Archive through March 29, 2007

Janny Wurts Chat Area: Arc 3: Alliance of Light: Stormed Fortress: Status: Archive through March 29, 2007
   By Winter on Thursday, March 22, 2007 - 11:36 am: Edit Post

Angus, there are business reasons why things are the way they are. I work in music not literary publishing but I suspect things aren't so different. I don't agree with the system but I can offer some possible explanations.

First off, don't bother going to the Publicist. Her/his job is to promote the books to the media, not choose what books are published and how. If there's an option to contact Sales, that would be closer to the mark.

On the marketing question, I suspect there was a campaign of sorts for the first books of the series on Harper Collins. But when the series didn't take off as a fluke (can you explain why Harry Potter became huge and other great young adult fantasy hasn't?) they shrugged their shoulders and gave up.

Fantasy is something of a niche, and not well respected by people who think anything involving purely imagined creatures or settings is childish or geeky. Take a look at the books typically reviewed in major media, or the lists of award nominees (not Fantasy awards but general ones like the Governor General's Award) and see how often fantasy books ever appear. Or even look at the best seller lists, fantasy books appear (Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel is the only one on the Globe & Mail's lists according to Chapters.ca) but the majority of the books are "regular" fiction. You should have seen my friend's faces when I suggested I bring a fantasy novel to the book club (although they were dismayed by the size of the books as much as anything).

Put simply Fantasy doesn't make as much money and therefore doesn't get as much of a marketing budget. It doesn't tend to get a fair shake when it comes to trying to show real world relevance. And consider, while things have changed recently, when the first few books came out Bush was popular and attacking him and his war would not have had a positive effect on sales.

Literary publishing is a lot like music in that the stuff that seems to really sell and get heavily marketed is often fluff. The most interesting (and groundbreaking) stuff is usually independent. But most people go straight from pop idols to adult contemporary crooners.

Also, from what I understand, hardcovers tend to sell poorly in general. They're a collector's thing. Most people would rather take a smaller, lighter trade paper any day. It's like vinyl in music circles, some people think it's the best format but not enough to make labels bother with making it widely available.

A friend once explained that printing books is cheaper as you increase the number of books in the order. Which is why you end up with all those bargain bins. Publishers would rather take the risk with one big run than have to make a second more expensive run later if the first sells out. But if they don't move it's cheaper to sell them at major discount than take up space in warehouses. Seems rather foolish to me, but nobody ever said the art industry made sense.


   By Trys on Thursday, March 22, 2007 - 02:47 pm: Edit Post


quote:

can you explain why Harry Potter became huge and other great young adult fantasy hasn't?


It may be a cynical outlook but I think I can. With few exceptions, entertainment items (books, movies, music, etc) become succesful because someone, somewhere with enough clout and/or money got behind the item and launched a marketing campaign that resulted in the book becoming a success.

One exception (and I can only think of one off the top of my head, I'm sure there are others) is the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Very, very limited release (opened in 108 theaters) but somehow it hung around long enough that word of mouth slowly grew the number of screens that was showing it until it became the highest grossing movie in North America to never hit #1 on the box office revenue list. At its widest release in NA it grew to over 2,000 theaters over a 6 month period and grossed $241 million on a $5 million budget (an additional $137 million outside of NA).

Winter,

Your friend is right about press runs. The amount of spoilage that occurs during a run occurs in two primary areas. The first is called Make Ready waste. This is the setting up of the press and calibrating everything to produce the final, acceptable product. The number of impressions wasted is the same whether you are printing 1,000 or 20,000. The other part of the spoilage is called Run spoilage and occurs during the actual running of the press. There can be, to be more accurate, Make Ready waste during the run when plate changes occur (a plate is only good for so many impressions and then has to be swapped out). Similar spoilages occur during the binding process. (As an FYI, I'm a software engineer who works for a company who automates the printing industry, primarily high volume items like magazines.)

