Edith Layton: Challenges & Triumphs of Publishing From the Beyond

Hello Wench readers! Edith Layton was an original founding Wench, and I'm Edith Layton's daughter. I've been a reader and fan here since the blog spawned, and also an extremely occasional guest blogger since forever thanks to the kindness of the Wenches to allow me to update you on all the goings on at Layton HQ. Now I'll stop writing in italics and just get on with it…


281027My mother died 10 years ago. I can't believe it myself. 10 years is a hard anniversary. Even more so because she left when I was pregnant with my second kid, and she's missing out on the show. She did know my son, and even though he didn't talk at the time, she was convinced he was a genius.

Funny enough, she was right.

But seriously folks.

I miss her so much. She was a great cheerleader, and she was so dang fun, and gee, she would've gone on to write a lot more than the paltry 30+ novels she put out…

But the funny thing is that she IS publishing from the beyond. And this comes with great joy, a lot of work, and even a tiny bit of frustration which I'll vent about at the end.

I've detailed the how and the why before in detail, but the short of it is that it took me 5 years to start putting her out-of-print backlist into the world again, publishing them as ebooks for the very first time. And for the past five years, the backlist (that I have the rights to) has been rolling out thanks to Untreed Reads, as well as some never-before published works like Frost Fair, a regency mystery with 5-star reviews, and a Victorian Christmas novella (which is only 99 cents and it's cat-based, and you will not regret it). There will be more new Layton titles to come, and the entire Edith Layton catalog (that is back so far) is here on Amazon. Edith Layton is also on Barnes & Noble — and many other retailers. But first, here's what's really new news.

In the past three months, her "Super Regency" trilogy came back from the dead, as ebooks, for the first time. The Love series, as it is known, is available on Amazon, Apple Books and like everywhere books are sold. The first book, Love In Disguise, is shown up top. They are $4.99 each, but wow—I just learned Drive Thru Fiction is offering a bundle of all 3 books for just $9.99, and you can choose from EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats. Here’s the bundle link: bit.ly/TheLoveTrilogy

SurrendertolovePersonally, I like the new covers by Untreed Reads waaaaaay better than the originals. I do truly love romance covers that are real paintings (and even paid to have the rights to one of them on an Untreed release) but the originals on this series were done by Pino, and IMHO, a bit over-the-top for a Regency. In fact, Smart Bitches included one of the originals in a roundup they called Covers That Should Be Wallpaper, and I totally agree.

But hey, don't judge a book by it's cover!

Here's a review of Surrender to Love, the book shown at right:

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Edith Layton: The Fire Flower Blooms Again As An Ebook

TFF_Med_Lighter (1)The Fire Flower by Edith Layton, originally published in 1989, was recently re-released as an ebook for the first time. This is the story of bringing it back to life—the research for the Restoration setting, the efforts to retain the original painting for the ebook, and much more, told by Layton's daughter, a very occasional Wench guest.


First, many thanks again to the Wenches for having me back as a guest poster. By way of introduction, I'm Susie Felber, the daughter of Edith Layton, who wrote and published over 30 historical novels and many more short stories. Her start was the Regency, but later she branched out into new time periods and locations. Since her death in 2009, I've been working to bring her much-loved books back into the world in ebook format. The first one came back in 2014, and I wrote about the big Edith Layton book party I threw for it, and that link explains why it took me nearly 5 years to do it. There's another Wenches post I wrote which tells you more about my mom, and there's two that tell what it was like growing up as a romance author's daughter: Daughter of Romance Part 1, and Part II.

Let's talk turning out-of-print books into ebooks

Thing is, some of my mother's books were already ebooks. All her later novels with Avon, and the earlier "C series", for example: The Cad, The Choice, The ChanceThe Challenge and The Conquest — those titles all live with Harper Collins and had no need for resurrection. 

But the majority of my mom's catalog is with publishers who never went to ebooks, at least not with the backlist. And of those books, many have stellar reviews, and many people have happy memories of them. But finding the paperback is really hard. For example, a beautiful "like new" copy of THE FIRE FLOWER goes for $267-$400. Not sure why the price bounces so much, but the point is, this is not the way to find new readers. Also, many long-time fans have the book on their keeper shelves, but the print is small and they crave the ability to read them again on their typeface-size flexible Kindles and e-readers. 

As I've rolled out re-releases with the help of the good people at Untreed Reads, mom's fans ask me all the time when certain favorite Layton titles are returning. They are often impatient for their faves. I really appreciate that. It means they care. It means they are readers… and without readers? Well, without readers, writers are kinda up the creek, no?

But bringing books back is hard. From contracts to scanning to proofreading to cover and beyond… it's way hard.

For example, three awesome books we recently brought back that included Bound By Love, were published by Pocket. Originally published in the late 90's, they were out of print, but I had no idea of the rights. My mother wasn't super organized. She had a filing system, but she'd file dried flowers and amusing cartoons as soon as she'd file contracts. I say she liked to create more than curate, and I loved her for that. Sure, her leaving a clearer trail would've been nice, but I'd rather have a fun mom than an organized one. And she was fun.

