In a young adult book market crowded with the depressing and the dour, Tim Byrd’s Doc Wilde swings in on a jungle vine to raise the flag high for adventure. Infused with pace, fun, and all the two-fisted action a reader could ask for, Wilde lovingly riffs on situations straight out of the old pulps, even while making them fresh for a new generation.
— Zack Stentz, screenwriter, Thor, X-Men: First Class
In 2009, Penguin/Putnam released my book Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, an adventure novel for all ages, my homage to the great pulp adventure stories of the thirties and forties. I conceived it as the first of a series, but Putnam waited to see how it was received before committing to more books.
The reviews were great, and the sales very good. As a result, Putnam asked for two more books. But, as regular readers of this blog know, I went through some rough times that delayed completion of the second book, and in the time since Frogs was released there has been a great deal of change in publishing. Thanks to digital distribution, the rapid rise of ebooks, and print on demand, the options for authors are much better than they used to be.
So, today, I’m excited to announce that Doc Wilde is going indy.
Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures. A tale ‘terrifying and dark, of indescribable horrors and eldritch mysteries,’ this is sure to be Wilde-ly popular, and readers will anxiously await future installments.
Putnam treated me well enough, but I was largely underwhelmed with my experiences with them. The money was relatively lousy (and usually delivered months after it was contractually supposed to be), they did no promotion, and I thought they failed to take advantage of important opportunities. At no point did I get the idea that my input was valued, except insofar as delivering a printable text was concerned. And they allowed the hardback to sell through its print run and fall out of print before even scheduling a paperback printing, meaning the book’s effective shelf life and opportunity to find new readers was less than two years. In other words, I was treated like most authors are treated by the Big 6.
The thing is, I want to make a living at this, and unless the series really took wing, I was never going to do that under standard publishing terms. Everybody in publishing makes a good living, with benefits, except the folks who write the books. Going independent is a gamble, but honestly, if it doesn’t work, I’m not out much income, and if it does (and I expect it will) I’ll at least be able to keep the roof over my head.
So this is the year of Doc Wilde.
Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom is an adventure yarn in the old tradition. It gets that reading is an intellectual activity, and that an adventure, to be really good, has to engage the reader’s brain. I love a smart book!
—Daniel Pinkwater, author of The Neddiad and The Yggyssey
The fact that Putnam allowed Frogs to fall out of print turned out to be a great thing, because it allowed me to retrieve the rights and I can start the series anew, the way I want to. There were things I wanted to do with the books that I wasn’t getting to do with Putnam, and now I can.
One of those things is working with Gary Chaloner. As I’ve written before, well before I finished writing Frogs, I tried to find the perfect artist to depict the Wildes, and Gary was my choice. Not only was he a gifted graphic storyteller with a distinctive style, he was also a huge fan of pulp adventure and had an instinctive understanding (and love) of the material. Together we decided to produce lavishly illustrated books, and he put a lot of time into honing his designs to match my vision of the characters. (To see some of his early designs, go here.)
When I signed with Putnam, they completely disregarded my wishes. The resulting book had a really nice cover, but I never got so much as an email consultation from the artist and I have a few minor issues with some of its details. There were no lovely illustrations inside. Instead, there were some goofy typographical effects that (I felt) distracted the reader and made the book look like it was meant solely for very young readers, rather than for young and old as I intended.
Well, Gary’s back on board, and we’re doing the books the way we originally envisioned.
Here’s the plan:
Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom will be released in its new edition in June, in both ebook and paper. It will offer my preferred edit of the novel, along with a new short Doc Wilde adventure, and (like future books) will have a new cover and be fully illustrated by maestro Gary Chaloner.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be putting together a Kickstarter project so folks can help us with the relaunch and get assorted boons ranging from being named in the acknowledgments to autographed limited editions and other exclusives.
Then, in August or September, the long-awaited second adventure will finally appear, Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, in which the Wildes face a mind-blowing mystery and a truly bizarre villain. Doc Wilde and The Dance of the Werewolf, a dark tale featuring lycanthropes and witchcraft, will follow in November.
Had I remained with Putnam, by year’s end there would have possibly been a paperback of Frogs of Doom, and The Mad Skull might have seen print some time next year, though more likely it would have been in 2014. Doing things this way, you get the first three books by Christmas, with more to follow next year.
This is all very exciting for me. Going indy will allow me not only to produce nicer books, not only to make more money (at less cost to readers), but to have a more organic and personal relationship with fans. It’s a great time to be a writer.
Stay tuned for more news, including the details of the Kickstarter project…
A true delight…Tim Byrd has taken Doc Savage, added in a pinch of Robert E. Howard, a liberal dose of H.P. Lovecraft, and mixed it all together in a well done, enchanting pastiche of the pulps that will appeal to the adult audience as well as the young adult readers. It is an over the top at times, rip roaring adventure that returns us to the days of yesteryear and leaves us wanting more.
—Barry Hunter, The Baryon Review
(Note: At the time I post this, Putnam’s ebook version of Frogs of Doom is still available online. The wheels of publishing grind slowly, and they haven’t yet gotten around to removing it as they’re supposed to. If you’re interested in the book, I encourage you to wait for the new version later this year. It will be a much better edition, will cost you less, and I’ll benefit a lot more from the sale.)