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 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.

44 thoughts on “Not because but despite

  1. That sucks donkey balls.

    Any chance of a lucrative suing of S&S? If that’s not breach of contract, nothing is. It sounds like the mechanic that finger tightened the wheel nuts.

    1. I assume a buyer who got charged and received nothing could sue – but that would be Amazon, who did this in good faith. If that happened Amazon could demand and would I think get repayment from S&S and possibly Baen. I assume Baen could – but it would be difficult as they themselves dropped the ball at least three times. _I_ don’t have any relationship with S&S. I am not owed a particular format. Asking me to check the proofs of a book they’re not going to produce is bloody annoying, cost me the better part of a thousand dollars — but I don’t have to do it. I’d be a fool not to, as proof-readers vary in quality. It’s a normal part of what an author does, but is not paid for, or obliged to do.

    2. S&S are simply printers and distributors for Baen paper books. They have certainly been known to fall short in both those roles. But the decision to not do a mmb does not lie with them, it rests entirely in the well padded lap of the publisher who directs S&S on what to produce for them.
      Unfortunately this is just one more instance of an arrogant disregard for the well being of that publisher’s stable of mid list authors. Doesn’t happen with their best sellers because said publisher knows that those cash cows would walk, but well, those mid list serfs and peons, we can treat them shabbily and what will they do? They have nowhere else to go.
      In this latest case a decision was made, the author was not informed, and when he challenged the situation the incompetent tool behind it lied to cover his behind. This is precisely the sort of rot that can eventually destroy a business.
      And if we could figure out a way to throw a drive belt on Jim’s corpse I expect we could power a small city.

      1. I don’t have a problem with the decisions. That’s their area. I do with the administrative issues. I have a huge problem with S&S getting orders for a month and leaving them unfilled without doing anything. Or even noticing.

  2. Both damn good books. I guess I shouldn’t have been thinking of Baen as the flawlessly perfect white knight . . . but I hate the thought that they too are part of the problem.

    1. Just sitting here eating popcorn. But reading between the lines over the years, there’s been some unhappiness all the way back when Jim Baen was still alive. Not universally, but enough for rumbles. This isn’t the sort of thing most authors discuss openly, for obvious reasons. But there was one who I thought got the short end of the stick. So did an author with another house who commented how he was left to his own devices to promote his book. And now all the publishing houses do this if you’re not one of the big names.

      I honestly don’t know. While that author never said much, another has. And more than a few authors and estates have secured rights for books previously published by Baen. I assumed it was to go Indie with a back list, but don’t know.

      The scary thing isn’t that Baen isn’t a white knight, but that other publishers seem to be worse.

  3. Wow. That [stinks]. Glad I told my school folks to go with the trade-paperback. I’m really, really sorry this happened, and I hope the individual/s who [fouled] this up are disciplined by the appropriate employer/s.

      1. For the author the consequences are quick and harsh, the damage is almost immediate.
        Consequences for the publishing system are long term and ultimately deadly, but masked by denial and excuse and blame casting on every reason possible except the real ones, the arrogance and incompetence of the publishing management.
        The traditional publishing business is dying, but they can blame bad authors, distracted readers, and competition from other entertainment media for the bad choices they have made for the business.

  4. When you announced the Mass Market Paperback, I had a $25 Amazon gift card burning a hole in my (digital) wallet, so I took a look. The trade paperback was only a dollar or so more, so what with bad eyes and such, I bought it that way. Damn glad I did, since it was a great read. I hope it does well despite he cock-ups.

  5. I have a possible window into the minds of publishing management, thanks to The Guardian today:

    You can click through to the Grauniad if you want, but the take home is that the VP of Sales for Marvel thinks sales are down because the audience doesn’t like “diversity.” In other words, his customers are a bunch of nerdracists. Totally a word, right?

    That’s not some SJW inker artist talking shit on Twitter, that’s the Marvel VP of Sales giving a speech to a retailer’s summit. That’s his official business take.

    So it leaves me not-amazed that a book distributor can’t make a deal with a publisher to get a Sad Puppy book out there. I’m not implying enemy action, I’m just pointing out the quality and volume of cranial activity at work. That guy is Upper Management, capital U, capital M.

    Imagine the beeotch that organizes the printing crap. Sure to be a Nobel Prize winner, right?

    1. They have pulled some stupid s**t in the past couple years, even before Disney bought them. that and well, a lot of comic nerds are reading on ipads.

    2. That kind of thinking reminds me strongly of the article I read about a Games Workshop shareholders’ meeting, at which the article’s author was told that “only about 20% of Games Workshop’s customers are gamers. The rest are modellers and collectors. Maybe half of them think about playing now and then. The other half have no intention. People actually walk into the stores because they’re curious about modelling fantastic armies.”

      That’s a direct quote from the article. It’s not the author’s personal opinion, note; he’s reporting what a GW employee told him in conversation at the meeting.

      When I read that, I suddenly understood all the boneheaded moves that GW have made as a company: abandoning line after line of games that sold well, but not amazingly — the equivalent of a publisher’s midlist — to focus exclusively on their top seller, Warhammer 40,000. Many of the games they’ve abandoned are ones I would have liked to play, but now I’m going to have to look for second-hand copies of said games. (Which is just fine with me: when all’s said and done, I’m quite happy to NOT give my entertainment dollars to a company that despises their fans.)

