The Hedgewitch Experiment

The cover the The Hedgewitch Queen, showing a woman in a white dressI wrote The Hedgewitch Queen, let’s see, ]mumblemumble[ years ago, in a feverish haze. It started, as so many books do, with a character whispering in my ear. If not for a muddy skirt, a clear, cultured, decorous voice said, I would be dead like all the rest.

Dead…or worse, perhaps.

Of course I had to continue writing to find out what was “worse.” Arquitaine opened around me, and several drafts later (I think this was the book that cemented my faith in my long-suffering beta reader’s patience) I had a novel I was happy with. Well, as much as a writer is ever happy with a draft. We’re inveterate pickers. But I digress.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right time to release it. I was hip-deep in other series, and my editor and agent both agreed that dear Hedgie had to wait. I stuck out my lower lip, pouted a bit, and then got over it and cheerfully agreed. Of such moments are a career in publishing made.

Cut to years later, when my editor at Orbit called my agent. “Does Lili still have Hedgewitch? If so, there’s this opportunity. It’s an ebook-only release.”

There are few things as flattering to a writer as an editor remembering your book (in a positive light, mind you) multiple years later. I listened to the terms and asked a few questions. I took a while to think about it. And in the end, I said yes. I am very glad I did, even if it loaded a couple tight deadlines onto an already-massive pile of work.

I’m not a huge fan of ebooks personally. I prefer paper, and will until I die. As a writer, I’m not a giant fan either, because of piracy. I have, in several bitter moments, likened the writer’s experience of ebooks to throwing one’s own baby down a dark well. Those few writers who trumpet that e-piracy “helps” their sales are anomalies; if they do not have the grace to preface their remarks with “results not typical” I find their attitudes disingenuous at best.

So why on earth would I say agree to this?

It’s not because I (or my agent, or my editor) thought the book was substandard or unsellable, as some have openly supposed. (I would invite those who did so to shove their suppository supposition into the proper orifice, but their fat heads are evidently taking up all the room there.) It’s not because there was a monstrous pile of cash involved. (I wish.) It’s not because Orbit just decided to upchuck something all over the Internet and see if some chunks stick. (Ew.)

Quite frankly, I’ve reached a point in my career where I can afford to experiment a tiny bit. I was tremendously pleased my editor remembered the book after multiple years, and honored (and trusted) Orbit would put much effort and care into my book as the flagship offering. I knew plenty of my fans loved e-readers and would enjoy a work in that format. There was the possibility that this release would introduce new readers to my work, even though Hedgewitch is very different from anything else I’ve had published, with the possible exception of Steelflower. Plus, I thought it would be damn well fun, and you need to take your fun where you find it in this career.

There are plenty of other authors who can’t afford to experiment like this, for the simple reason that it’s not cost-effective to have an ebook-only release when they could release in harder-to-steal paper editions. I am among the lucky ones, and I realize my results are not typical. I did this for fun, for experiment, for the chance to work with an editor I love and respect to make the story even better, for the chance to offer something new to my faithful readers and maybe introduce a few new victims into my dark army.

Hey, an evil genius has got to do her recruiting somehow, you know?

I’m waiting to see how this turns out, and I know Orbit is. I’m glad we could take this chance together. Every fan I’ve heard from is excited right along with me. Well, except for those who think I shouldn’t be allowed to write anything but black-leather kickass chicks.

But that’s another story.