Ligeia Lives—special guest author John Everson + Giveaway

This month, my dangerous but seductive Siren is in bookstores… again.

The story remains the same, but this time around, you can read about Ligeia in trade paperback format. It’s been a long strange road for my beautiful, melodious sea creature. She has a habit of making her voice heard… She also has a strange habit of killing people… and publishers.  

From an idea to the page

Back at the start of 2009, I was tossing ideas around for what my next (4th) novel would be with my editor, Don D’Auria, and in all honesty, I was thinking that we’d probably go with a concept that I’d just hatched about a strange occult series of murders called The Pumpkin Man. But instead, after some back and forth on the plots, we ultimately agreed that Siren, a novel about a man who falls in love/lust with a mysterious nude woman near the ocean would be best as my next project. (The Pumpkin Man, by the way, did get written, and will be out this fall. Ligeia just shoved him out of the way for a bit.)

I began writing the story of Evan, an aquaphobe who has lost his son to the ocean, in February 2009. I was only a few chapters into the novel when Ligeia first showed her stormy side. See, she’d been envisioned as a mysterious “cypher” of a character in my original outline for the book… but suddenly it seemed she wanted her own, more focused space. Without warning, a whole parallel plotline took over the novel, which is set a century before Evan’s experience with the siren… and tells Ligeia’s side of the story. Turns out, she has pretty deadly means of getting her way.

Unfortunately, her habit of dispatching those who get close to her extended beyond the plotting of the book. Siren was scheduled for release in mass market paperback from Dorchester’s Leisure Books imprint in July of 2010. I’ve had a long history in working with small independent presses, and so, as with my other novels, there was also a limited hardcover “collector’s edition” of Siren scheduled for release in the spring of 2010 through Necro Publications, the small press publisher who also issued the hardcover edition of my previous novel The 13th and my short fiction collection Needles & Sins.

The Siren‘s Curse

But in early 2010, just as production began on the collector hardcover edition of Siren, the publisher called me one night to announce that due to personal and business issues, he was being forced to put his press on hold—after more than 15 years in business. 

Ligeia’s curse had struck. There would be no hardcover edition of Siren from Necro. Luckily, another long-time small press, Bad Moon Books, picked up the hardcover project, and a collector’s edition did end up appearing in the fall of 2010—after, instead of preceding, the Leisure mass market version. But here’s the more critical kicker:

A couple of weeks after the mass market edition appeared on shelves in stores around the U.S. and Canada in July 2010, Leisure Books announced that after more than 30 years in the business, their mass market model was no longer sustainable. Rapidly declining paperback sales due to shrinking chain store orders and, not coincidentally, the rise of e-books (and perhaps a bit of Ligeia’s terminal touch) killed the paperback line that Siren was written for.

Siren holds a dubious place in publishing history as the last release of Leisure’s mass market horror line. 

That was two publishers in a row. (And lest you think Bad Moon escaped her venom, in addition to the collector’s hardcover edition, a super limited “Lettered Edition” was originally planned as well, which would have included extra material… that edition was ultimately scuttled. So call it three in a row!)

Very few copies of the small initial pressing of the Leisure paperback version of Siren reached bookstores, and within a couple of months, the only way most people could find a copy of Siren  was as an e-book (or the few remaining copies of the fairly pricey hardcover edition). 

The next few months following the shutdown of Leisure’s mass market line were filled with uncertainty for Dorchester/Leisure authors and readers. Would/could the publisher survive? What would happen to the books that had planned to be released (not to mention those that had just gotten on the shelf like Siren, before the mass market line was cancelled?) It was certainly the worst period in my professional writing life. I had spent years trying to “crack” the Leisure line. Leisure was the most prolific publishing house of horror novels, and many of my favorite writers had books on the imprint. It was a dream come true for me to see Covenant, Sacrifice and The 13th released under the Leisure logo.

