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December 2003

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Well, my dear, long-suffering friends, I'm going to try again. The past year has been...weird, sometimes downright painful, and I just didn't see any point in inflicting all that on you.

I know I never published the results of our Hard Cover Poll. I guess it sort of fell flat because after sending them to my publisher, I never heard anything back, one way or the other. The overwhelming response boiled down to, those that buy HC don't care about previous publishing history, those who don't, don't care one way or the other, so long as it is available in paperback. Those who have already read the books were universally enthusiastic about reissue and all but one or two who never buy HC would buy the HC in a heartbeat.

I can't really blame the publishers for their reservations. It's a rugged business right now, and taking a chance on a previously published series, no matter the marketing that undermined the initial release, is just a very difficult call to make. The fact is, in this day and age, book store buyers don't care about reasons. They only look at the computer numbers.

It's funny, I was working at the Washington State University Book Store in the early 80's. I remember the conversion over to a fully computerized system and how the actual sales figures startled the Powers That Be both in the stores and in New York. Before computers, best sellers were determined from a list that came out from New York, a relatively short list of those books the faceless They had determined (by Ouija Board, I suppose) would be contenders for the title. Mainstream and horror all, as far as fiction was concerned. The store owners had to fill out, by hand, the number of each of those pre-determined books they'd sold. Once computers entered the picture and the true sales figures began to determine the best-sellers, SF/F finally began to take their legitimate place at the top.

I think I'd rather have stayed in the gutters.

The same computer-generated numbers that "legitimized" certain lowest common denominator SF/F have killed anything innovative. Those computers run the big chains which have pretty well driven out the small, privately-owned bookstore. The computers determine, based on the sales of the last book by a given author, how many to stock...generally fewer than the time before, unless the sales are really outstanding. The number stocked determines where in the store the books are stocked, and reorders are based on the number of books sold in the first week of issue. Books that take time to build up a readership haven't got a chance under this system.

Which boils down to the simple fact, if 'NetWalkers ever does come out from DAW, I'm going to really be counting on all of you to buy it in that first week and to talk it up to all your online friends. If DAW buys it, they're going to be watching its reception like the proverbial hawk. The fate of my whole future history will be dependent on that.

And DAW is considering it. If, however, they decide they can't take the risk, I'll be taking it to a publish on demand publisher,  possibly even selling it electronically over the internet. I'm through fighting those insanely prejudicial computer numbers. These books will, and in the not too distant future, be available again.

In the meantime, Robert Tilendis has just posted a brand new review of the original series that does a far better job at summarizing the book than I could manage in a million years. I'm also very flattered by his assessment of the series. I'm always so delighted to find that long-time readers of SF/F consider the series different and intriguing.

I will say, he's dead-on regarding my approach to story-telling. I don't break things down by plot, character, theme, etc. I've tried, and it simply isn't the way I think. Everything evolves together.

If you're interested, I encourage you to check it out:
http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/book_fancher_groundties.html

 

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