First – Friday will be blog by Diana Pharaoh Francis . She has long been a writer (mostly epic fantasy) but this December she has a dark urban fantasy coming out. Very dark. Very urban. Not a vampire in sight. Totally new and original world. I was asked to blurb the book and got to read it. Let me tell you, it is killer! So watch for Diana’s blog on Friday, and we hope she’ll tell us all about making the switch to a new sub genre! Fingers crossed.
David was talking on Monday about the bad parts of today’s market. I am usually the *glass-half-empty* kind of person. Not that I don’t try to be positive, but our parents’ influence carries so much weight and my dad is not the most positive person in the world. In fact he’s pretty negative… Wait. Wrong blog. (slaps self) Back to David.
David was talking about the fact that the market forces change on us in terms of what we write, the names we pen under, the length of our stories, etc. It was a difficult day for him. Then on Tuesday, Catie talked about the market changes in terms of paperbacks. I’d like to build on both today, which is going to result in a pretty random, rambling blog about the market.
For once, I can really see positive aspects of the market changes. I know. Don’t pass out. It’s a shocker to me too.
But first, two small business negatives. (You knew it couldn’t last…) Borders is still reeling under financial strain and ordering very few books. They call it conservative ordering. Tomato, tomahtoh. Whatever. It negatively affects sales numbers. However, the Borders problem and possible bankruptcy is currently worked out with loan extensions, which is the glass-half-full part of that equation. Also, because of the world’s financial crisis, the publishers are holding back the numbers of reserves on all books, for some writers, up to 80%. (Reserves are the books that stores have ordered and probably sold, but no money has been paid to the distributors or pubs, or because payments were late, or whatever, and so the writer pays the price on *his* payments being withheld.) On to the gooder stuff.
I said recently that the romance buyer at B&N said the book market is starting to *really* turn around, and that book sales for April were phenomenal. Fantasy sales were right up there too, which means that everyone who had a book release for April did gangbusters. We are soooo happy with the success of the April children. *Very* happy! Really! For a totally selfish reason. Readers get on swings and keep reading. Best bet is that all spring and summer reading trends will be great. The rest of us just hope said trend will continue for our own releases. Yeah, it’s a selfish hope. But a realistic one. Swine flue and money worries mean that longer-lasting investments in the nation’s entertainment dollar is important. Lots of us don’t want to leave the house as much. Books last longer than movies and can be given or sold for more books…yada, yada, so books are a good entertainment dollar. The bright side of that dark cloud.
David’s new names… When I first met David, at South Carolina Writers Conference, his agent, (also my agent) Lucienne Diver, was getting ready to hawk his urban fantasy. I asked him if he was going to change names, and he said he’d rather not. But he knew might have to.
*I like my name* is a common refrain among writers. *I want to write this genre under my name.* Until something bad happens to the market, to the lists, to the national consciousness. Then we jump at continuing a career under nearly any circumstances.
I started out writing with a cop, police procedurals, bang-bang-shoot-em-ups. We wanted to write under the name Hunter Leveille. We wanted to write a character driven series. The editor, a new up and coming guy at Warner Books, bought the series but had other ideas. Here is what he said after signing us to write two books: Cops can’t pronounce the name. Go with something simple. I like Gary Hunter. And, your audience is male. They don’t care why the cop shoots the bad guy, they just wants to see the action. The bloodier the better.
Really. That is what he said…. So from the first day, I didn’t get my way. I didn’t get to write what I wanted, and I didn’t get to write under my chosen name. But here is what I learned. Especially for a first book, getting one’s foot in the publishing door is very important. We often have to do what is asked of us. And when the market changes, we have to be willing to make other changes. Our names, our stories… It is a business. We have to swing with it. David is a great writer. He will come out on top because of his literary diversification.
Massmarket paperbacks: A lot of writers only want to be released in hardback or trade. I turned down hardback back in 1994. Really. My AKA’s Betrayal had an auction and one offer on the table was for a hard and soft deal. I turned it down at my agent’s suggestion for a MM deal with guaranteed advertising money. I had always preferred MMs as a reader because I could get 4 books for the price of one hardback. I was a voracious reader on a limited income.
Since then, I’ve been released in all the formats and I still personally prefer massmarkets for just the reasons Catie mentioned. More people will take a risk on MMs and try a new author. It is the *best* way to build fans, especially in a market crisis. My trade paperbacks of the Rogue Mage series sold okay… I sold through after a year. But a year is *way* too long in the book market. An author needs to sell through in one to three months to be considered a success. (Sell through means to sell the first printing and make back all the royalties paid to said writer by the pub.) The massmarkets did way better in the down-turning market and I made the pub money, and had reprints. They are now considering a new contract. Because of the massmarkets. So, I still believe in them.
My point in all this rambling is that a writer has to open minded about everything in his career. A writer has to keep his ear to the ground and be aware of trends in the marketplace, has to study the shelves and see what is selling and what is overselling, so he is ready for the next shift in the market. It is a business. We have to swing with it.