That didn’t happen to AM I BORING MY DOG, which went to press right on schedule less than two years ago. Maybe it sounds overly dramatic, but I nevertheless took the news — surprising, inadvertent — that my book is no longer in print as a kind of death.
I’ll explain what happened as I take you through the stages of grief that I’ve been experiencing — sometimes in rapid succession — since I learned about this occurrence last week. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who first identified the grief stages, named only five — and guilt is not among them.
I therefore adapted the concept to my needs.
Stage 1: Shock and Denial
It all started when I discovered a lovely blog called Doggerel: A Year of Learning About Dogs. The blogger, Abby, writes:
One year from now, once we move out of our apartment, I will finally be able to get a dog….During this year of waiting for a puppy to call my own, I will be a student of the canine world. I’m reading books and blogs about dogs.
I thought that, since AIBMD is all about getting a first dog, it would be a great fit for this project. I contacted Abby, asked her if she wanted a review copy and, getting an enthusiastic affirmative response, asked the publicist for Alpha/Penguin to send one along.
I got back a note: “Unfortunately the book is out of print and they don’t have any available.”
That’s the shock part.
The denial part is literal. A week before this event occurred, my pal Debbie Jacobs of FearfulDogs.com posted on Facebook: “Nice seeing your book featured in the Dogwise newsletter!” So I went over to Dogwise, and saw a listing that said:
Am I Boring My Dog…and 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew by Edie Jarolim. A mixture of useful and silly facts about dogs. Now out of print, limited to stock on hand.
I irately commented to Debbie that the listing was wrong on both counts. The book is not a mixture of useful and silly facts about dogs, I grumbled. And it’s not out of print.
Well, I got one out of two right.
Stage 2: Pain and Guilt
When I found out that my book was indeed out of print, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I cried.
I love that book. I say this in all modesty. Sometimes I read things that I wrote and cringe. Other times I am less critical, knowing I did the best I could within the limitations of an assignment. But this book was mine from conception to copy-edit. I sometimes leaf through it and think, “Who wrote that? It’s really good.” And I worry that I can never do as well again.
In some ways, this feels far worse than having my book stolen. At least someone felt it was worth ripping off. Ceasing publication, in contrast, just says, “Not worth the storage space.”
My guilt is two-fold, the first part more honorable — if no less irrational — than the second.
First there’s the part of me that feels I didn’t do enough for my book. If only I had been a better blogger, a better spokeswoman and marketer for it, my book might still be alive.
Then there’s the part that thinks I’ve been struck by instant karma. A day before I got the news about the book, I had a major bout of schadenfreude, reveling in the fact that a woman who had made my life a living hell when I worked at the local newspaper had been laid off. Mind you, she wasn’t just awful to me during my stint at the paper; she continuing to torment me afterward, even keeping my book from being reviewed in the newspaper (I know this because the reviewer sent me a message to that effect).
A lot of smarter, nicer people were laid off from the newspaper before my nemesis was. I’m not sorry her turn finally came. I’m just sorry my book had to suffer for it, cosmically speaking.
Stage 3. Anger
This is probably my default emotion at this point and, again, it’s multifaceted.
Anger over unfairness to my book
It’s not as though my book was misunderstood, as I feared it might be when I first sent it out into the world. The reviews were everything I could have hoped for. Why, then, was the poor thing cut off in its prime? Was it really taking up too much space in the warehouse?
Anger over unfairness to me
It’s bad enough that this happened. It’s worse that the publisher never told me. I mean, really, WTF?
I wrote a press release about my blog having been nominated for a Petties award — funny but informational book, funny but informational blog, great tie in — and sent it to the publicist to be distributed, which it was. Would I have spent my time and efforts on this had I known that my book was no longer in print? I feel like an idiot. And that makes me angry.
Stage 4. Bargaining
This doesn’t quite apply except in a literal sense: I am buying as many copies of the book as I can from Amazon at bargain prices: They cost as little as $1.08. But I am not trying to make any deals with the universe.
Stage 5. Depression
I’m prone to it anyway. Having a book killed is debilitating.
Stage 6. Acceptance
This is not an entirely accurate representation of what I’m experiencing when I’m not zigzagging through the other grief stages; it sounds way too passive. The fact is, I’ve gone beyond acceptance to embracing — nay, rejoicing in — the fact that I hope to get my copyright back and will therefore be able to publish the book myself. I will update it, incorporating all I learned during the time that I’ve been blogging. I will change the cover — guess whose picture will be on it? — and the name so that there will no longer be any confusion between the book and the blog.
I will know exactly how many copies I sell, and to whom. And I will reap the rewards of my labor, not some book killers.
Stage 7. Revenge
This is not one of the stages of grief according to Kubler-Ross — or anyone else. But there is a saying that the best revenge is living well. It’s usually applied to divorce, but why not extend it to loss in general?
And being screwed over by book publishers in particular.
Here’s my plan.
I put out a new version of my book by Christmas. It will not only have a new name and cover image, but it will sport a large badge saying “The Petties, Winner, Funniest Blog/Blogger 2011,” which will help it to become a best seller, making my former publisher very regretful.
Hey, I can dream.
I just had word from the publisher that the book is not dead but in a coma: It’s not out of print, as I had been told, but moved into the dread “print on demand” category, which is the worst of both worlds — difficult to get hold of but, because still alive, not available for copyright transfer.
Shoot me now (see Stage 5.)