Not because but despite
I want to start by apologizing to readers here: at the end of February I said here that CHANGELING’S ISLAND was now available in mass market paperback, and provided a link. Some 96 people clicked through that, and I assume some of those good folk ordered the book. If you were one of them: I must ask you please to check your credit cards.
If you have been charged for it: you have been the victim of a fraud in which I had no part other than advertising my book in good faith. I was sent the proofs of the mmpb on the 9th of December and returned them – giving up a rather lucrative little casual job to do my bit, to have them back in time. Baen advertised the book on its website, Amazon listed it on its website. As this near non-effort appears to be the only form of publicity I actually get, I did my best, and kind folk on Facebook gave me nearly 200 likes and over 40 shares. I had some shares on Twitter, and the release of the mmpb was up on Instapundit, as well as on several other blogs besides this.
Prior experience – TOM — says this could produce around two thousand sales. I’m a minor author, and I’m very grateful for that support, be it ten or ten thousand. There’s always a few new people, and reaching new readers is vital. Mass Market Paperbacks are great as tryouts, as they’re quite cheap, and given that CHANGELING’S ISLAND seems to have been a hit with readers across a broad spectrum, I hoped I’d get more readers.
Unfortunately… the mass market paperback of the book does NOT exist. It was cancelled back in early fall of last year. That, of course is their decision, which they’re perfectly entitled to make. However, they didn’t tell me – or, it seems anyone else. The formatting, the proofs, the listing on Baen.com still went ahead. Simon and Schuster, who distribute for Baen, put the book up on Amazon – and presumably other venues. Well, possibly. To me Simon and Schuster appear to have been for distributing my books what Adolf Hitler was for synagogue building in Berlin in 1941. I made the error once some years ago of searching bookstores online for one of my books. Shall we say I found the coverage ‘somewhat underwhelming’? That’s about as polite as I can be. It’s hard to be successful when your book is just not widely available. Still, that — at the time -– was the only choice I had. Simon and Schuster – as the distributors, presumably got the orders for the mmpb of CHANGELING’S ISLAND. Amazon was listing it as ‘more on order’. I thought that meant it was doing well, and wondered why the sales rank wasn’t moving.
Quite what they did with the unfilled orders I would love to know. If they have charged you: I apologize, again. Please demand your money back. I cannot imagine that Amazon will fail to refund – they acted in good faith, and were unaware of this multilevel mess – which must have involved at least four people at two separate companies not doing their job. _I_ picked it up (not Baen, not Simon and Schuster, not Amazon. Me. The guy with least information and control. The guy whose job it is not. The guy who gets the smallest share of the book’s income because the other parties take a larger share for doing the administration.) I will be asking people on all the avenues I advertised on to do the same. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee I can reach all of those people.
If you did not get charged – which I sincerely and desperately hope was the case, but you actually DO want the book, it is only available as trade paperback or as an e-book. I am fairly certain that the jackass who got these orders – presumably at the distributors, Simon and Schuster, who possibly passed it on to Baen (or didn’t. S&S do not inspire faith), did NOT tell the people that ordered the non-existent mass market paperback that it could only be had in Trade Paperback. I suspect that most of those sales are now lost – as my fans have mostly already bought the book. Those orders were chances, opportunities, gifts from the kind folk who shared my advertising here, on Facebook, on Insty. I want to apologize (again) to those kind people.
I’d like to say this was one of those unusual sets of circumstances where at least four separate people perpetuated a cock-up was just massively improbable — but honesty forces me to admit that I can’t actually think of a book where the parts I know about have gone without problems of some kind or another. I’ve had lost manuscripts, lost maps, cover typos, lost corrections, lost payments, lost contracts, never yet been told what the release date for a book is… I could go on. I’m sure, of course, that the parts I don’t know about ran like clockwork. Maybe I just remember the bad bits… But most authors – if you speak to them privately, and after a few glasses, will tell you their horror stories. It’s not one editor or publisher, it is widespread. Authors themselves are no angels, and it’s a chaotic business. But not every crash is an author error. Some are, but there was a time we couldn’t talk about any other kind. I think – for the sake of traditional publishers worth saving – that this needs to be acknowledged and change.
You know, I am so inept I would probably fail to successfully organize casual sexual congress with a lady of negotiable virtue in a house of ill repute, with a full wallet and the desire to organize this. But at least I try. And at least I own my mistakes and do my best to fix them. That is the positive aspect of indy. Amazon is not flaw free, but at least you have some idea what is going on, and are in a better position to respond. I’m beginning to accept that if I succeed it will not be because of traditional publishing – who gave me my first break – but in spite of it.
So: CHANGELING’S ISLAND (the picture is a link): It’s not available in mass market paperback. It’s not available in audio. Given that Simon and Schuster are supposedly distributing it it’s probably not available in many brick and mortar stores, if any. It’s had no advertising except from me and my fans, and no apparent push – but quite a lot of people think it’s a good read, and not just for young adults.
It IS available from Amazon. Despite the fact it still offers three formats, if you want to read a good book and support my writing, it actually is only available in two. I would commend the e-book version, which cuts out S&S, and pays me slightly better. I would hope good sales may send a message to Baen. If, on the other hand, you feel that you’d rather just reward me – TOM is produced by my own small press, as an Indy.