Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Cedar Fort had realized that sales were pretty good DESPITE covers that didn't really shout to kids and parents that, Hey! This here book is a little sumthin-sumthin for people who like that fantasy sorta stuff! Imagine, they told me, if the books actually had cool covers! (I just used three exclamation points in one paragraph. Please never do that, or I vill be forced to cut off zah fing-ah.)
Cedar Fort wanted to revamp and redo the whole series. The plan was to release the fourth and final book in the series with a whole new look, then announce that the first three books would be re-released with new covers and artwork in the coming months. Looking back, I think we would all agree that it was a mistake to do it this way. They should have re-released the first three books first, then have the last book come out. But I guess there are worst things than a publisher wanting to hurry and get your book on the shelves.
The search for an artist began, and luckily they asked me to help. I recommended one guy that I really liked, but that didn't work out so well. He pulled out around crunch time because he had too many bigger projects from his agent. This was a bad thing because Cedar Fort had been counting on him, and there wasn't much time left. They called me one day, a little desperate, asking if I knew anyone else. They'd been looking, but couldn't find someone they felt good about.
Well, call what happened next whatever you want. But to call it a coincidence would be pushing it.
I had just been transferred to a different location at work. The week I started was the LAST week of a certain guy leaving for a new job. Talk about a small window of opportunity. When I told some new coworkers about my book stuff, and the dilemma of trying to find the right artist, they nonchalantly told me about a dude who worked the vending machines in the building. Apparently, this guy was really awesome with a little thing called art. You better hurry, they said, this is his last week.
I won't bore you with any more of the details. This guy's name was Michael Phipps, and he and I are now good friends. Oh, and he also painted awesome covers for all 4 of my books and did inside illustrations as well (see examples above). I absolutely love what he did, and I think I still owe him one of my children for doing so. You have to check out Michael's website---he's now a full time artist and well on his way to fame and stardom. (By the way, the cover for Book 2, A GIFT OF ICE, won some kind of fancy-schmancy artist award.)
His website: http://www.michaelphipps.net/
You can also see all 4 of the new covers at my website: http://www.jamesdashner.com/
And so it was that the fourth and final book, WAR OF THE BLACK CURTAIN, came out in August of 2005, sans any photograph of the poor little stranger kid who was supposed to be Jimmy Fincher. The new and improved version of A DOOR IN THE WOODS came out later that fall, then the other two came out in the spring of 2006. Now, this created a really awkward time when some of the books had the old covers and some of them had the new covers; but in the end, it was all hunky dory and glorious.
Sales took off. Again, relatively speaking, here. We're not talking Harry Potter numbers here. We're not even talking Lemony Snicket numbers. Or Eragon. Or Artemis Fowl. Or . . . okay, you get the point. No need to sit here and make me feel bad. I was with a very small publisher with no real good way to get the word out. But for them, my sales were wonderful, and the books are still selling to this day, growing inch by inch across the country. (They may be in Costco stores soon!)
Then I remembered that I had a disease. You know, the Imneversatisfiedandwanttobemoresuccessful Disease. I was very, very happy with Jimmy Fincher and its success, but it only got me more excited to seek bigger and better things. I had a million ideas for new books. In fact, as much as I love Mr. Fincher, I was sick to death of writing about him. I wanted to move on. I wanted to write new stories, new books. And I did.
But none of that writing business had anything to do with the next steps in my career. I mean, I'm only an author for crying out loud. No, my career took its next few turns because of three people, two of whom I met in person, the other via a letter and a phone call.
Their names were Jenny Rappaport, Lisa Mangum and Chris Schoebinger. (Actually, those are still their names, but the word "were" seemed appropriate there, so leave me alone.)
(to be continued)
Posted by James Dashner at 8:20 AM