellas by Claire Delacroix and Deborah Cooke

Dear Reader,

I don’t write a great many short stories, although in assembling this collection, I have to wonder why that is. A shorter work is an opportunity—if not an invitation—to try something different in terms of style or to play with an unusual idea. Short stories are fun to write for that reason, and in addition, offer different structural challenges than books. I love to read short stories: they can be tantalizing in themselves, and also can provide a telling introduction to an author’s work.

The works included here were all written as the result of an invitation for me to participate in an anthology with other authors. In the past, invitations have been the only reason I wrote short—though that might change! I was glad to be invited to participate in all of those volumes, but is often the nature of short stories to remain available to readers for only a limited time. So, I’m very pleased now to have the opportunity to pull these works into a collection of my own and make them available to you again.

In addition, putting the stories together makes their similarities to each other more clear. Most of these works have a medieval setting, and all of them include both romance and fantasy elements. Each of them features a strong heroine who makes a choice, a choice that might end up costing everything she holds dear. Historians called the ability to influence one’s own situation “agency” and it’s an idea that I like to explore in all of my work. In the medieval era, women had more agency than many people believe, and we, too, have agency in our era, although maybe it’s less than many people believe. What we choose and why fascinates me. For the women in these stories, the opportunity to choose is more important than the result: I don’t know that even Melusine would regret her decision, though the end result is not what she had hoped to gain.

I’ve included an introductory note before each story, telling you a bit of how it came to be and its history. I’ve also included an excerpt from my medieval romance, The Rogue, because in reviewing these shorter stories, it’s clear that Alix and Melusine led me directly to Ysabella. Finally, there’s an excerpt from my upcoming medieval romance, The Frost Maiden’s Kiss. This is the third book in my True Love Brides series, and features the return of Malcolm to Ravensmuir from his time as a hired mercenary in Europe. He’s earned a fortune, but believes it has cost him his soul (and possibly his sanity) until he meets Catriona, a woman who shows him how to rediscover goodness. Catriona, however, has dangerous secrets of her own, ones that can threaten everything they build together. Malcolm and Catriona’s book will be published in August 2014.

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

All my best—

Deborah
also writing as Claire

Pre-Order The Frost Maiden’s Kiss

The Frost Maiden's Kiss, a medieval romance and third book in the True Love Brides series by Claire DelacroixThere are pre-order links available for The Frost Maiden’s Kiss on Kobo and iBooks right now.

There will be a pre-order link at All Romance eBooks in early August. The book will be available on Amazon, B&N, and Createspace on August 26th, then availability on the print edition will perk out to other portals over the following week or so.

Pre-Order Beguiled

Beguiled, a collection of short stories and novellas by Claire Delacroix and Deborah CookeThere are pre-order links available for Beguiled on Kobo and iBooks right now.

There will be a pre-order link at All Romance eBooks in about a week. The book will be available on Amazon, B&N, and Createspace on July 24th, then availability on the print edition will perk out to other portals over the following week or so.

The Dragon Legion Novellas

I was going to talk about this on November 1, and in fact, that post is still queued up. But since I showed you these covers on my Facebook page, I might as well share them here as well. You can still read more detail about the future of Dragonfire on November 1 – and hey, you can look at the covers again. By then, I should have the detail page up on my website, too.

Next up in the Dragonfire series are the Dragon Legion Novellas. These three novellas follow the adventures of Drake and the Dragon’s Teeth Warriors. Remember that they collected the third darkfire crystal in FLASHFIRE and haven’t been seen by the Pyr since. We’re going to catch up with them in this series – you can guess that the crystal has been making trouble for them all. It also is causing some unexpected results.

There will be three Dragon Legion Novellas. They will be released in digital editions first, at monthly intervals, then all three will be gathered into an anthology that will be published in print and digital. You don’t need to read my digital short story, Harmonia’s Kiss, to read these novellas, but you’ll meet Alexander there.

Here are the covers, nice and big:

KISS OF DANGER is Alexander’s story. It’ll be available in February 2013.

KISS OF DARKNESS is Damien’s story. It’ll be out in March 2013.

KISS OF DESTINY is Thad’s story. It’ll be available in April 2013. The anthology will follow, in print and digital, after that.

How do you like these covers?

The Question of Cover Art

One of the really interesting challenges in publishing and selling books is ensuring that the cover art is evocative of the book inside, and that it appeals to readers. In traditional publishing, this is the responsibility of the publisher, but when we authors publish (or re-publish) our books, we need to think about covers, too.

This is a long post, about that very subject. If you’re not interested in cover art, run and hide now!

There is a graphical language to covers, and one that is well developed in the romance section. If a character is alone on the cover, then that character is the focus of the story – for example, I often write hero-focused romances, so it’s pretty common for me to have a guy alone on the cover of one of my books. Dragonfire is an obvious example, as are my fallen angel books. The Dragon Diaries are ZoĂ«’s coming of age story, so she’s on the covers alone. I’d always thought that the Rogues of Ravensmuir covers should have had the heroes on them alone, and that they should be darker in tone because of the neo-Gothic tone of the books, so that’s what I asked Eithne to do for the re-releases. The Jewels of Kinfairlie are brighter in tone, rich in medieval detail, and hero-focused despite their titles, which is why I asked Kim for jewel tones and couples together.

(BTW, don’t be disoriented by the differences in various pages on my site. We’re in the midst of moving from the navy background to the purple one, and because I get confused easily, I’m uploading new pages as they’re completed. It’ll soon be all done!)

