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February 2016



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Deep Thought - Chew Pen

So You Really Want to Help the Author?

What follows is my opinion, my dear Gentle Reader. Opinion. Please don't take it as a mandate from on high. You may read in any way you see fit and any method. The point, in the end, is that you read at all!

I'm going to give this to you straight, Gentle Reader. Such directness could be thought quiet rude, this I well know. There are some of you who may wish to stop now, so as to better preserve your image of me. It is an image, no doubt, of a refined elderly female, well coiffed, with a predilection for tea and flowered hats, who's vast independent means permits her the pleasure of writing flowery prose for your amusement in her considerable leisure time.

What follows, my dears, may not be the way you want the oft romanticized publishing world to be. I may not write of it in a manner you see fit. One that somehow dignifies and glorifies the writing arts. Unlike my Victorian forbears I am an author, and this is my trade, not just my vocation. What follows is a gruesome peek into the way IT really works. You shudder, you tremble on your little keyboards, you are afraid, but also . . . admit it . . . your are titillated.

Here it is. What to do if you really truly want to help an author. (I'm talking specifically first week here.)

I write this, not only for myself, although Gail's continued subsistence is, naturally, of primary interest to me. I write this for all us authors ~ for the brand spanking new writer with her first book soon to appear, for your old favorite who has been writing for years or decades in a solidly mid-list manner. If that author is alive and kicking, the best thing you can do (if you want) to keep them writing is the following . . .

1. Buy her new book, dead tree style, from a brick & mortar bookstore, within the first week of that book's release. Go Indy if you can.

2. If chains are all you have and you can't find it at Big Chain Bookstore B1, then go to Big Chain Bookstore B2, not B1 in a different area.

3. Remind your friends and fellow readers that the book is out.

4. If you would rather read online or digitally, but have the funds to be kind, buy the paperback and give it to a friend or the local library. Then buy the ebook version. (Often the ebook comes out after the paper copy anyway.)

But, Miss Gail, why? This sounds like you want us to play the publisher's game, shouldn't we punish them for not moving with the Proverbial Times?

Why # 1. Because that is what counts the most* toward NYT, and if an author makes The List, she gets put into airport special NYT stands, and if she gets put out special she gets new eyes, and if she gets new eyes, she gets new readers, and if she gets new readers she gets real sales and she can actually make a living as an author allowing her to write more books for you - ta da! (*Edited with "the most" due to raging discussion in comments below.)

Why # 2. If the Big Chain isn't shelving or distributing the book you want to buy, you do need to punish that chain by going to their competitor, rather than online. Of course, you never read it here, but independent bookstores are particularly responsive to your needs. Particularly responsive.

Why #3. Because word of mouth is the number one biggest seller in the world. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something . . . or in marketing.

Why # 4. Because, under most current active contracts (to which I have been privy), an author's ebook doesn't count as much toward primary sales so far as royalties and NYT are concerned (again see comments below for more), and rumor is they aren't being reported accurately on royalty statements anyway. Digital editions are a whole kettle of fish I refuse to get into, because others like Mr. Stackpole discuss it better (and more frequently), and because we have chatted about it on this blog before.

[Yet another codicil. This last statement seems to have caused a kerfuffle. I don't believe I am ebookist, and I apologize if it seems like I am. Please if you want to consume books that way, you absolutely should. Trust me, no one is more "anti the collection of unnecessary objects" than me. Just ask my ex! No one knows exactly how NYT constructs its list (for good reason) and I am simply trying to articulate what I have been told over the past couple of years in greenrooms, in chats with other authors, agents, and so forth. Kris Rush's investigation and the resulting conversations at conventions and in writer forums have many authors worried. However, I have heard nothing in conjunction with my own house and I have been ridiculously well treated by Orbit, so much so, we stayed with Hachette for my new series.]

I understand that this blog entry seems mercenary, but there is a complex system in place and you, the reader, can hack it in favor of your favorite author if you wish. You simply have to play the game the way they have set it up, as illogical as it may seem to an online audience.

There, I have said my piece and I do hope I have not offended. Heartless is out the week of June 27, officially July 1. Nach.

Ah, and here is the lovely Seanan McGuire on a related subject.

Now, for wading through that you get . . .

A Heartless Teaser
Professor Lyall was the type of man who could stand in the center of a group and no one would remember he was there, except that the group would stay together because of him. ~ Heartless, pg. 213

Your moment of parasol . . .

Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:

Your Tisane of Smart:
Tent that is a VW van
Your Writerly Tinctures:
A great RadioLab: Help!, that includes a whole section with writers on overcoming writer's block. Dealing withy the muse.

Timeless: Finished with last draft, awaiting copyedits.
Etiquette & Espionage: The Finishing School Book One: Rough draft done. Working on first read through.
Secret Project PPA: Only a twinkle in my little eye.

BIG FAT SPOILER ALERT! Really, DON'T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven't read the other books first!
Book News:
Beyond Books reviews the Parasol Protectorate.

Quote of the Day:
"Inside every fat book is a thin book trying to get out."
~ Unknown
Daisypath Graduation tickers


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I'm DYING here waiting for Heartless. And also upon my reread of the first three, I fell a little more in love with Lyall every page. Your teaser for Heartless only reinforces that!
I had no idea that eBooks didn't count! Although it's such a large part of the market now, it really should. I know when I finished reading Soulless on my Kobo app for my iPhone, I immediately bought Changeless and then Blameless. Instant Gratification! But I will buy Heartless in print now that I know it will help you.

Also, I think I've told 10 or so people about the series who I thought would love it. Word of mouth really works!!

ETA: I've just ordered all four books through indigo.ca! My conscience will rest easy now, knowing those sales will count for you!!

Edited at 2011-06-13 08:12 pm (UTC)
Awe thank you so much. And you are so right, my books have really been a word-of-mouth phenomenon. Luckily I seem to be one of those writers who has readers who not only read but also like a good gossip and giggle once in a while!
If one can afford it, buy mulitple copies of books and give them as presents, which is totally acceptable with my family and friends.
It is for this reason, if not any other, that physical books should never die. :)
The NYT has to get their act together and start tracking e-books. I imagine they are working on it.
I'm so glad to know that my refusal to buy a Nook and give up on dead tree books is helping authors! I'm looking forward to Heartless... so many great books coming out this July, I hope none of my friends expect to actually DO anything with me that month.
I pre-ordered your book on Amazon! When it does arrive in my paws . . . I will read it in the bath tub, surrounded by frothy bubbles as well as reading it in bed waiting for my baby boy to fall asleep and his un-born sibling to stop annoying me so I can get some rest.
The bath sounds like something Alexia would certainly approve of!
I'm counting the days, and if the one-and-only bookstore in town doesn't have Heartless on the release day, I'm going to the competitor in the next town over. They're all big chain bookstores around here (and damn few of those), but better than nothing.

If I ever buy one of those infernal book reader thingies, it'll only be so I can have the complete Jane Austen, the complete Trollope, and a few other 19th century classics in a format that fits in my tote bag in case of reading emergencies.

I'm with Rupert Giles, books should be tangible. And smelly.
One thing implied here, but not explicitly stated, is that if you happen to see it on the shelf in your bookstore before the official release date do NOT buy it. This means the bookstore has violated its agreements with the publishers. It also means that your purchase will not get counted toward the NYT list. I'm seen several other authors talking about this specific point.
I have ordered triple the normal scale-out amount of Heartless for my shop and cannot wait to start hand selling them to my customers. I am SO EXCITED for this book it's ridiculous. And I know lots of other people that are too :D
You are correct. Unless it's an SOS (strict on sale), those babies are out on the floor into readers' hot little hands as soon as possible. Books don't sell from the back room.
Can you clarify the point about selling it before the release date? I thought publishers only set strict release dates for some books, and that in other cases it was perfectly okay for bookstores to put in on the shelves as soon as it came in.


I actually have a question. I live in an area where the main language is French and English are quite rare and also expensive (when you can find them) so I buy all my books online, namely at Book Depository. I also offer copies of my favorite books in giveaways to my readers. My question is, do my pruchases actually help the author?
Thank you!
Call me old school, but I never buy e-books. I like having something solid in my hands.
oh yes same here! plus, pretty cover art!
I will remember to set aside some earth monies to buy a physical copy of the book.

Hopefully I can find a indy bookseller who has it in town.
I recommend just asking your local to order it. That's what I do. Mine is actually supposed to be in for me tomorrow!
Speaking of word of mouth, the darling ashura_oh certainly deserves her milk-free cookie as she shared the books with my sister (kass) and me, and now we are buying two copies of Heartless so as to read simultaneously side-by-side.
We are glad to have ordered one copy of Heartless for each member of the family reading it, and are sure to babble at our friends whether they want to hear or not. Best of luck with sales, dear Miss Garriger~ I can't wait to read the book.

