On Monday July 25th Barbour Publishing informed the industry that they will be discontinuing their Heartsong Presents imprint. After 18 years and 1,000 titles, it will end its run in December 2011. Publishing has always been fluid. Steve Laube says that it is important to stay flexible because “A publisher can dramatically change directions after a meeting on Tuesday.”
I never thought Heartsong Presents, a line for which I proudly wrote, would collapse. Ever. But their line isn’t the first. Remember, for instance, Palisades? Or Alabaster? Both of those romance imprints were published by Multnomah but abruptly disappeared. Or the Three Rivers imprint or the Jan Dennis imprint at Thomas Nelson (both of which ended on the same day in the 80s). Many times a writer has been waylaid as these situations changed for them, sometimes in mid-contract.
If you are an author whose line has been discontinued, you must summon the courage to take the next step. This is where your agent can be invaluable. If you don’t have an agent, get one. You’ll need an agent’s wisdom to guide you to a bright future. Listen to your agent’s description of the publishing landscape. Collaborate to determine what your next step should be. Once that advice is given, heed it. Write a killer book proposal, no matter what. The publisher who left you in the lurch is still looking for manuscripts. Hopefully they know you as an author of quality and integrity, so they may still be an option for you with your next book idea.
To increase your chances of success with a new publisher, your proposal is key. Write a proposal amazing enough to compel the editor to ignore everything else in the new submissions pile in order to linger upon your work. Creating such a proposal, which is really your primary chance to introduce yourself to a new editor, takes hard work and time. Think twice before dashing off something over a weekend and hope your agent won’t notice.
This is also one time you won’t regret holding your tongue when you feel neglected or betrayed by your publisher. (Don’t complain on your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter.) The author who maintains cordial relationships with everyone is the one who is most likely to be welcomed back.