A Reluctant Decision

 Occasionally, - only occasionally, thank goodness – it is sensible to abandon a project because it is going nowhere. This week I have reluctantly done that. It is a long story.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I wrote a story about a brother and sister, Sarah Jane and Billie, who are turned out of their home when their parents die and are forced to go to the workhouse. The workhouse is not a nice place to be in the middle of the nineteenth century. Husbands are separated from wives, mothers from children, brothers from sisters and the regime is harsh. Sarah Jane and Billie are separated as soon as they arrive and from then on their lives follow different routes. Now and again they come within a whisker of being re-united and then fate takes a hand and sets them off in different directions again. The story covered both their lives. When it was finished it was over 250,000 words long. Yes, that’s not a misprint I really did write a quarter of a million words and on an ordinary typewriter not a computer.
No publisher was interested in such a long book, especially by a little known author, so I put it in a drawer and got on with other projects, books that did find publishers. But Sarah Jane and Billie were living, breathing human beings and they clamoured to be let out.

One day, between books, I fetched the weighty typescript out and set to work splitting their stories into two separate books beginning with Sarah Jane. It had umpteen versions before I felt satisfied and the result was The Stubble Field. It was published by Orion Book way back in 1993 twenty years after I first began it. It had a very small print run and was soon sold out, but the publisher declined to reprint (though it was reprinted twice in French). I thought Billie’s story, coming quickly afterwards might encourage them to change their minds and hurried to finish it. All to no avail.  Not only did they decline to reprint The Stubble Field, they rejected Billie’s story on the grounds that historical novels were out of favour, no one was buying them. No other publisher would look at a sequel to one published elsewhere. Poor Billie was consigned to the drawer again, in spite of so many people asking me, ‘Whatever happened to Billie?’

Then along came Kindle and ebooks. I seized the opportunity to reissue The Stubble Field under the new title of A Line Through Chevington, and self-published Billie’s story as Promises and Pie Crusts. (along with others of my backlist). They have done reasonably well and attracted a few good reviews and I receive a cheque every month and that is very gratifying.

But there are still people out there who like to hold a printed book in their hands and Promises and Pie Crusts had never been printed, so I hit on the idea of using Amazon’s CreateSpace and print on demand. I didn’t do it all myself, I hasten to add, I had the technical help of my lovely daughter-in-law, Elaine, but then I had another thought. Although it could stand alone as a story, it really needed reading after A Line Through Chevington and that had been out of print for years. So, we set to work on that one too.

And then we discovered we had not done our homework thoroughly enough. Both, in spite of judicious pruning were over 150,000 words long, and Amazon charge by the page. The minimum price for the books was going to be over £12 each! No one would pay that much for a paperback novel, so I was in a dilemma. I did think of splitting each of them into two books to make them cheaper but if someone wanted to read the whole story, they would need to buy all four and that would in the long run be more expensive. Not only that, it would mean more covers and I would have to write some back story into the sequels, meaning more editing. I decided new books were more important and reluctantly decided not to go ahead.
What would you have done?

Both books are still available on Kindle.