Trying Something New
“Write something different.” That was the challenge a friend and fellow writer gave me a few years ago. I’d been telling her how I was between contracts at the time—I’d been doing a lot of tie-in books, and a lot of children’s books—and how I had the itch to start something new but didn’t know what. I had a whole file full of story ideas, but how to choose? “Go with something different, challenge yourself,” she suggested.
Which made me bypass all the fantasies and mysteries and dark fantasies and thrillers—the sort of thing I’d been writing—and pull out a one-liner about a wacky duck-headed man instead.
And so No Small Bills was born.
I had an absolute blast writing about the silly, crazy, off-the-wall adventures of DuckBob Spinowitz and his pals on
their out-of-control cosmic road trip to save the universe. This was a side of myself that had never emerged onto the page before, and letting it loose was incredibly freeing—and a whole lot of fun.
Everyone who read the drafts thought so, too. Including editors. There was just one problem:
“Comedy doesn’t sell,” I was told time and again. “We can’t buy it. It’s great, but we just can’t.”
No one was willing to take a chance on a science fiction comedy.
Well, that isn’t entirely fair. Crossroad Press, which had published my space opera The Birth of the Dread Remora and for whom I’d co-created the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series, probably would have. But Crossroad dealt in horror, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, thriller, some science fiction, even epic fantasy from time to time.
That was well outside their comfort zone, and while I appreciated their willingness to try it for me, I wasn’t sure that would be doing either of us any good.
Which left me with a really good book, one I was sure people would enjoy reading—and no one to publish it.
Until Mike started talking about “we can do this ourselves.” And Bob added, “yes, we can!” And Peter and Glenn said, “absolutely!”
Why not publish it myself? I had the know-how—years as a roleplaying publisher, time working with small presses, and years working for a big publishing house. Experience as an editor, a graphic designer, and a book production person. I didn’t know the epub field very well, but Glenn did and he offered to guide me through that part. And I had Bob and Mike and Peter to offer support and feedback and their voices when it came time to tell people the book was available.
No Small Bills was Crazy 8’s second release. In its first week on the NOOK it placed only two steps behind a slender little volume called A Dance with Dragons.
Seems comedy could sell, after all.
Now here we are, approaching Crazy 8’s second anniversary. And DuckBob is still going strong. After No Small Bills came Too Small for Tall, and later this year the crew will return for their third novel, Three Small Coinkydinks. I’m really happy with the way the first two DuckBob books turned out, and that’s largely because I’ve had total control of them every step of the way. Which is one of the great things about Crazy 8 Press. Since we aren’t a big publishing house, we don’t have layers between the author and his work any more than we do between the author and his readers. Each author has full authority over his own books, how they look, how they read, how they’re released. Our readers are getting the true, unadulterated experience. Our books, the way we intended them.
And that’s definitely something new—and something that apparently sells every bit as well as a silly SF comedy about a duckheaded man and his friends.