And then within days of Siren‘s release and my turning in the manuscript for my fifth novel, The Pumpkin Man…the entire Leisure empire seemed to implode. Many of the people I’d worked with at the house, including my editor, were laid off. The mass market line was gone. Even my books were gone—for months even the authors could not get any copies of their books while the company struggled to reorganize. For several weeks, I didn’t write a word (aside from emails to fellow Leisure authors, commiserating and sharing our personal stories).

But time heals (or buries) all, and by the end of the year, I came out of my writing shellshock and began working on new projects, as Leisure also began to re-emerge, solidifying its release schedule for 2011. While their new focus followed the reading demand of the public (e-books), they also launched a trade paperback line to replace the mass markets, and unveiled a more ambitious entry into the audiobook arena, thanks to a licensing arrangement.

As Leisure struggled to reinvent itself to suit the times, many authors chose to seek their fortunes elsewhere and took their book rights to other smaller publishers for guaranteed, if less widespread release, but Ligeia had other plans.Dorchester’s reorganization plan for the Leisure imprint promised a new chance for my sexy siren. Both an audiobook and a trade paperback edition were scheduled for the “new” Dorchester/Leisure line this summer, and Ligeia opted to stick it out with the publisher she’d already killed once. It was a gamble, but who was I to argue with my headstrong siren?

Things have been slowly turning around for Dorchester/Leisure, as they’ve struggled to adapt to a new publishing world that is changing on all sides. While a lot of slag has been sent their way in the intervening months, they are not alone in their tribulations. Dorchesterstumbled as it tried to keep up with a changing reader model. As a former music critic for 20 years, I instantly saw many parallels with what happened to the music industry in the 1990s and 2000s. While I didn’t like what was happening, it was a very familiar process to me. Deja vu all over again, to quote John Fogerty!

And as Leisure stumbled in its race to adapt, so did the delivery vehicles for its books (gee… does anyone see a parallel here in the story of Tower Records? Sam Goody? Peaches, Virgin?).

The bookstore chains that we’ve all grown up browsing in are contracting and burning. At the same time as chain stores are falling apart, some smaller presses are cashing it in while other small presses are diving into the business of e-book creation, promising authors easy access to the burgeoning e-book reader market (what those presses fail to understand is that producing an e-book is only the first step in actually producing a successful e-book that actually manages to stand out from the ocean of e-books and attracts sales… but that’s a subject for another blog entirely). 

Ligeia Lives

So that’s a long way to say it’s been an industry-shaking, stormy year since the first edition of Siren made its way, albeit shortly, to bookstore shelves.  But there’s light at the end of the hurricane.

This month, Ligeia will have her say in bookstores again, and I hope she’ll provide beach reading for a lot more readers than she had the chance to entertain last year. Ironically, I know a lot of those beach readers will be looking at her story on phones and iPads and Kindles and Nooks… but to me, the best way to read about a siren at the beach or pool is still via the printed page. Real books are far more tolerant of saltwater, salt sweat, suntan lotion and burning sunlight than e-readers. 

I’ve suggested to Ligeia that this time, she might want to let the publisher and the industry as a whole survive the process of printing her story.  

At least for the coming beach season.

 —John Everson

Giveaway: If you were to be lured to the waters by a siren, what song would get you there? Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Siren in either trade paperback or e-book!

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23 Responses to Ligeia Lives—special guest author John Everson + Giveaway

  1. Lynn Demsky says:

    Wow! Sounds wonderful! Thanks for opportunity to win a copy of Siren!

  2. Christy H. says:

    If I were lured to the waters by a siren, I think it would be by Lady Gaga’s, Born This Way

  3. Craig Clarke says:

    My siren song would have to be the opening strains of Sibelius’s violin concerto.

    Here’s hoping the next year holds more luck for Mr. Everson than the last one has.

  4. Lois Thurman says:

    Sounds enticing, dark and mysterious. Can;t wait to read about siren.

