Tuesday 18 March 2008

Beware the Fat Lady

Cat Kin by Nick GreenYou've got your publisher.

You've got the trilogy deal.

Your first book is out to brilliant reviews.

And yet the fat lady still begins to sing.

Ann Giles, blogging in the Guardian today, tells the story of Nick Green, who found himself dumped by Faber after poor sales of his book The Cat Kin.

The dumping happened after Nick had already written the second book of the trilogy, Cat's Paw. So Nick has now published the book via print-on-demand company Lulu.

Giles, also known for her popular blog BookWitch, writes:
Poor sales? With a book as good as The Cat Kin, you've got to ask what kind of marketing support the publisher had given it.
Indeed, Cat Kin is short-listed for Bolton children's Book Award and the Sefton Super-Reads Book Award – ironically trumpeted on Faber's Awards and Prizes page.

Nick first published Cat Kin as a print-on-demand novel, before Faber decided to take it on. It was one of those rare POD titles that garnered warm praise from reviewers. Amanda Craig of the Times called it "an excellent debut".

Okay. How about we all go out and buy Nick Green's book and see what happens next in this saga?

Get The Cat Kin on Amazon. Get Cat's Paw on Lulu.


  1. Hi, Nice Blog! Just thought you might like to know that the link near the end "Get The Cat Kin on Amazon" doesn't work.

    I'm going to link to your post and see if I can get Nick some more publicity.

  2. wow! you comment quickly! okay i will fix that link. thanks for the heads up.

  3. a friend just emailed to let me know that nick didn't have a trilogy contract with faber. sorry for that error.

  4. Well, artistic license, Candy. After all, it wouldn't be so elegant to write, "You've got the informal understanding gleaned over a publishing lunch that they really really like your book and would love to see some follow-ups", would it?
    Moral: get it in writing! And get the money up front. Then run. To Bermuda.

  5. If I ran it would be to John Lewis to get a new wardrobe! But Bermuda sounds good too! Hi nick! someone just told me i am going to love The Cat Kin. I have a good feeling about this ...

  6. Amazing though it may seem, Nick Green's experience corresponds exactly with my own:

    Towards the end of 2003 I had a children’s novel called “CloudWorld” accepted by Faber (I’ve been writing children’s fantasy fiction – amongst other things – since 1993 and had two previous books rejected everywhere, albeit with encouraging comments.) In January 2004 I sat in my editor’s office at 3 Queen Square to go through the manuscript. Her first comment surprised me. “CloudWorld” was a single volume book, but she felt that its plot was rushed in places. So she suggested focusing on the first two-thirds and cutting the final third, with the intention of expanding it into a full-length sequel. I was a bit startled by this. I didn’t really like the idea of “book one” (as it was suddenly known) having a cliff-hanger ending. But, thrilled to be published by Faber in the first place, I agreed. Needless to say, no mention was made of my one-book contract becoming a two-book contract.

    I returned to Glasgow, where I was staying in a friend’s spare room in order to be able to concentrate on my writing. Over the following year, I completed rewrites on “CloudWorld”. Then, after spending some time finding a new job and a proper place to live, I dutifully embarked on the sequel. For the next couple of years I rose at six every morning to write before going to work. During this period “CloudWorld” itself was published. It received some excellent reviews (www.cloudworldthenovel.com/Reviews.htm) and was nominated for the Manchester Book Award. By September 2007, I’d completed “CloudWorld At War”. But Faber rejected it, arguing that too much time had passed since the publication of “CloudWorld”, which had, according to them, sold beneath expectations.

    “So what?” you may think, and in a way you’d be right. When a publisher rejects a book it isn’t personal. But if you’ve written the book in question – and devoted five years of your life to it and its predecessor – it’s personal to *you*. And this particular book was based on material the publisher had previously accepted, so they have, essentially, gone back on their word.

    Like Nick, I’ve decided to publish “CloudWorld At War” myself through lulu.com and I draw consolation from the people who’ve recently e-mailed me from Canada, France and Australia, wanting to know how the “CloudWorld” story ends. My latest royalty statement indicates that the first has sold 8,500 copies out of 10,359 originally printed, so hopefully there’s still a readership out there. After all, what have I got to lose?

  7. david - i'm gutted for you. we've been having quite a discussion on the british scbwi list serve about publishers dropping sequels. david thorpe has just found out that the sequel to his well received fantasy HYbrids has been dropped by Harper Collins. and several other authors have chimed in with their experiences.

    this is yet another new reality for children's publishing. i do wish you well.

  8. Many thanks Candy. I've visited Notes from the Slush Pile many times in the past, always with enjoyment and admiration.

    At such times any messages of support mean a great deal. It's not Faber's business-oriented decision that angers me so much as their deception. I think there's a misapprehension out there that anyone who currently writes for children is a literary arriviste smelling Harry Potter millions. But it's a vocation and some of us have been at it for a long time!

    I did know about David Thorpe and I'll get in touch with him in due course.

  9. since i've written this blog, i've discovered so many other authors in the same bind. it's a cautionary tale - but i say, let's just keep writing. as kathleen duey said in an inspirational talk at the recent scbwi bologna conference - when you run into a setback, respond with craft. she was talking about rejections but i think it applies here too.

    we just have to keep writing and writing well because we can't help it. and at the end of the day, that's where the joy is!

    so ... i wish you all joy!


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