Book 5, currently titled "The Knights of Derbyshire," is slated for publication in Spring 2012. I say "slated" because that's about when I can feasibly get it out in both paperback and eBook form as a self-published production, through my company (which actually does exist in NY state) Laughing Man Publications, which is a nice way of saying that CreateSpace will do it.
Ulysses Press contacted me before Rosh Hashanah (I always get big publishing news like a couple hours before a major Jewish holiday; it's sort of a thing) to say that all their Regency romance titles are declining in sales, probably because the market is glutted (that's my own assessment of the obvious) and they're not buying any more titles in that area. I have no reason to believe that this was not a totally honest reason why they didn't pick up book 5, which was sad news but not the end of the world. On the advice of my agent, of all people, (because agents only make money when books sell to real publishers) I'm heading into self-publication. I have some experience with it before with both Pemberley Shades and Other Tales, so the news is both good and bad for me.
The good: I will have total editorial control and price control. The paperback will be whatever price is reasonable because books do cost something to produce, probably in the $15-20 dollar range, hopefully on the low end of that. The eBook will be at least half of that, and I can post it lower and have sales. I also control the cover and publicity content, which has been one of the more frustrating ends of publishing for me. Also, I can get it out much faster than a publishing company.
The bad: I have to put money up to have things done that the publisher would do, like copyediting, layout, and cover design. I know enough about publishing with other books I've put together or things I've seen put together at work to know I'm not a graphic designer or copyeditor and I should pay professionals to do these things and not skimp on it. Also, complete editorial control means that I don't have a professional editor catching mistakes or giving me advice. I do have Brandy, who is practically a publishing professional at this point, but another layer of editorial is missing. And in the end I have no idea if I will even recoup my expenses; I may lose money on the book and much more money in lost work time on other material.
It's a gamble, but it's a gamble worth taking. For you guys, the only change is that it won't be available in stores and they won't be able to order it in; if you want a hard copy you will have to get it from Amazon. I stand by my pledge that if you buy a hard copy and want me to autograph it, you can mail it to me and I will sign it and pay to mail it back to you. And if it's a success, I see no reason why there wouldn't be book six in Fall 2012 and then so on and so on. So no waiting years between books.
I will try to have some contests leading up to the publication day - if you help me title the book, or come up with some art, or just win a drawing, you will get a copy of the book or of previous books in teh series. So you should really follow this blog and/or the Fans of Marsha Altman group of Facebook to check up on that. I am more than happy to give away things to loyal fans.