When both hero and heroine are shown on the cover, their poses will indicate the “steaminess” of the book. A couple in a passionate clinch will hint at a more sexy book, while a knight kissing the back of a lady’s hand hints that the book is more sweet and/or romantic. Look at my Harlequin Historicals, MY LADY’S CHAMPION was considered to be less “hot” than UNICORN BRIDE. Too bad I don’t have the Bride Quest step-backs on my site – they are clinches of people who are falling out of their clothes. Dell thought I wrote “steamy” medievals.

The amount of skin shown on the cover usually is indicative of the “heat” of the book – erotica and erotic romance novels have lots of bare skin on the cover image, while sweet romances or inspirational romances show characters who are fully clothed.

The colour of the cover can also indicate tone – a darker cover illustration indicates a darker and more gritty read (see those angels in their dystopian society again) while humourous books often have covers that are rendered in a lighter and brighter palette.

There are also fashions in cover art, which come and go. Currently, there are lots of historical romances showing heroines alone in billowing skirts that trail off the page. (A thousand yards of glistening, gleaming, ruby red taffeta, for example. Very lush.) There are also a lot of paranormal romances showing a hero alone, striding through the night. Both of these trends cut off the heads or at least the eyes of the cover models. (Dragonfire counts.) This, too, shall pass – Lorenzo got to keep all of his head, even though his gaze is averted. 🙂

For some books, then, it’s obvious what kind of look the cover should have – the trick is using the current graphical language to communicate with the reader, while simultaneously making the cover distinctive.

Inevitably, though, there are books which are harder to package. I find myself with a little posse of them, which is why I’ve been thinking about this a good bit in recent months.

Let’s walk through an example first.

Once upon a time, I wrote four books for Berkley. Two were time travels (THE LAST HIGHLANDER and THE MOONSTONE) published in the Time Passages imprint and two were immortality/reincarnation romances (ONCE UPON A KISS and LOVE POTION #9) published in the Magical Love imprint. They were the first stories I sold with contemporary settings (even for part of the story) and to me, there is a real continuum over these four books as I became more comfortable with that setting. I wrote them in the order they were originally published: OUAK, TLH, TMS, LP9. The two time travels were in the middle.

The original packaging of these books was pretty good. You can see them all here, in the right column.

In terms of sales, OUAK and TLH sold the best. By far. Why was that? When a book sells well by an author – and this was a new brand. I was writing for Berkley as Claire Cross – you can expect sales to grow over time. That didn’t happen here. What was the issue? I had originally speculated that those two covers were the most appealing to readers, that the blue of TLH was more compelling than the yellow of TMS – even though it’s the same cover model and similar image. I personally preferred the cover for LP9 over that of OUAK, but maybe I was wrong.

OUAK and TLH were also set in Scotland. The other two were set in Canada. It was also possible that this was the distinguishing variable.

When it came time to republish these books last year, I initially did covers myself. OUAK sold pretty well, right from the outset. TMS did not sell. I put a cartoon cover on LP9, thinking that might work better than the original. It didn’t. Actually, the sales pattern was pretty similar to how the books had performed in print.

Hmm.

Last summer, I upgraded the covers to ones by Kim Killion, which you can see in the left column of that page on my site. The first three books are strongly branded as similar, because they feel very similar to me. They have clinches on them because these books are sexy, and they have the clock because they are time travels. (Technically, OUAK isn’t a time travel, but people always think it is.) The covers have castles. And I took them out under Claire Delacroix as that is my ongoing and better-selling brand. Of all three of Kim’s covers, I like the one for TMS the best – probably because I like red so much.

What’s interesting is that the sales pattern has been consistent. OUAK is still selling far better than TMS. Numbers improved somewhat with the new covers, but not that much. TLH was not published until November, and with Kim’s cover from the outset. It is selling very similarly to OUAK. (The one strange thing is that OUAK sells really well at B&N while TLH sells really well at Amazon. The total units are about the same, but I think that’s weird.)

The Scottish setting, then, must be the key.

LP9, meanwhile, is a book that feels different to me. I realized that it is a bridge book, from the time travels to the fully-fledged contemporaries that I wrote subsequently (the Coxwell series) and has more in common with those later books than the earlier ones. As a result, I suspect it appeals to a slightly different market. I’d always liked the original cover illustration, so contacted the artist and she agreed to let me use it. It is a heroine-focused romance with mainstream inclinations and it looks like it with this package. Its sales have not been affected by the change in the cover art.

Which brings us to those Coxwells. These books have always been a challenge to package, and now the challenge is mine. They are contemporary romances with mainstream elements – or mainstream novels with romantic elements, depending upon how you look at it. They are a little bit edgey, a little bit funny and a little bit tragic. They star the members of “the most dysfunctional family on the planet” according to a writer friend of mine. I love these books.

Again, you can see the past packaging on the Coxwell page on my website. In mass market, the first two books went out with dreamy covers. This did not work. When they were reprinted in trade, they went out with cartoon covers. This also did not work. So, I am left with the challenge of how to repackage them this time around, in the hope that readers who like these kinds of books will find them. I suspect they will have photographs on the covers, and that each may show one character – the particular Coxwell “star” of that book – but I need a more concrete idea than that before setting an artist loose on the project.

If you’ve read these books and/or have ideas of how you’d expect to see them packaged, I’d love to hear them.