I’m becoming more free, more liberated in how I think about and how I operate my publishing company. So Monday morning when I saw yet another review of Lost and Not Found which seemed to have misunderstood the entire point of the book and to have interpreted the heart of the book to be a mis-step and an incoherent disappointment… I realized that instead of just thinking about releasing an alternate edition of the book, it was fully within my power to actually release it.
So I took some time on Monday and put together a quick “Director’s Cut” that had all the love story and fantasy adventure that had ended up being the last third of Lost and Not Found, cut out the few scenes that had connected it further to the confusing-and-irrelevant characters-who-get-found-and-forgotten, and re-attached the part of the story that goes to Skythia (released earlier this year as a short story in More Lost Memories). I wrote a few words about why I was creating the Director’s Cut, put them up on modernevil.com. I wrote a quick marketing summary so I could put the book up for sale as an eBook on Smashwords. Whoosh, from frustration at people misunderstanding my book to publishing a version of the book that those frustrated people would hate outright, in the space of an afternoon.
Yesterday I sketched for a while & then painted an image for the cover. I’ve been thinking about doing this with other books (have you seen the covers of More Lost Memories and Cheating, Death?) and I’ve finally decided to do it with the Lost and Not Found – Director’s Cut: I’ve put the painting I did for the cover art up for sale at a price that will allow me to fund a paperback release of the book. If you buy the art, I’ll make the book available on paper. ((Alternatively, if I can get, say, 25 people to pre-order a paper copy, I’ll make the book available on paper.)) Otherwise, it’s going to remain available only in formats that cost me nothing to make available: eBook (and probably audiobook, later this year, especially since I’ve already recorded most of it).
I’m thinking of trying this with some of my future books: Release them as an eBook and if 1) enough eBook copies sell or 2) the original painting for the cover sells or 3) enough people are willing to pre-order then I’ll put out a print edition. Because realistically, right now, I’m not even breaking even on the publishing costs. I sell too-few copies. I’m not saying this is permanent/final, especially since I sell a lot more paper copies by hand (and make more money per copy) than I sell eBooks, but I figure it’s worth a try. It’s my publishing company, I can do what I want, right? The only rules to follow are my own.
So, here’s the brief marketing summary I wrote for Smashwords:
A non-traditional story; no real conflict, no struggle, no antagonist, and -some would say- no plot. A love story of fantastic proportions, of two people who realize that the less-than-comfortable normalcy they’d felt responsible to is the only thing keeping them from achieving true bliss. With a faerie, titans, a two-headed monster, a flying city, amazing museums, unusual time mechanics, & more.
And here’s the page-or-so I wrote “About the Director’s Cut”:
Lost and Not Found was the first look at the storybook universe expanded upon in Forget What You Can’t Remember, More Lost Memories, and Cheating, Death. This “Director’s Cut” of Lost and Not Found comes closer to my original intent, and to the original first draft of my 2002 NaNoWriMo novel, originally released in limited edition under the title Forlorn. Forlorn was written in the final 8 days of November, after a similar ordeal to the fictional one presented in Lost and Not Found.
In response to the criticism and feedback from a very vocal and adamant subset of the people who read Forlorn, and based on advise about what “all” fiction “needs” I spent the following year trying to find ways to give the story I’d written in Forlorn things like conflict, character arcs, and a three-act structure. I ended up cutting Skythia out completely, and writing a significant amount about the writer’s life and the journey toward the heart of the story, which I’ve always believed starts with the word ‘Forlorn.’
I released the First Edition of that expanded, “fixed” book as Lost and Not Found in 2004, and I’ve been receiving two kinds of feedback from readers in the five years since then: One group of people liked the book right up until the word ‘Forlorn.’ This group thinks the rest of the book is a “wrong turn”, and they were disappointed by it. The other group of people typically don’t even remember what happened in the book before the word ‘Forlorn.’ They understood the heart of the story to be the same thing I did, and they loved it.
This “Director’s Cut” of Lost and Not Found is bound to divide readers in the same way, though I expect to a more significant extreme. The people who would have been disappointed by the end of Lost and Not Found will be disappointed by this entire book. The people who would have loved the end of Lost and Not Found will probably love this entire book. And I, increasingly emboldened to do what I want to do with my books and with my publishing company, love the idea of releasing a Director’s Cut of the book, one that I prefer and that I think my true audience will prefer.