Hands tied.jpgI love my email.  First of all, most of it is positive.  Overwhelmingly.  Going to the computer every day to write a novel takes either a certain amount of ego or a complete absence of good sense.  Often a positive email gives me the necessary ego boost to start work.  Sometimes it blunts what good sense is left after a long writing career, and helps me forget that worldwide, those words open me to a certain amount of public regard or disregard.  This, of course, is something writers can’t think about, or we’ll never turn on our computers.

Through the years I’ve learned to roll with most punches.  I follow the immortal words of that great philosopher Ricky Nelson who pointed out that “You see, you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”  And I do.

When I can.

Judging from my email and conversations at booksignings, readers are often surprised at all the ways writers “can’t” please themselves.  In other words, all the many aspects of our careers that we have little or no control over.  So for fun, let me dispense with a few of those today.

First, the next novel. . .

I’ve received literally thousands of requests for another novel in the Shenandoah Album series.  And yes, I’d intended to write six.  After Sister’s Choice, book five, my publisher decided it was time to move away from the series and asked for something different.  We discussed this at length. In the end I accepted their decision with the understanding that we’re leaving the door open for another Shenandoah Album novel down the road (that would be Route 11 through the Valley) a piece.

Were my hands tied?  Maybe the ropes weren’t cutting off my circulation, but I had the good sense to know my publisher often sees trends I can’t, and more important, that keeping them happy is sensible indeed.  I gave in gracefully–although we’d have to ask my editor if she saw my response that way.

By the way. . . If you’d like to see another book in that series, you have your chance to influence that decision.  Buy Sister’s Choice in paperback in June.  Tell your friends to do the same.  And buy it the first week it comes out.  That’s what publishers listen to.

And in the meantime, fall in love with Happiness Key while you’re waiting for Summer Winds, that sixth Shenandoah Album novel.  I sure did.

Second, the cover. . .

No, I don’t design my covers.  I am not an artist.  If you want stick figures or royalty-free photos from Istockphoto.com, which illustrate so many of my blogs including this one, then I can give you that.  But my publisher has an entire art department qualified to design and execute covers. 

Do I have a say?  Absolutely.  In fact Sister’s Choice and Happiness Key are exactly what I asked for, only much better because someone with talent took my “ummm. . maybe we could have the sisters in an apple orchard” comment and created a wonderful cover.

Do I like everything they do?  No.  Do they like my responses?  No.  Are my hands tied at the end?  Very. 

Third, the title. . .

Having just come from a title battle, I can say this.  A number of people are involved in title decisions.  Unfortunately I’m one of those authors who works her titles into her story in a thousand different ways, and even if that’s only visible to me, being asked to change a title midstream is like being asked to type with fewer fingers. 

Do I have a say?  No question.  Do I have the final say.  Nope, but thank goodness I’m always involved in the compromise.  In the aforementioned battle, my title was not changed, after all.  I kiss the feet of all the people at Mira who understood they were dealing with a titleopath and gave in so generously.

And finally, the movie version. . .

I have exactly squat input into what happens to my novels when they’re made into movies, as two have been recently in Germany, or abridged for audio, as some of mine were earlier, or the foreign translations, or the graphic novels. I am not consulted.  Period.

When are my hands not tied?  On the first draft of my novel, after I’ve been given the go-ahead and my synopsis has been accepted.  From that point on, anything can happen.  Luckily I work with dedicated, intelligent people who want my books to succeed as much as I do.  Things may not always go my way, but sometimes the way they go is better.

But don’t tell my publisher I said so, okay?