Trys


   By Angus on Thursday, March 22, 2007 - 04:04 pm: Edit Post

Wow, I am impressed with the knowledge of these folks.

Winter, thank you for the explanation, but it doesn't make me like the reality of this any better. It actually really stinks, because WoLaS is important literature.

All I can say is, even with your explanation, they are wrong and we are right. I am not yet forty, and perhaps I am becoming curmudgeonly.

I am in the midst of "Ysabel" (hardcover, of course) right now. Too early to tell what I think of it.

Trys, I guess I have to tell more people about these books.


   By Janny Wurts on Thursday, March 22, 2007 - 09:33 pm: Edit Post

Winter's take is a general overall view, and mostly correct, but it doesn't cover everything that occurred with this series. The specifics on the matter would raise your hair, no question.

Many many writers vanish in the system - I have somehow kept the series going.

It survived being orphaned twice (when the editor left) - survived a shift of publishers (Roc to Harper Collins), rode out two mergers (usually the death of books left orphaned) and also had some genuine bad luck in timing and industry shifts that caught it at short end...(once the printer even "shorted" the intended press run!)

I am not going to recap the list- it's not the focus I want to emphasize (look forward, not back) I am not finished by a long shot - just have to reload and find new strategy.

What can you do in a positive vein?

These steps count for Any title you like:

Foremost: support the new release. Avoid buying overstock, or picking up an in print title from resellers or used book dealers - the lower price may help your pocketbook, no question about that - but resale of an in print book does not reward the publisher or count toward an author's kitty to support the next release.

If the book's in print and listed, but not on the shelf at any chain store - ORDER IT. Enough orders will put it into auto reorder, and get it back on the active shelf - and many times books on "auto reorder" fall off that list because they went temporarily out of stock, or out of print in a change of venue or merger - and - they never get back on when they become available again, not because they wouldn't sell, but because not enough ORDERS happen in the interrim to kick start the computer systemization of this - and you guessed it, nobody looks or checks! Publishers can't intervene with the chain's policy unless there's Major Money spent to buy the shelf space - without major marketing push, ongoing, It's all automatic. An incident of out of stock, even temporarily, stops that flow of sales, and the computer blindly drops off the title. (This is real, and it is the kiss of death for many a series that doesn't get that big push, or have that champion with deep pockets to generate the marketing!)

REVIEW BOOKS YOU LOVE ON AMAZON and B&N - they don't care a hoot where you bought it, or when you bought it, or if it's new or not - it takes only a moment to log in your viewpoint, and good reviews "up" the averages, whereas one poohpooer can pull the averages down. This may influence a new reader who may see your books first because the computer driven market suggests this title may appeal to their buying pattern, and a good average may tip the scales - (and the publishers do notice those star ratings, too!)

Next - book clubs and recorded book venues DO listen to customer requests....many have files kept on that very subject - if you Genuinely support these venues and would buy the production, and you write to tell their editors you want a title that's not available, they will keep count of such requests - and in that kept file, if their internal "magic number" of consumer requests is met, often they will look into producing that title. Please, do not do this spuriously - only if you would support a title's release.

Post on newsgroups and chats and comment on titles you like - nothing beats word of mouth, and forums that revolve around fantasy DO reach the right ears! You are far from helpless, and speaking up counts. Nothing wins better than honest, from the heart enthusiasm.


   By Derek Coventry on Friday, March 23, 2007 - 04:28 am: Edit Post

I'm off to Amazon to give my views on all the books I've read recently.
Not too long ago in the UK the Hardback version of books were published several months before the paperback, and often there were two sizes of paperback. So my bookshelves are a mixture of different sizes reflecting my impatience to read the next saga of my favourite characters.


   By Winter on Friday, March 23, 2007 - 11:44 am: Edit Post

Trys, yes marketing can do a lot, but there is also some magical element that takes a book/album/film and makes it much bigger than anyone expected. Even with a good marketing campaign, Harry Potter's initial success is extraordinary. One good thing is that HP's popularity with younger readers might inspire them to explore the Fantasy genre further.

