Today I have an exciting lesson for you on Hugo eligibility rules. It is going to sound complicated, but hopefully it also shows why the Hugos sometimes do weird things.
All of this started with people pointing out to me that Amazon now lists the publication date of the ebook edition of Maresi as January 2016. It used to say November 27th, 2015. The publishers now claim this was a mistake by Amazon and the book wasn’t actually available. I don’t know when the book went on sale there, but I bought a copy on December 23rd, 2015 and I have the sales receipt to prove it.
At the time there was a lot of award stuff going on and I was concerned about the book’s eligibility. I checked US sites (using TunnelBear to make sure I saw what US customers would see), and found that it was not available on Amazon US or Nook. It was apparently available on Kobo, though I didn’t try to buy it.
What I did today was check the copyright page in the book. (I hadn’t looked at it before, it is hidden away at the back for reasons that those of you who sell on Amazon will understand.) There it says that both the copyright date and the publication date are January 2016.
So what does this means for Hugo eligibility? Well, it means that it is a 2016 book, because that’s what the copyright page says.
“But Cheryl”, I hear you say, “you bought the book in 2015. It was obviously published then.” And it obviously was, but that’s not how the rules work. The rules say we go by what publication date is printed in the book.
Why do they do this? Well one reason is that in the past publishers have “leaked” copies of a book for special events. There might have been a launch event, or a convention the author was a guest at. In such cases publishers may have made some copies available prior to the official publication date, and that might have been in a previous year. That’s not quite the same as making the book available in online stores, but it was clearly something that needed a rule.
In addition, on sale dates are really hard to prove. As we have seen, publication dates listed on Amazon are not reliable either. They can get changed. The one thing that can’t get changed is a date printed in a book. So as far as paper is concerned it is much easier for the Hugos to go by that clear printed evidence than worry about proving where and when a book was available for sale, and who could buy it.
Of course in this case it is entirely possible that the book on my Kindle has been updated by Amazon without my knowledge, because they can do that sort of thing. However, there’s no way of knowing if that has been done, so I can only assume that it hasn’t.
So, much to my relief, Maresi will be eligible for the Hugos in 2017, not this year. Apologies to any Finnish friends who changed their ballot. Fortunately you can change it back easily.
Complicated, this stuff, isn’t it?