      In the case of the publishers, I understand how the SJW mentality makes them make such stupid decisions. But in the case of a company like Games Workshop, I’m puzzled. What would make them turn away from their core business like that? It doesn’t seem to be a political thing, it seems to be purely business decisions: their management honestly believes, as far as I can tell, that this is the way to make more money in the long run. But since the company has also bragged about how they don’t need to do market research (!!!) — (in)famously saying that “[m]arket research is otiose in a niche” — I do truly wonder how they can think they’re making good decisions. Maybe it’s the Dunning-Kruger effect at work, or maybe it’s just that they’ve surrounded themselves with yes-men (and since they do no market research, they don’t hear the hordes of gamers shouting “NO!”).

      Anyway, the point is that Marvel isn’t the only company whose leadership appears to be out of touch with what their customers want.

      1. GW sounds like a classic case of too big for their britches. It brings to mind Aston Tate’s “If DBASE IV doesn’t have it, you don’t need it” arrogance. Aston Tate is no more, which is how well that works out.

        Marvel has done some back peddling, admitting that the problem is the gender bender thing with established characters. But what they miss is that Marvel, the comic line based on serving action with a side order of angst, has always been about diversity and the SJW cause du jour. The big difference is that they did it right by having story first, message second. I gather the big turn-off now are story lines that tear down what characters are all about (Captain America) and imagination so lacking that they cannot even create new characters but must alter those that already exist. And that’s a sure-fire way to lose readers.

  6. Ugh, I know even Baen isn’t the perfect white knight but they usually do a lot better than most big publishers. Makes me wonder how bad Big Publishing is getting? The increased control you have with Indy is nice of course then you have no one else to blame for the mistakes when they do happen 😉

    I hope my recent orders of stuff for work through your affiliate links helps. If they are having me order from Amazon might as well use it to help authors I like with “free money”

    Remember folks, Dave or others don’t just get a (sliding) percentage of the book they linked to, they get it for _everything_ in your order after you click on the link within 24 hours (or you click on someone else’s affiliate link)

  7. After long resistance to buying e-books, I finally broke down and have bought a few. Changeling’s Island is one that I got through Amazon in the last month or two. Sorry about the mmpb; I don’t know if I would have bought it in that format (new paperbacks are a bit pricey, lately, and I’m out of space to put them), but it was a good read

  8. Funny Baen still shows the mmpb under your name in their authors listing of works. Amazon at least seems to have taken it down. And here I thought Baen was good. Silly me.

    1. Baen has some good editors, some hit-and-miss admin, terrible communication, and marketing that seems to me to be imaginary, rather than imaginative.

  9. Dave, if there is one maxim that explains the whole world, it it this:

    Dilbert is the world’s operations manual.

  10. Still wishing it could go on Kindle Unlimited, but I understand that isn’t all your choice.

    1. When you go with a publisher an author surrenders all choice. You have about as much say in the process as did a pre civil war field hand. The only small bits of control you might retain are what you can get put into the contract, and even those small bits can only be enforced by good will or lawsuit with the publisher and their legal department vastly out weighing even a very popular author.

  11. Speaking of e-book pay. Do you get the same amount if we buy the e-book direct from Baen or from Amazon/BN? If it is the same, seems like you’re getting the shaft there somewhere.

    1. When you put up a typical e-book on Amazon yourself you get 70% and Amazon keeps 30% as their share.
      When we did POD with Ingram Spark on the first Division One book we let Ingram handle e-book distribution as well thinking it was included in their setup fees. We later learned to our horror that what actually happens is Amazon pays Ingram who keeps 30% of gross themselves for the bother leaving our take at just 40% of cover. Needles to say won’t be letting that happen again.
      I do not have any idea what Baen does, but my guess is a similar deal for Amazon sales. For Webscriptions I haven’t a clue, though I suspect given the discount for monthly bundles, those at the very least pay much less.
      Been my observation that the publishing business is intentionally organized such that the author always receives at best hind teat, if that.

      1. Forgot to mention that until a book earns out, ie recovers the initial advance the publisher paid to the author, said author gets not a single penny. So it’s best to have a great deal of faith in your publisher’s accounting department because otherwise they can rob you blind. You see, sales numbers are reported back to the publisher not the author. The publisher can forward those numbers on to the author or not as they see fit. It is after all entirely about trust, and as Dave, Sarah, and a few others can attest, trust only goes so far.

      2. Baen appear to pay 25% of cover on e-books, as opposed to 6-10% on paper (different formats and different deals) that can rise 15% on a certain number of hardcover sales.

        1. Is that regardless of whether we buy direct from Baen or through a third party like Amazon

    2. It can be odder than any simple answer.

      Baen & Tor don’t have the “price set by Publisher”, so Amazon /can/ discount just like a paper book. Baen and author get the same, reader pays less. discount about one new Baen a month

  12. Note that the Baen catalogue thinks there is a mmpb and so the price of the ebook was reduced to $6.99 accordingly, in violation of the Baen contract with Amazon Kindle.

    ISBN: 978-1-4814-8239-4, $7.99
    Paperback (March 2017)

    DOI: 9781476781204, $6.99
    eBook (March 2016)

    1. That would actually be fairly easy to do through either Ingram or Createspace. It would take a bit of extra effort to format for that size of POD and only be available from Amazon, but otherwise very possible. Of course that would be with a book you still have control over. Once you hand it over to any publisher you no longer control much of anything, and since the industry has collectively decreed that mass market paper is a dying format there’s no way to convince them in their all wise all seeing stance from even attempting such heresy. And they certainly wouldn’t turn mmb rights back over to the author for fear the paperbacks would compete with trade paper and hard cover. And yes I do no that means they would be talking out of both sides of their mouths. Welcome to publishing as it currently exists today.

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