Janny, I'm very happy that you've kept this series alive despite the setbacks.

Ironically enough I first discovered the series when the cover art caught my eye. It had been placed on a display at the very front of the store that was reserved for the discount books. It's sad to think that that was the only way the book could get prime display space.

Angus, you ought to feel curmudgeonly, it beats the creeping cynicism that has made me want to get out of the industry. It comes to down to the disconnect between the business of making money and the distribution of great art. And nothing scares me more than the idea that the dominance of the former over the latter will cease to outrage me. Janny's right in that word of mouth is the most coveted type of marketing anyone to ask for.


   By Csik Sarolta on Sunday, March 25, 2007 - 04:14 pm: Edit Post

Hello to everyone, I'm not exactly new here because I have been reading the posts for half a year, but this is the first time I write something.
I liked the MM editions very much (I bought both TK and Hell's Chasm although I already had the Voyager PBs) so I'm very sad they won't publish SF. But at least in the UK it will be published, it's better than nothing and the Voyager editions are of good quality too.
In Hungary there is a habit of cutting longer books in two (Wheel of Time, WoLaS) or even in three (Sword of Truth). And the last book of WoLaS to be published was Grand Conspiracy. I'm sure there are many people in Hungary who like these books and would like to know how the story continues, but they are stuck at Jaelot because they can't read it in English. And the publisher has no intention to translate the other books. The same thing happened with other series too: Deathgate cycle - 3 books of 7, Liveship Traders - half (!) of the first book. While Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms had several reissues at different publishers.

I think I have a solution (at least for those in the US) to get SF. There was an idea of a meeting/picnic in Tampa. Is it possible to combine this meeting (if the the offer still stands) with the release date?


   By Janny Wurts on Monday, March 26, 2007 - 11:22 am: Edit Post

Hi Csik Sarolta -

How nice to hear from a Hungarian Reader.

Are you sure the series stopped after Grand Conspiracy? I could check my files, but I seem to recall there may have been firm contracts through Peeril's Gate.

A picnic in Tampa area might be possible - let's see if there's interest.


   By Janny Wurts on Monday, March 26, 2007 - 12:18 pm: Edit Post

Two general notes:

I spoke to Wayne while at Midsouthcon, and it seems he tracked the listing of Traitor's Knot very closely pre release, in Britain. Apparently, he said, the hardbound listing appeared on Amazon nearer to pub date - long after the trade paperback was up on the site. I will be checking in with my editors to find out what's intended with regard to the hardback, now that we are home.

(I have a cat to pick up from a surgery today, so give me a bit to catch my breath.)

Next - Winter, yes, you are entirely right.
What your recap failed to account, is what happens when a book that's selling fine in backlist goes out of stock for an interval - due to mergers, changes of staff, inattention - any number of things. When this happens, and the book was on Auto Reorder, the computer registers "no sales" for that title for a number of months - so even if that book is reprinted once the oversight gets noticed and acted on - the title never again reaches the shelves.....regardless of it's performance while it was available, it gets dropped off the computer designation that keeps it current on the store's shelf. Invisible to new readers means: no new sales, and the cycle of attrition mounts.

In this manner, a book or series that is doing fine CAN slip off the edge. Obviously for a big seller that's flooding numbers, such inattention doesn't happen. But if your editor changes, or a department's personnel is eliminated, or a list is shortened or cut from on high - and it happens, not once, but several times for various silly reasons that make no sense, except that this is a huge multinational corporation - what you get is a lot of shots in the foot, as the juggernaut rolls over ITSELF. Insane decisions happen at all levels - I've seen books with runaway numbers have such dropped stitches, incredible as that may seem - this series is not the odd one out!

And I am still here.

Put simply, a book with huge numbers can be set back on course by marketing investment - or a book with an attentive editor can be championed. Something has to happen to reverse that spiral - even just plain good luck!