Anyway, for these three books, I worked a connection via a celebrity from my Nokia health day job. This celeb (OK it's Penn Jillette, why be coy?) had a new sure-to-be best-selling book at Simon & Schuster. Working with them to promo his excellent book (<–and you should read it, it's so fun) got me far enough into S&S to get a kind person who'd dive in and give me the docs that showed the rights had indeed reverted to the estate. Now if you've ever tried to just cold call a publishing company and find out about rights—well good luck. It's crazy hard. In fact, most agents/publishers told me that was why I should sign with them and why they deserved 10-15% of the re-release sales for eternity… because only they had the pull to dig to get the rights. 

The unique story of the cover art

I could go on about the book. But all you need to know is it's a restoration romance. It takes place in 1666, and yes, the Great Fire of London is a big part of the setting. It is the favorite of my brother Adam, who is a novelist and TV writer—and he's even a celeb if you're an NPR fan (I am). 

I was a teen when dragged to research this book, and I remember visiting the fire monument in London, which is very cool, but also situated in a very boring bit of the financial district. Yeah, research trips were fun, and I was lucky to go, but this was before the internet, so even if mom had every book ever (she did) there was so much she needed to see and experience. She saw her Fire Flower hero and heroine on that trip—together. Mom often picked pop stars for heroes, and pretty waitresses she met to base the heroines on. This was the only time, with us waiting for a ferry, she saw a dude on a motorcycle lean over and kiss the girl on the back of the motorcycle and BLAM! She told us, "LOOK! LOOK! THEY ARE MY NEW BOOK!" So if in the late 80's, you looked like the people on the cover you see above, were snogging, and rode a motorbike onto a ferry in England… yeah, that might be you.

After this book came out, the artist, Robert Maguire, sent mom the painting. Also known as R.A. Maguire, he's a BFD. He's amazing, the coolest of the cool. And in this painting, you see Fabio as a redhead. Say what you want about Fabio, he's an icon… and this might be the only red-headed Fabio cover ever. Editors don't like redheaded heroes, so mom getting that pass (and they fought her) was also a BFD. I love this painting. It hangs in my house now, and it will hang in Adam's house if he ever takes it back with him to Los Angeles. 

Even though I have the physical painting, that doesn't mean it is mine to use as a book cover. I contacted Maguire's site… and his daughter answered. She is like me—trying to preserve her father's legacy. It's a lot of work and not a lot of money. I asked for and paid for the rights to use it, because though we could use a stock romance photo, this seemed important. I also photographed it so you actually see the paint. I love seeing the brushstrokes. I also like how the whole of the scene is seen on the ebook, where on the original paperback it focused only on the people and left the lovely flowers and burning bits of London on the spine and on back of the book. I have a close friend who is an illustrator and still does painted covers, mostly for Kensington. Stephen Gardner is his name, and you should check that link—it's his Instagram and it's amazing because he shares sketches and covers in progress. 

I hope I've persuaded you to pick up The Fire Flower as an ebook… or get two, one for each eye, as my mom would say. That link goes to Amazon, but it truly is available in all formats, wherever ebooks are sold, which is something I appreciate about Untreed Reads.

I'll leave you with a pic of the original painting for the book, which is hanging proudly above (but safely far away from) my wood burning stove. It's far prettier in person, so please come by sometime for tea to admire it.

Supporting illustrators is as important as supporting writers… because they also create, and I'm so proud to be able to help curate. More books are on the way, including new titles, and I'll just be here at Edith Layton HQ trying to keep the home fires burning.



Edith Layton: Word Wench, Mom & A True Lady


Update 6/26: A TRUE LADY is now available as an ebook


First, I'd like to thank the Wenches for inviting me to post during their anniversary celebration. I am continually impressed by how the Wenches not only endure, but continue to innovate, entertain, and open the circle to new authors and guests. 

Secondly, yes, that's a cover reveal just to the left of this copy, and no I didn't write it, but more on that in a moment… 

Third, well, I probably should introduce myself first, right? OK, here goes…

Dear Readers,

I'm Susie Felber. No, that is not a very romantic name, and that's exactly why my mother, Edith Felber, was persuaded by her publisher to take a pen name in 1983 for the publication of her first regency romance: The Duke's Wager.

Edith Layton a/k/a mom, went on to publish over 30 novels and many more short stories. She blogged with the Word Wenches for many years, and only stopped because… well, because she died.

I lurk and read the Wenches often, and admit I go back and read the beautiful post and comments Layton readers left here.

Of course I miss her. Mom was funny, smart, and would've bragged about me even if I was in prison. e.g. "The warden says Susie's license plates have a certain Je ne sais quoi."