    Lois Thurman

  5. I think Somebody by Depeche Mode would lure me in.

  6. Amy says:

    Possession by Sarah McLachlan would lure me in =)

  7. Gail S says:

    If someone wanted to lure me, it would have to be Led Zeppelin 😉

    I do love printed books, but I have to say that the powers that be have closed all but one bookstore in my area; everytime I go for a new release (mass market or trade) they never have it. So I’ve taken to ordering online and buying more books for my Kindle. I know that the internet is causing book stores to redirect their attention from actual stores to their viritual stores, but I think they need to find a balance:-)

    Thanks for a chance to win 🙂

    • Allison Carroll, Editorial and Web Coordinator says:

      Congratulations Gail S—you’ve been randomly selected to receive a free copy of Siren by John Everson!
      Gail, you have a choice between a trade paperback or an e-book copy of the book. Please e-mail contests@dorchesterpub.com and specify which format you want. Please include your shipping address.

      Thanks to everyone for jumping in on the discussion. I hope you enjoyed John’s behind-the-scenes look at his latest.

      Cheers,
      Allison Carroll
      Editorial and Web Coordinator

  8. Ligea sounds like a couple of my ex girlfriends. I’d love to win a copy of this one.

  9. Katrina Edwards says:

    Sounds Great! Hope to Win!

  10. Stacia Russell says:

    As I am not only a classic horror book fan, I am a classic music fan, so what would lure me in would be:
    Tchaikovsky – Sleeping Beauty – Waltz. Oh, how I love that waltz. And how I love John Everson’s books. I can’t wait to read Siren as it has been on my to read list for quite sometime now. Thank you for the chance! 🙂

  11. PS Gifford says:

    Breathing- Kate Bush

  12. Patty says:

    I dont hsve an actual song in mind, but, it would more than likely be some sad, sorrowful violin solo.

  13. catslady says:

    Oh, I think some celtic songs would lure me. Your book sounds wonderful!

    catslady5(at)aol.com

  14. John Everson says:

    I don’t think I am allowed to win this contest 😉 But I’ve loved seeing some of the song choices today! I had to chime in with my vote tonight, because this was one of the songs I listened to while writing the novel:

    The song that would lure me to the water? This Mortal Coil’s version of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren,” sung by Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. One of the most beautiful, haunting pieces of music ever recorded. Close your eyes and listen to it turned up loud via YouTube if you’re unfamiliar. I guarantee you’ll be moved:

  15. Becca says:

    Well,since Sirens’ singing is persuasive and seductive,I would most definitely have to say “Slave to Love” by Bryan Ferry.OR,on a warped humor vibe,”Going Under” By Evanescence.because that’s what you’d be doing if you were lured by a Siren! LOL!

  16. Loretta says:

    I would have to agree with catslady, it would have to be more of a Celtic tune as that’s where the Sirens were first thought to belong. I’d love a chance to read her story.

  17. Yvonne B. says:

    Decisions, decisions 🙂

    I think my ‘siren’s song’ would be one of three. Either Ravel’s “Bolero” or, if it needs lyrics, then either Loreena McKennitt’s Caravanserai or the Andrea Bocelli/Dulce Pontes duet “O Mare ‘E Tu”

  18. Lad Castle says:

    The girl in the wood: by Frankie Laine

  19. Allison Carroll, Editorial and Web Coordinator says:

    Thanks to everyone for jumping in on the discussion! I hope you enjoyed John’s behind-the-scenes look at his latest.

    I’m here to announce the winner of the giveaway. Congratulations Gail S—you’ve been randomly selected to receive a free copy of Siren by John Everson!

    Gail, you have a choice between a trade paperback or an e-book copy of the book. Please e-mail contests@dorchesterpub.com and specify which format you want. Please include your shipping address.

    Cheers,
    Allison Carroll
    Editorial and Web Coordinator

  20. Why, “The Ocean” by Led Zep, of course… I’m very lucky to have a copy of the mass market of this book, as I buy all of John’s books as they hit the market… he’s one of my favorite writers and I’m so glad to see that he’s still out there doing his thing and doing it well… Would love to keep my collection complete with a trade paperback of this one!

    Armand Rosamilia

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