Many authors have had this happen - many even have to publish under a change of name to recover.

Some books outperform expectations, and those are all to the good. Other books in a workmanlike way just keep selling on, and luck and timing play a part in the course of a niche market or cutting edge work's success.


   By narya on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 - 12:12 am: Edit Post

Janny, it's so sad to hear about all the trouble you have to go through, while we're sitting here for years waiting for the next volume to finally arrive. I deeply sympathize with you!

I've placed my pre-order (due November, 5th) on Amazon today. This will definitely help to lighten up the next, long winter here in Moscow. :-)

We'll be patient and spread the word in the meantime. I hope it helps to keep this series going on.

Good luck,
Alexander.


   By Janny Wurts on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 - 09:57 am: Edit Post

Alexander - spreading the word is the very best. Thanks!


   By Kitsune on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 - 03:47 pm: Edit Post

Well, this is disheartening news for us North-American fans. :-(

My condolences to you on the situation, Janny. Even more than ever, it's evident that this series is a labor of love for you; a lesser person might've given up long ago, epsecially after reading the list of setbacks you've faced!

And, since I have the whole series in harback thus far, I'd HATE to switch to TPB for this volume. (I will if necessary, though. Paperback is better than NoBack.)

As release date nears, I'd add my name to the list of those who would like to pre-order the Hardcover, if anyone has information (or links to vendors!!) :-)


   By Jason Dagle on Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - 02:08 pm: Edit Post

So the series is not coming back to North America?

I have a hard back collection of North American releases and have in the past ordered the paper version from the UK, since the release there is usually several months ahead of NA, and gotten the hard back when it was released in NA. Just trying to get a handle on the situation and what I should plan on doing to keep my collection up to date in hard back?


   By Trys on Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 04:17 am: Edit Post

Jason,

Technically Janny did not say the series was not coming back to North America... only that Meisha Merlin will not be publishing the next book. We all have to think positive thoughts for a solution to the situation. :-)

Trys


   By Jason Dagle on Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 07:27 am: Edit Post

That's what I thought, but it seemed like there were a lot of Chicken Little's running around in here and I was starting to think that maybe I had misinterpreted something


   By Trys on Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 10:47 am: Edit Post

OUCH! ::damn sky:: :-O


   By Angus on Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 01:42 pm: Edit Post

Hey, man, I ain't no Chicken Little, and no sky's fallin' on me! I'm just pissed off at The Man, who thinks he knows what we want, and treats us like mushrooms (feeds us &*#@ and keeps us in the dark). If a publisher really got behind this series, it couldn't help but take off.

So residents of U.S.A. and Canada, I challenge you to write those reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, etc., order books through your book retailer (not the second hand shops) and tell everyone you know who appreciates good literature about the Wars of Light and Shadow.

Janny, Viking Press in Canada does Guy Gavriel Kay's books, and in very high quality (in my humble opinion). Just an observation you may wish to explore.

Angus


   By Janny Wurts on Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 01:59 pm: Edit Post

Angus - Thanks.

Positive suggestions of any sort are most welcome, and will be considered.


   By Auna on Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 03:43 pm: Edit Post

It could be written on toilet paper and I wouldn't care for the initial read ;)

I buy hardback primarily to show my support to the author, although having a nice collectable never hurts.

This series is good enough to warrant overseas purchase, though if we can eventually get a hard back here in North America, I can hold off and just buy the easier to get trade to tide me over. I guess we'll hopefully know that soon?


   By Mary on Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 10:34 pm: Edit Post

Janny

Another Canadian publisher and distributor is Raincoast Books based in Vancouver, BC.

They do publish books themselves, but they also distribute books in Canada and the US for many UK publishers.

They have Voyageur Press listed in their search drop down menu, but don't seem to have any of their books currently being sold.

Perhaps this might be a way of distributing Stormed Fortress in North America? Better yet, they may publish it themselves?

Mary