Candace Robb never thought she would see her Owen Archer series, featuring a 14th-century Welshman who’s handy with a bow, make its way to e-book format. The 10-title medieval mystery series began in 1993 with The Apothecary Rose (St. Martin’s Press) and ended in 2008, with two other publishers—Mysterious Press and Heinemann/Random House U.K—releasing some of the titles. Since no single publisher had the rights to all 10 books, no company made the effort to convert them into e-books. So Robb decided to step in herself.
The last two Owen Archer titles weren’t published in North America—until this year, when Seattle-based Robb regained the rights to the mostly out-of-print books. With the help of her agent, Jennifer Weltz of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Robb sold the rights to the Owen Archer series, plus her decade-old Margaret Kerr trilogy, to the indie publisher Diversion Books. The Archer books were republished simultaneously at the end of July, and the Kerr trilogy was rereleased a month later.
“Candace was constantly receiving messages and emails from her fans, frustrated because they weren’t able to get new copies of the books, certain numbers of the books, or e-books,” Weltz said. “So this was something Candace really wanted to do.”
Mary Cummings, v-p and editorial director at Diversion, said the decision to sign Robb was easy. “Candace has a great track record, an established platform, and she had a significant backlist available for reissue,” Cummings explained. “So she had all these things we could point to and say, ‘This is the kind of author we can really run with.’ ”
There was one problem along the way: the eighth book in the Archer series, The Cross-Legged Knight, is still in print with Mysterious Press, so Robb wasn’t able to regain the rights. “Fortunately, it’s not a book that is absolutely essential to the series,” Robb said, noting that since each book functions as a standalone story, missing that one edition won’t cause much of a problem for the series’s continuity. Diversion decided to go ahead and republish print versions of the remaining books, as well as releasing them, for the first time, as e-books.
As part of the republishing effort, Diversion updated Robb’s online presence—her social media, her personal website, her Goodreads profile, and her Amazon author page—while also improving the metadata to enhance discoverability. In addition, Diversion updated each book’s description and redesigned all of the book covers to give them a uniform look, with Robb’s name on each one in a large medieval script. The simplicity of the new covers is meant to emphasize Robb’s brand as an author and to increase the books’ visibility in thumbnail images for readers shopping online. Cummings didn’t provide specific sales numbers for the books, but she said she’s extremely happy with the first few months of sale.
To promote the books, Robb took part in a virtual tour throughout October, touching base with book bloggers, and she attended the mystery convention Bouchercon, where she cohosted a panel called “Preventing a Mystery Series from Jumping the Shark.” All of this newfound attention is particularly well timed because Weltz has sold Robb’s new historical mystery series, starring an axe-wielding heroine named Kate Clifford, to Pegasus Books. The first title, The Service of the Dead, is due out early next year.
“What is wonderful is we’re reintroducing Candace, obviously, to her fans, but she’s raising awareness for new fans as well, and that’s getting ready for next year, when her new series is going to come out,” Weltz said.