Another Front Entirely

No, this is not about trans politics, it is about publishers, booksellers and fans, and the poor authors who get caught in the middle.

Seanan McGuire’s latest book, Discount Armageddon, is due out on March 6th. Amazon, for reasons best known to themselves, have decided to release it early. Barnes & Noble, not wishing to lose out, have followed suit.

Why is this bad? As Seanan explains here, the primary effect of this on her will be a substantial reduction in her “first week sales”, which is a key metric used by the trade in evaluating the popularity of an author. Early availability of the book will be bad for her career.

But that’s not really what has got Seanan, and me, upset. As you probably know, Amazon is engaged in a war with publishers, and one of their main weapons is to try to make publishers seem greedy in their approach to ebooks. So while they are releasing the paper edition of Seanan’s book, they are keeping the (presumably cheaper) ebook edition back until March 6th. B&N have followed suit.

What is the result of this? A whole bunch of “fans” writing abusive emails to Seanan accusing her of being greedy by forcing Amazon to hold back the ebook edition. Really, how can people be so clueless?

13 thoughts on “Another Front Entirely

  1. I don’t want to ask Seanan, for obvious reasons, but maybe you can explain something for me.

    I was under the impression that preorders counted for first day of sales, and that preordering was a good thing because it meant that I got my book as early as possible AND the author got to count that sale as first day/week.

    But Seanan’s post is saying something different. Is that just because online retailers decided to let it out early? Or is my understanding flawed? In which case, there’s no way to make me and the author both happy? (Since I have no local indy bookstore to buy from.)

    1. Pre-orders count, because they are not actually shipped until the day of release. What’s happening here is that the books are being bought and shipped before the official release date, so they don’t count.

      1. Okay, so I had the basic idea right. So it’s Amazon causing problems, and not the people who pre-ordered in good faith.

        (Not, of course, the OTHER people Seanan described: no good faith there whatsoever.)

        Thanks for the clarification.

  2. FYI, the Kindle version is the same price as the dead tree, with this note on the Amazon page: “This price was set by the publisher”.

    The irony is that with publisher set price, Amazon will I believe, make more per copy than if they sold it the preferred lower Amazon price.

    1. Ah, thanks. So people are lobbing every insult they can think of at Seanan because they have to wait just over a week for an ebook that isn’t any cheaper than the paper version. Talk about sense of entitlement.

  3. Surely publishers will account for early releases? I pre-order through The Book Depository, and I get a lot of my pre-orders early in some form. Just recently, Thief’s Covenant and Shadow’s Master (Ari Marmell and Jon Sprunk respectively) have released weeks ahead of schedule, and I can’t see publishers using that “against” an author.

    But yeah, people suck.

    1. The publishers have very little say in it. It is the data collection companies who define how sales are recorded, and it is their records that the buyers at the bookstores will consult when deciding whether to stock Seanan’s next book. As Seanan says in her post, DAW are very supportive of her and will try to make her case, but it will be tough for them. And if she ever falls out with DAW and needs to change publishers, they too will go by what the data companies say.

      1. Well, to put it politely – that’s a load of rubbish (not what you said, but how it works).

        Seems so unfair towards the authors.

        1. It’s important to have a system of monitoring sales that is independent of publishers who, fairly obviously, have incentives to fib about the numbers. There may be practical reasons why it works the way it does.

  4. The sense of entitlement that leads readers to verbally abuse and threaten an author is mind-boggling. This behavior is utterly inappropriate. They should be ashamed or, failing that, publicly flogged.

    I do, however, have a small problem with Seanan’s histronics about the early release. I know the publishing industry well (that’s where we make our living as well). I’d like to point out a few things:

    1)An author’s royalty payment is based on the number of books sold, the timing is unimportant.
    2) When deciding whether to purchase subsequent books (or how much to offer), publishers consider several factors, but largely focus on the total sales, since that’s the number that determines their profit or loss.
    3) Sales velocity (especially first week sales) is most important for determining placement in the best-seller lists. Seanan’s books are very good, and she has a devout following, but looking at her sales figures she’s unlikely to score anywhere near a #1 NYT bestseller, even without the early release.

    The financial damage caused by the early release is probably minimal to nonexistent. Certainly not worth the angst she claims to be suffering. The name calling and threats from readers, however, IS a huge issue. No author should endure that.

    1. It is clear that Seanan is very upset over this, and given the abuse being directed at her I’m prepared to cut her a little slack. Also it seems pretty clear to me that she’s been talking to her publishers about this. If there was nothing to be worried about on the sales data front I’m sure they would have been able to reassure her.

      Also, can we please show a little sense of proportion? Some people are behaving very stupidly. Public flogging, however, does not seem an appropriate response. Indeed, it smacks of histrionics.

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