Update: As of August 1st, 2017, the series has been unpublished from all retailers.
Wow, it’s been a while! I’m so sorry – I always have good intentions about not neglecting this blog. Someday, I’ll get better. Maybe. Eh… probably not. *hangs head in shame*
So, I have some news. I’ve been doing some writing work, some thinking, some planning. For a period of time starting in October and lasting into the middle of June-ish, I wasn’t really able to write anything. There were lots of reasons for that, but suffice it to say my body and brain were basically telling me “take a break,” and the words went away. I was on the verge of thinking I was truly going to have to become a mushroom farmer (that’s the backup plan) when things finally started sputtering and coming to life again. Thankfully, I’m now back to almost a normal output. Starting back up after so long was painful as I was so rusty—my sweet editor has her work cut out for her on that first book, let me tell you.
While I’ve been on this brain-imposed sabbatical, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of research, and a lot of studying on the business side of publishing. I mean, if I’m going to be forced to not write (thanks, neurons), I might as well make the time count, right? One of the things I ran across was a book about relaunching existing series. The basic premise of the book was simple: If you have a backlist that has certain strong points, why let it languish? Put it to work! Hmmm…
Now, most of you know that I said good-bye to the Shadows Collection a while ago. Eight books long, the series arc was finished and I was finished with it. The biggest reasons for that were simple: I didn’t enjoy writing the books anymore, and the series wasn’t performing well enough in sales for me to justify spending more time on it, especially considering that I was burned out with the series.
But then I read this relaunch book, and I asked myself the question “what if?” Well, I set about evaluating the series. I’d long since consigned it to the back room, figuratively speaking, as all my efforts at promoting it fell flatter than a pancake. However, looking at the series through the lens of what this book laid out, I was surprised by what I saw. Even more, when I considered some of the things the author said was possible, I started seeing the series in a new light.
I’m proud of that series, so let me get that out of the way right now. Is it the best series in the world from the perspective of the writing? No. But it’s GOOD. It didn’t deserve to be shelved as a product that wasn’t worthy of attention, and that’s where it’s been for a while.
What it did deserve, I determined, was a second chance. And to my mind, there was only one way to approach this relaunch – go big or go home. I’ll say more about that in a minute.
Now, all the while I’ve been languishing without words with which to create worlds, I’ve been thinking about what I want to write next. Whatever it is, I want it to have a mystery feel, a quirky feel, and maybe even a sinister feel. I don’t want it to be romance, though there will be romance in the series. It just won’t be the focus. And since it will be so radically different from the Firefly Hollow series, I want to use a pen name. the nom de plume I’ve chosen? Alex Collins. That’s right, Amelia Campbell Gibson’s pen name is one I’m stealing for myself. I’ve wanted to use her name for a while now.
The problem with publishing under the Alex Collins name was always that the Shadows Collection existed. The idea of splitting the two main series T. L. Haddix has written is something that never occurred to me, even though I thought it would make more sense to have the Shadows Collection under Amelia’s name than my own. Then I read this relaunch book, and the lightbulb went off.
So what am I doing? A few things. First, while the bones of the Shadows Collection are good, a handful of the books need some remodeling. The first book in the series, Secrets in the Shadows, needs a complete rewrite. A couple other titles need some fairly heavy-handed nipping and tucking, and all the books need a fresh slap to tighten them up. To my everlasting surprise, I’m actually enjoying this process, writing in the Leroy universe again. This isn’t drudgery like I’d thought it might be–I’m really excited to be writing about these characters again. WOW!
I know some of you are going to be appalled when you read this. I’m sorry. I’m going to ask that you trust me here. I know not everyone will like the remodel of book one or the entire series, even, but I’m a much stronger writer now than I was when I first conceived the series. I’m not changing the heart of the books. I’m not changing the characters. I’m giving them the chance they should have had straight out of the gate.
The entire Shadows Collection will be pulled from the market soon, probably in mid-August if not sooner. Honestly, I don’t see any point to leaving it up past a week or so after this post, so that anyone who would prefer to get the originals still can. So let’s say by August 1st, the books will not be available for purchase. Is that fair enough?
The first three books will relaunch sometime in September under the name Alex Collins, with new covers and new titles. The five subsequent books will be released on a regular schedule after that, probably one a month until they’re all out there. It’s a lot of work and a bit of a gamble, but I’m hopeful it pays off in the long run. I think the series is solid, and it deserves a chance to be the best it can be.
I’m not sure exactly how I’ll handle that relaunch in the terms of people who read the series originally but want to re-read it after the facelift. The first book will probably be free, at least for a little while, and I can go on a case-by-case basis if people contact me after that. The last thing I want is for you all to feel like I’m trying to make you pay for the same books twice. I’m open to suggestions on how to handle that, so feel free to message me or e-mail me if you have ideas.
Alex Collins will be getting her own website and Facebook presence, as well as a split mailing list so that Firefly Hollow fans don’t get inundated with Shadows updates and vice versa. I’ll probably still mention the Shadows series on my T L Facebook page and website when there’s news, but eventually, the two identities will be split. Again, I know that’s something that some of you might not be happy about, but in the long run, I think it’s what the two series need.
What does this mean for Firefly Hollow? Nothing, really. That series is going to continue, at least for several more installments so we can cover all the grandkids’ stories. When I run out of Campbell offspring, there are other people I can pull in. I’m not ready to stop sharing Owen and Sarah’s lives with you all, so please don’t worry that’s the case.
Are there going to be new books in the Shadows Collection? I don’t know. I’m going to give you a strong “maybe.” At the very least, the new series that’s more mystery-based will tie in. We’ll definitely see more of the gang from Leroy. I’m just not sure what delivery method we’ll have for that. I’m going to guess that the new series that ties in will probably start publishing sometime in early 2018.
This is a bold undertaking for sure, and not one that everyone will approve of. The existing books will go out of print. That’s a very sad thing to me. The new titles will clearly be marked for what they are, so people hopefully won’t buy the books not knowing they’re re-releases. Anyone who has downloaded the old books will still have access to them – they’re kept forever on the servers even if they’re not in print. All the reviews that accompanied them will be shelved, as the new books will truly be new books and the reviews won’t transfer (as they shouldn’t). It’s a big piece of my writing life and even my personal life that’s going to be radically changed. That was not an easy decision to make.
I’m not sure what else to say other than thank you – for reading, for reaching out to me, for following me on Facebook and supporting me with your kind words and funny stories – it’s been a rough couple of years personally, and your feedback and kindness has meant the world to me. I’m excited to see what you think about this new direction, and I hope we can have some fun with it. Signing off for now… Happy Reading!