Thank you for the preview, it was the perfect mood for all of my thoughts anticipating the release (which are quite constant, I am getting anxious).
Oh my goodness, thank you for such enthusiasm and support. And I promise at least one more Heartless teaser coming up!

great advice

thanks for the post!
for $$ reasons I mostly read library books, but I try to support my fav authors by buying the week the books come out from my local indy bookstore (Walden Pond in Oakland). The owner is very responsive with ordering books when they don't carry them. And I know that he rethinks stocking books when he gets orders for them. I had him order me all 3 of the Alexia books and now he carries them all. Of course I'm sure that is b/c they were bestsellers and not because of me, but still!

Re: great advice

That is so cool. It was people like you and the indy bookstore enthusiasm that got my books out there and I love you both for it!

NYT and E-books

Just to clarify, and perhaps this is an old post, but the NYT has counted e-books since late 2010. Here's a link making the announcement http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/11/books/11list.html

Beautiful Cover Art

I love my Kindle but I've been buying your books dead-tree style because the covers are so beautiful. I just hope the release date is the same in Australia as in North America! I will check later today - my city does not lack for bookstores, but one of our big boxes just closed.

Re: Beautiful Cover Art

Hooray for my covers. I'm not certain about the Aus distribution. I know UK is concurrent so you shouldn't be too far behind.
Thanks for this. I was considering cancelling my Amazon pre-order and just waiting to buy when I see The Lovely Miss Carriger at Kepler's, but I'll keep my pre-order and have that for loaning out while I keep the copy I buy at the signing event.
You're coming to Keplers? Hooray! That will be my first outside of San Francisco bay area signing, I am excited about it.
I have a medium-sized book library in my home. But I've now developed muscle issues that make holding a paper-type book very hard to do at times. I was gifted a Nook on my birthday and I've found it easier to use. I will miss the paper and the smell of a new book and all the pretty colors on the cover but I will get the book. I wish it would count for something, I believe it eventually will.

I give books as gifts all the time, with 7 grandchildren and 4 kids, all who read, it's the stuff that they want the most.
Kids who want books? Yes! You have raised good people into the world!
I hooked my best friend on your books by giving her my two duplicates and loaning her the third. When she is hooked on an author, she will usually pre-order the next book at her local Barnes and Noble. (And just as usually, read the book until she's finished.)
Seanan McGuire also did a post with very similar recommendations to help authors and very similar reasons to do so as well.

I was not aware of this prior to reading the two posts. In the future I will do my best to purchase books to aid, not hinder, my favorite authors.

Thanks for the post and the information on how it really works in RL.
Did she really? How wonderful to know. I'd love the link if it's not bothersome to find. Otherwise no worries.

If I may add another suggestion to #4.

Buy a paper back copy and donate it to your local public library - or buy several and donate them to several libraries. We have little to no budget and brand new books (and DVDs, music CDs, audio books, etc) donations are always welcome.

That way you're not only helping an author out, but you're also helping someone who can't afford to go out and buy a copy. So two good deeds in one!

Re: If I may add another suggestion to #4.

Jami that is an excellent suggestion!
Thank you for the informative post. I feel like I learned a little something about the publishing world.

Luckily, I always end up purchasing books (real, not ebooks) the week they come out when it comes to my favorite authors. This is why I will be at the book store bright and early to get my hands on Heartless. The real challenge will be deciding if I should read it right away or save it for my vacation a few weeks later. That teaser from Prof. Lyall is not boding well for vacation...
Thank you! Sometimes I like to be at least a little informative mixed in wit the silly.

Regarding the royalty issue in point 4...

It's worth bearing in mind that print book royalty statements, in some houses, also have their troubles (which authors are discovering by checking their bookscan data and finding discrepancies in the wrong direction), so buying a print book doesn't guarantee that the author will get paid better.

However, the point remains that many publishers aren't windowing ebooks until later than the paper books, and option renewals and reprint reorders are figured on the first 30-60 days of paper book activity (or even on pre-orders), so for an author working through one of the larger houses owned by a conglomerate, this is the best way to put them in a good position for selling the next book in the series under favorable terms.

-J. Daniel Sawyer
Author of Down From Ten
The Antithesis Progression
and The Clark Lantham Mysteries
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