Of Germans and Sheep

This won’t mean much to anyone but me, but on the other hand it’s my blog. So: I think it’s very cool that in the now three full months since the German version of The Android’s Dream has been out, it’s not once dropped out of the Amazon.de top ten list for science fiction. Indeed, at this very moment (10:38pm eastern time, 4/5/09) it’s at number two on the list. That’s some pretty cool longevity.

Bear in mind that the Amazon.de ranking system works like any other Amazon ranking system — which is to say, it only tells you how the book is doing relative to other books in the system, not what unit sales are. But I’ve also chatted with my German publishers, who tell me the unit sales have been quite healthy as well — it’s selling better than the English language version of TAD did at the same point in its sales cycle, which is saying something considering the US has four times the population. Which again makes me pretty damn happy.

As I’ve said before, I’m quite fond of this particular book, which is often overshadowed by the OMW series, so  it’s nice to see TAD get its moment in the sun, even if it had to go to Germany to get it. And if nothing else, when I get around to finishing The High Castle, I know it will sell in at least one foreign market. So thanks, Germany. Really glad you like the book.

28 thoughts on “Of Germans and Sheep

  1. german, as a language, is very flexible about joining nouns into new words as needed. so join the words for ‘android’ and ‘dreams together and presto! new book title, as needed!

    the occasional result of these conjoined words are some truly epic-length words that might as well could be a sentence in english.

    here’s an example:

    Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft

    yes, that’s one word. yes, it has 79 letters. it means ‘association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services’.

    google for ‘long german words’ and you’ll find some other examples easily enough. i wish i remembered the various gramatical whys and whatnots, but it’s been a few decades since i’ve kept up with my german and grammar (not my favorite thing to begin with) was the first thing my mind threw overboard. :)

  2. Congrats, Mr. Scalzi! I thoroughly enjoyed the book (in English, I’m sorry to say) when I read it a couple of months ago.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed TAD. One of those books that I just had to keep turing pages until I hit the back cover.

    Can I haz The High Castle yet?

  4. I don’t get it.
    “how the book is doing relative to other books in the system, not what unit sales are.”
    What does that mean? How do you measure ‘how the book is doing’ if not through unit sales?

  5. Pretty sure what John meant was that Amazon only ranks books according to their Amazon sales/popularity figures per category – so being second on a hypothetical Amazon category could mean zip if the top book only sells a dozen copies a year.

    You could still boast about “#2 in Amazon category [x]”, but you’re still not doing great in terms of actual sales.

  6. One of the big factors in your sales being better proportionally in Germany than in the States is probably the dearth of decent SF in the German market. The SF/F section of the typical large German bookstore consists of roughly 30 meters of shelf space. At least half of that will be fantasy. Most of the rest will be given over to media tie-ins (Star Trek, Star Wars) and a meter or so of Perry Rhodan (*shudder*). So when anything decent comes along, it gets snapped up fast.

    @Kurt: While that word does make sense, it is also rather invented. It is rare to encounter something like that in the wild. OTOH since the spelling reforms a few years ago, it would now be written …dampfschifffahrt… (with three fs), so now 80 letters.

  7. Ah, yes…the spelling reform. When they forced it onto the public, my old local newspaper called it “state-mandated dyslexia”.

  8. while I realize the TAD does get overshadowed by the OMW books, it was the first book of yours that I read. I found it at our local library, vaguely remembered your name from internet references here and there, liked the description and jacket copy, so I checked it out.

    I read it very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then went to our local bookstore and found OMW and enjoyed it as well. Then I came to the website and have become a big Scalzi fan. It’s all good, folks.

    and while I can’t speak for the current books, the old-school Perry Rhodan that was reprinted by Ace Books back in the 70’s were very important to a lot of SF readers. I admit that when I go back, I can’t read them quite as enthusiastically as I once did, but they definitely served their purpose as a gateway drug.

  9. Two thoughts:

    – This nice little chart run should help out the Book’s self-esteem, shouldn’t it?

    – I took a German class in college, and I thought some of those long words were nice tongue twisters. I was never able to properly pronounce 555 (something like funfhundertfunfundfunfzig)

  10. Maybe this says something about Germans. Do they like flatulence and quasi-bestiality more than Americans? Who knows?
    Anyway, congrats! I enjoyed Android’s Dream as much as OMW. May it continue on top.