But not only does her memory live on (think of her daily), but of course I have her books to enjoy (reading her books is like having her in the room with me), and Layton HQ is still going strong. Here's some news and updates:

529090211_8d24ac9ed9_bOn Mother's Day this year, my brother Adam (the famous NPR / Hollywood guy) and I appeared on Faith Salie's Audible podcast on an episode called When Mom Writes Romance. <– that's a link there, and it's fun. You can hear about how my father sent out her manuscripts under our German Shepherd's name when she got discouraged by rejections, and much more.

Backing up, two and a half years ago, I finally got it together to bring the Layton books that were out of print but in demand, back into the world as ebooks. As you can imagine, or know too well, this is hard work.

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Mayday Mayday! Edith Can’t Work in May!

LaytondaisyIt’s May.  Time when a young …young-ish…young in spirits writer’s mind turns to …jelly. Who can think with apple and cherry and peach blossoms, and tulips and bluebells and bright sunny dandelions rioting outside her window?  And mocking birds making the backyard ring with dozens of gracious melodies?  And soft warm breezes wafting through the lilacs, stirring the air the after weeks of cold and wet and dank…Lilac9

You get it.  And I got it.  Spring fever. It stays lighter every evening, and we enjoy lighter clothes, lighter foods, lighter wines, and yes, lighter books. Not the best time to read Tolstoy.  And though I love old Fyodor, let’s put Dostoyevsky down until autumn leaves start to fall. Summer’s the time for big colorful epics, sequels, beach books, and blockbusters in movies and in print.

But spring? Ah spring.  That’s my time for re-reads, and sentimental reads, humorous reads, and oh so very romantic books to dream upon. Whatever the season, I love to read.  And I know you do too. So I ask you gentle readers: what would you recommend an old softie like me read during this merry magical month of May?

Also, I recently did a series of video interviews with romancenovel.tv .  I’m a bit shy about posting them (my daughter, who has been posting them with silly commentary is not), but if like me you want a break from working, but feel too guilty to go outside, check them out, do!

ElaytonintTo view the latest interview, simply click here.

Total Litiots

Mom_thumbnailI know people, and I even like some of them, who don’t read books.

Yes. True. They just don’t read books. Now, these folks are literate. They read newspapers and advertisements, and the occasional magazine. But they don’t read books, fiction or non-fiction.

I can’t understand it. But so it is.

Booksnob_2What’s worse though, in my opinion, are those who do read books – but only those they see in reviews in the NEW YORK TIMES, THE NEW YORKER and other influential magazines, or those books being touted on TV. These readers are in the same class as people who belong to book clubs and only read what’s assigned to them. Goes without saying that these misguided folk don’t read any genre fiction unless it’s being touted by their Literary Authorities – they are only reading so that they can talk about what they read and be considered intelligent.

For all they read, I don’t think any of these people are literate in the truest sense of the word. They’d never walk into a bookstore and just look around, browsing through all the aisles, glancing at covers, reading blurbs and bits, seeing what might interest them. That idea would just be alien to them. Read something they haven’t heard about? A book their friends, or the people they look to as notable, aren’t reading? Be seen with a book no one that they know reviewed? Or buy a paperback, especially an unknown one with a sexy or lurid cover? These readers will never do that. They sneer at such books.

I have to giggle when I see such former paperback romances reissued in hardcover when the author gets famous and on the bestseller list, and these same people reading books they wouldn’t have touched in the original. (As to that – while they say hot covers make it easier for romance readers to identify their faves that way, its still arguable whether or not those covers, while holding on to their fan base, ever bring in new readers, and will ever let romance readers and writers be taken seriously. Discuss among yourselves.)

Still, to only read the already read and approved? Bah, fah, and humbug. To me, the thrill of discovery is part of the literate experience. Finding an unknown author in any genre and then falling in love with the style and enjoyment of the writing is a delicious experience. Those folks will never know that thrill of discovery.

Of course I read romances and historical novels; I adore them. But I read everything that looks interesting, no matter the genre. I love fantasy, and mysteries: police and P.I., historical and modern, serious and funny ones. Science fiction, I teethed on those and love the good ones even now. I’ve even tried erotic, exotic, experimental and mainstream fiction too. (Although not horror. I’m too impressionable and always hear things that go bump in the night anyway.)

For example, I discovered Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld novel in paperback, and it in paperback – with a silly cover as well. But it intrigued me and I bought it, and was utterly enthralled, and became hooked on his books. A CIVIL CONTRACT got me fascinated with Miles Vorkosigan, and started my reading Louise McMasters Boujold (albeit backward, from CC, the last book written, to the first in the series.) I’ve found many other authors by browsing: some who became famous, some who didn’t; some who never lived up to the promise although they published again.

I must admit I have tossed some of these randomly selected books before finishing them. But when I hit a winner, I so enjoy the adventure of finding it on my own that I don’t mind the occasional disappointment.

Book browsing and gambling on new authors or those new to you is fun. It’s a thing, I fear, that many people I know will never ever know, no matter how much they read. Have you ever picked up a book you didn’t intend to buy, never thought to buy, and been seduced by something – anything about it? And then found yourself with a new writer you adore? Only then, are you, in my estimation, truly literate. Congratulations.