Ceci N'est Pas Une Blog

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense

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"So Why Don't You Write Books That Sell?"
I used to hear this years ago, from writers whose books did sell. Smug, looking down their noses at those whose advances were ten percent of what theirs were--if they bothered to notice them at all--believing that they would just continue to sell and sell and sell. Thing is, a lot of them came of age during a time when publishers were still keeping backlists in print, which allowed a writer to build an audience over years. When things started to go bad and the backlists began to disappear from the shelves, theirs were still there. Well, part of it--the most recent books. Then those disappeared, too. And not just theirs but books by authors whose work was canonical.

E.g.: Anyone seen any books by Isaac Asimov lately? Or Philip K. Dick?

Don't raise your hand if your local McBookStore happens to have a single copy of I, Robot with a photo of Will Smith on the cover. Or a copy of a Phil Dick collection re-titled Minority Report sporting Tom Cruise in an action shot. Don't raise your hand unless your McBookStore has entire shelf dedicated to them and others like Heinlein, Anderson, Silverberg, Simak--

Oh, yeah. How many people know Simak these days? Lafferty? Van Vogt? Brown?

The virtue of sf/fantasy/horror used to be that, first of all, it wasn't so stratified. It was all under the umbrella term sf. Some books had a hell of a lot more science than others but it was all literature of the fantastic. Second, when you came into the field as a reader, writer, or both, you could read the classics and the newest rising stars and everyone in between, because the books were there.

This is not a rant about how much better things were in the good old days, the candy bars were bigger and the people were nicer and you kids blah blah blah. It's not a rant about how culture today is trash next to what we used to have. We are losing our culture. Why? Because too many books don't sell themselves. Because a fucking corporation can't be arsed to work for a living. Because, like a spoiled supermodel, they don't get out of bed for less than a million dollars an hour.

If anyone missed davidlevine's response to one of my earlier posts, you should know that the same thing happened to Tobias Buckell. The latest Borders atrocity is actually only the next logical step in a sorry progression that began when publishers started allowing the marketing department to tell editorial which books they could sell to the bookstores. The tail has already been wagging the dog for some time.

If you're a writer whose books are still selling, good for you. But don't get too comfortable and sock away as much money as you can. Because all good things come to an end.

Unlike the state of publishing, where all bad things not only don't come to an end but get progressively worse.

If you read books--any books--get up, stand up. Tell the McBookStores you're mad as hell and you're not gonna take it any more. I've been saying this for ages but it's never been so urgent as it is now: if you go into a McBookStore and they don't have the book you want, don't just walk out. Go to the information desk and ask for the book. If they don't carry it but they offer to order it for you, tell them no, thanks, you want the book now and you're going to a bookstore that does have it. If they refuse to carry it, tell them to give management a message from you: from now on, you're taking your business to a bookstore that knows it's a bookstore until they mend their ways.

I want everyone who can move to go out to a Borders (if you have one nearby) and ask for either Greg Frost's book or Tobias Buckell's. Or both. If you can't go in person, phone them. Even if you don't care for these authors, do it anyway--because if you don't, the next writer it happens to will be one you do like. And then tell Borders why you won't be shopping there for books any more. Get the address of their regional office and write them.


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