  11. I’m always sorry that TAD gets overshadowed by the OMW universe, since it’s far and away my favorite of your books (and I really liked the OMW books). Of course, I also much prefer Charlie Stross’ Bob Howard books to his Singularity stuff, so maybe I’m just contrary.

    If I could put an Amazon preorder on “The High Castle,” I would do so right now; it’s one of the two sequels (along with the third book in Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin universe) that I’m most looking forward to reading.

  12. Glad to hear that. I’m from Germany and I loved “Androidenträume”. It’s even better than the OMW series.

    I guess it must have been the hardest book to translate, as jokes tend to be not translatable. But it was very well done, nothing to nag. The ability to join nouns may seem odd, and most of the extreme examples are never really used. But “Androidenträume” has a nice touch to it. It made the name of the sheep’s race sound like some kind of trademark name.

    One of the reasons that Android’s Dream is selling so well over here might be that there ain’t a lot of competition in the book shell. There are few publisheres specialized in SF (as I understand Tor is), but they are so small that you won’t even find them in a store. The bookstores don’t want to take the risk of placing those books in their store, they don’t expect them to pay off. So you only get them by ordering.
    Then there the really big players, like Heyne, the german publisher of Android’s Dream. But they have a large portfolio and don’t publish more than half a dozen SF books per year.

    So, a book published by one of the big publishers is sure to get attention, if it’s as good as Android’s Dream, it really hits the top ten.

  13. Maybe this was stated earlier and I missed it, but are the titles in this series some sort of tribute to Phillip K Dick? The Androids Dream sounds like Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? and The High Castle sounds like The Man in the High Castle.

  14. Recently finished Android’s Dream. Before that I could be considered one of those whiners who wanted nothing but OMW (only I had the sense not to whine out loud).

    After finishing Android’s Dream I ran out and got Agent to the Stars.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, at this point, I’ll take any fiction you care to throw in this direction.

    Mor B00ks plz. thks!

  15. Congratulations, John!

    Now get to work on The High Castle, dammit! ;-)

    (One of the main problems I have with writers like Scalzi is that he can’t seem to write as fast as I read.)

  16. I LOVED The Android’s Dream. I had read OMW first, then read TAD. I liked TAD, but was having trouble fitting it in to my short experience w/the OMW universe. Once I realized TAD really wasn’t set in the same universe as OMW, I started it again and just LOVED the book.

    I’m excited about the sequel, and will take it when John’s done with it, because then I know it will be just as much fun as TAD, if not more so.

  17. Considering that a lot of detail usually gets lost in translation (which I know nowadays having switched from German fantasy and scifi – written by English authors – to the original language) you might want to extend your thanks to the translator of the book.

    Particularly considering they are very badly paid, usually, unless they are literary authors of note themselves (which sometimes happens with translations of literary fiction i.e. “good” books).

    From what I’ve read it’s no different for translators into English, though. I’m grateful I can read and mostly understand the English original these days. Amazon made ordering those much easier and cheaper, whatever other faults its system may have.

  18. @DemetriosX:

    growing up in austria, we kinda had some contact with the various variations of ‘Donaudampfschifffahrtgesellschaft’ (which really existed as a company — my grandmother took trips on their ships.) as kids we would occaisionally try to invent variations that were longer than anyone elses, so yes, in modern times it’s kind of a joke.

    however, as i got older, i encountered quite a few technical and bureaucratic words that just put it to utter shame because they were so utterly complex that most people would just use it’s acronym (yes, acronyms for words. shudder.)

    it’s kinda amusing you mention that german has been reformed to allow for triple letters on a joined word — i distinctly remember getting in trouble in volksschule for using three letters once, only to be chewed out by my teacher. kinda cool that they simplified some of their rules.

  19. it’s selling better than the English language version of TAD did at the same point in its sales cycle, which is saying something considering the US has four times the population.

    And considering that a lot of people (okay, not that many compared to the American market, but anyway) in the rest of the world will buy and read it in English, but few outside the German-speaking countries will buy the German translation of an English novel.

    //JJ

  20. Congrats on Your hit here in Germany. I just feel the need just to name Your translator Bernhard Kempen, who does a remarkable job in translating Your novels. You could have come off worse (or is “come up”? … You see what I mean)

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