Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book World Status Update

Today's early morning activity was baking blueberry muffins, since I had some fresh blueberries, and I figured I ought to bake during the cool part of the day. This being a morning person thing is strange. Next thing you know, I'll be getting up early to write. And then the world will come to an end. (Though I don't think that getting up at 7:30 really qualifies me as a morning person.)

I've reached the hard part of the revisions, where it's not so much about tweaking scenes as it is about doing a lot of going back and forth to fix things. I got kind of excited heading toward the ending and totally dropped a few character threads. I suppose I could fix that the way I fixed the end of Once Upon Stilettos, when I realized I'd totally forgotten Ethan, and so I locked him in a closet rather than rewriting to include him. I can just reveal near the end that most of the supporting characters got kidnapped and locked away somewhere, but then I'd at least have to write about the main characters noticing they were missing.

However, last night when I was re-reading the last few chapters, I got so caught up in it that I forgot to take notes about things to deal with, and I even found my pulse rate increasing while I read the exciting parts -- which is a good sign, considering I wrote it and I know what happens.

It's been more than a month since I've done an FAQ type post, and I've started getting another wave of e-mail questions, so here goes an update:

If you've seen an Amazon listing for a book called Hex and the City, that is the German translation of Enchanted, Inc. I have no idea why the German book has an English title. It is NOT Book 5. If Book 5 were to exist, that would not be the title of it. That's actually the title I wanted for Book 1, but it ended up as a tagline instead. So, anyway, don't order it unless you want the first book in German. You won't be getting anything new.

The last I've heard, the publisher still isn't interested in book 5. As I explained before, the latest reasoning is that the initial order from the two big B chains, based on sales in their stores of the previous books, wouldn't be big enough for the initial print run to be profitable. Publishers these days are doing smaller initial print runs and then going back to print if necessary rather than printing a lot up front and then having to store books. At the same time, stores are ordering fewer copies up front and then reordering if necessary rather than taking a lot of copies and then returning them (and I suspect the publishers are okay with this because they lose money on returns). Even if there's a history of going back to press repeatedly, publishers aren't interested in a book whose initial print run would not recoup the cost of producing the book -- all the printing, payment to author, payment to editor, payment to copy editor, cover art, typesetting, marketing, etc. -- even if it sold out entirely. The problem with my books is that most of my sales have come from Amazon and from independent bookstores (mostly science fiction/fantasy specialty stores) or from smaller chains. But the two big Bs are the 800-pound gorilla of the industry because they each order thousands of books up front. The chains usually do the bulk of their purchase for the initial order and count on most of the sales coming during the first couple of months. Meanwhile, each independent might place an initial order of two to ten copies of a book like mine and then restock as needed. The initial orders of all the independents added together might not reach the level of one chain's order. Then Amazon mostly does a just-in-time ordering system, where they don't do all their ordering up front, ordering books only as needed to meet demand. The indies and Amazon may sell more of each title than the chains in the long run because the indies stock for their customers and hand sell, and Amazon has lots of ways for people to stumble across books, while the chains just stop carrying the books after a few months, but it's that initial order that the publisher looks at in making decisions about books.

At least, that's the latest excuse. I think the other problem is that the publisher still sees these books as "chick lit," not as fantasy, and chick lit is pretty much dead. The only books I've found on this publisher's list that even remotely fit into that category, going from April into early next year, are the newest Gemma Townley and the new Sophie Kinsella -- both big sellers, and both imports, so that the bulk of the editorial work is done by the British publisher. Otherwise, it's all more the "book club" type "women's fiction"-- the issues/family/more serious type stuff.

However, I did see that they have a new Connie Willis book in the catalogue for February 2010. I hope that's the time travel book involving the Blitz she was talking about a few years ago because I've been dying to read that for ages. It's called Blackout and is up for pre-order at Amazon. Pause for a moment of squeeing. EEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

Anyway (ahem, returning to dignity here), I'm not sure how to overcome or fix any of these things, aside from praying that the movie gets made and is done well enough that it boosts book sales. The movie really would change the playing field. Otherwise, I suppose I could write something that gets shelved in fantasy and does brilliantly, so that the old publisher would want to capitalize on it by reissuing the older books in fantasy and then doing the new one. The word of mouth does continue to spread, and all the books in the series are selling at pretty respectable levels, week by week. I'm just not sure how that would translate into calculations for initial orders that would be enough to flip a switch somewhere within the publisher that would change their thinking. But, you know, it wouldn't be the first series with a gap between books, and if things happen that make them want the fifth book, that would then mean more books in the series from there (and I do have ideas).

So now I guess I'd better write that brilliant book that will make me such a star that the old publisher will be begging for more books. Piece of cake. I'll get right on that.

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