I want to talk about a book series I used to love and recently rediscovered, but first, some background…
Back in the pre-Kindle, little internet days, the book world was dominated by a few large, New York-based publishing companies. Their process was rigid and slow-moving, though, meaning even if you were a fast writer, you’d have one, or possibly two releases per year.
For avid readers, this was problematic, especially due to no internet. Back then, I kept a book journal, divided by month, and recorded author, title, and a one-line summary of everything I read, which could be anywhere from 10-20 books per month. I would periodically review the journal, note which favorite authors hadn’t released anything lately, make a list, trek to the library, look up to see if they had a new book in or on order, place a reserve, and wait for it to come in.
Yawn. Carving hieroglyphs in stone tablets and floating it down the Nile would be faster.
Then, yahoo and yee-haw, along came the internet in all its literary glory, and the world changed.
Authors had websites and newsletters and libraries were online. Perhaps most significantly, publishing itself changed. More and more small presses appeared, giving authors options they never had before.
I abandoned print books for my beloved Kindle (always named George, and I’m on George IV right now), which meant I could now be reading the second book in a series seconds after finishing the first one. Perfect for an impatient, immediate-gratification person like me.
Near the end of the pre-Kindle days, I came across an urban fantasy series–a favorite genre–at the library. The Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman. It was dark and gritty, but threaded with a fabulous dry, sarcastic, witty humor I loved. The world-building, mythology, and lore are second to none, and the powerful, complicated relationship between brothers Cal and Niko Leandros is indescribably wonderful. If you love the depth and breadth of the Supernatural universe and brothers Sam and Dean, this is right up your alley.
I devoured the first five or six books as they came hot off the presses. In 2011, I got my first Kindle, how I followed the book world changed, and I lost track of Rob and Cal and Niko for a while. Around that time, Rob was in a serious car accident, which is when I learned she’s actually Robyn, which surprised me. The brother relationship was so profoundly rendered I totally accepted the author must be male. Nope. Maybe this caused a hitch in her big-NY-publisher schedule. But for whatever reason, the series sort of fell off my radar.
Recently, I think due to a feature in Book Bub, I remembered the series. I was ecstatic to discover there were three books I’d not yet read, so I downloaded them all. I read Slashback last week, am currently reading DownFall, and Nevermore is up next. I’m loving getting reacquainted with Cal and Niko and Robin and Promise and the Auphe. (Okay, maybe not the Auphe so much…)
The hitch is Nevermore, the most recent release, came out in 2015. That’s an eternity in today’s publishing world. I was also disturbed to discover on the series Wikipedia page that book 11, Everwar, is shown as “uncertain” with a notation it was canceled by the publisher, and the author’s website doesn’t appear to have been updated in some time.
Why? Maybe the author is retired or semi-retired from writing, and that’s fine, though I’d love more books. But as someone who works in publishing and is an author myself, I think it has to do with the shift in the publishing industry.
It used to be okay to release a book a year. But now, with so many busy small presses who can work with an author and release books much faster, readers expect that. Those lumbering dinosaurs that are the “big” NY publishing houses have failed to adjust to this, plodding along the path that worked for so many decades. It hasn’t hurt mega-authors like Stephen King, but the lesser-known but still solid authors like Rob Thurman suffer.
Was book 11, Everwar, canceled because it wasn’t good? Highly doubtful. Was it canceled because interest and sales had dropped off? Much more likely. But whose fault is that? In this case, not the author’s. Reading the last books in the series, I know they’re as strong and compelling as they ever were.
One of my all-time favorite series is the Arly Hanks (“Maggody, Arkansas”) series by Joan Hess, which came out from 1987 to 2010. Several years ago I looked for these in e-book format so I could read them again–they are quirkily hilarious–and found only a couple of them. I was heartened to see when I checked today that they were all released in e-book in 2016 and 2017. But they’re not selling well because publishing now demands a constant stream of new material. Readers have short memories these days. Hess also doesn’t appear to have a website (the horror!), only a minimal listing on her publisher’s website.
I’ve been thinking about Robyn and her Cal Leandros series a lot over the past week. I wonder how much of her MIA situation is personal choice (publishing is exhausting!) and how much lack of vision and support by her publisher.
If it’s the latter, I wonder what the future is for Everwar and any potential future volumes in the series. I have no idea what her contract terms are, of course, but if we’re just “done” with a series and decline to sign the latest volume, we will often return the rights to the full series, so the author can re-brand and market it themselves.
It appears a couple of years ago the author attempted to gather support to self-publish, but for reasons that boggle the mind, the fans didn’t come through. I was unaware of this campaign at the time, but would happily support one now.
Whether it’s lack of support from her publisher in the changing publishing climate, fans who have “moved on,” or a change of priorities in the author’s own personal and writing life, I just know I’d like to see more of Cal and Niko and the gang, and I hope, if she’s still on board, she’ll continue to explore ways to keep telling their stories.
Hell, if Rob Thurman wants to stage a comeback, I’ll edit the first book for her for free.