Today’s Interesting Bit of Trivia

So, I got some data for how Redshirts sold in the last week.

Basically: Between print, electronic and audiobook versions, Redshirts sold roughly two and a half times as many copies in its first week than Old Man’s War sold in its entire first year.

Which is to say, holy crap.

Thanks, folks.

194 thoughts on “Today’s Interesting Bit of Trivia

  1. Grats to you and Athena’s college fund. But I thought OMW was a better book, by a wide margin. It’s tough to find a metric to measure that in objective terms.

  2. Jay Lonner:

    Wow, really? I think you might need a refresher course on when, socially speaking, it’s the best place and time to start ranking how much you like one book relative to another.

  3. I’m happy to have contributed to the sales figures by purchasing both an Audible audio book (which made work much more interesting today) and a hardcover (via a friend in Dayton who got it signed for me!), and am considering an ebook purchase to round out the collection. The desire to own each format is equal parts respect/admiration for you… and OCD.

  4. I loved the hell out of the book, so much so that it displaced the ARC I was supposed to review this week and took pride of place on my blog. The only downside is, having bought it as an ebook, I will now have to buy another copy in print just to make sure I can get one signed someday. Just a fantastic read.

  5. I’d really prefer it if you measured your sales in terms of how much coke zero (in hogsheads, obviously) you could buy with the royalties.

    Congrats.

  6. the hardcover copy of “old man’s war” you autographed last year sits in the center of my bookshelf…
    between heinlein and westerfeldt…

  7. Great to hear the book’s selling well! I grabbed an ebook version. The only problem with it is that I’m going to have to bring my copy of Agent to the Stars to Uncle Hugo’s for you to sign instead of Redshirts. Or maybe Judge Sn goes Golfing. Looking forward to seeing what Uncle Hugo’s has lying around in small press/non-ebook stuff, too. (If they’re going to host, I figure they should get some of my business.)

  8. Actually, therein lies a question: what’s your current appearance format (reading only, reading plus signing, etc.) and what works well for you and for your gracious hosting bookshops for fans who want to show up, see you in appearance, but who have already purchased an e-copy of the book. Yes, it’s been way too long since I’ve attended one of these.

  9. Congrats! And also, my copy is Redshirts is the first novel I’ve ever purchased in eBook format, since I couldn’t wait the 12 extra hours to buy the dead-tree version. :D

  10. Excellent! Congratulations, John!
    I’d be interested to see how your book sales have increased over the years, say book-by-book. Steady increase? Exponential? Have there been bumps with certain changes in social media, like the advent of Twitter? That’s how I discovered your work. I think I followed Phil Plait first, which led me to Wil Wheaton, which led me to you, then I read all your novels.
    Speaking of social media driving sales, I hope that guy who read Shadow War of the Night Dragons on YouTube is getting a kickback. That had to sell a few books for you.

  11. Hey, there’s that mortgage thing, all taken care of. Makes us happy. Onward.

  12. After I read your first couple of chapters on Tor I could not wait to purchase Redshirts. However, imagine how disappointed I was when I could only get it later in the year as I live in South Africa. Even the ebook version, which did not make sense to me because it is an ebook. Eventually, I did get an ebook version from B&N, but because I reside in South Africa I had to ‘borrow’ a random US address in order to fulfil B&N’s criteria to purchase an ebook. I did want a kindle format version but Amazon’s website could detect that I was from South Africa and only the November ebook version was available. Why is the ebook version not made available worldwide considering there are no physical constraints that may apply for the hardcopy version?

  13. Congratulations on that. I guess the only real question now is the title theme for the sequels. Do you go with colors (Blueshirts, Vol 2 in the Redshirts series, Goldshirts, Vol 3…) or clothing (Redpants…Redhats….with of course the limited edition vignettes Redboxers, Redbriefs, Red…..

  14. I’m in the middle of it (well, not quite middle) and because I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll just say that at 31% of the way through (yes, it’s on the kindle), it’s laugh-out-loud funny and well deserves the impressive sales figures. It was amusing before that point, but now it’s a riot. I didn’t see it coming, and it’s glorious. Thank you.

  15. Claudio Morais asks: “Why is the ebook version not made available worldwide considering there are no physical constraints that may apply for the hardcopy version?”

    This question gets asked all the time. Not surprising, since it is in fact a perverse outcome of inputs which, considered individually, don’t necessarily seem perverse.

    The entity that published REDSHIRTS last week, Tor Books, has the exclusive right to sell the book in the English language in the US, Canada, and the Philippines, and a non-exclusive right to sell it in English in all other countries of the world–_excluding_ the UK and a long list of Commonwealth and former-Commonwealth countries. A list which includes South Africa.

    John and his agent could have sold us the “World English” package of rights, which would entitle us to publish the book in English everywhere–we would certainly have been willing to offer for that–but instead they opted to take the slightly riskier path of selling us rights only in our core market, reserving the “UK-and-a-bunch-of-Commonwealth-and-former-Commonwealth-countries” package to themselves, in order to try to sell it separately to a British publisher. (This is a slightly riskier path for most genre writers who aren’t top-level New York Times bestsellers, because British publishers don’t really buy very much SF and fantasy from the US below that sales level. This wasn’t always the case but it certainly is now.) After a period during which I imagine John’s agent shopped the book around to various British publishers (I don’t know the details because it’s, literally, not my business), they accepted an offer from Gollancz. However, that deal was concluded just a month or two ago, so it was vanishingly unlikely that Gollancz was going to get their edition out simultaneously with ours. I believe their edition is scheduled for November.

    (Footnote here: An exact inverse of this situation is why Tor’s edition of Hannu Rajaniemi’s debut novel THE QUANTUM THIEF appeared in May 2011, several months after Gollancz’s edition in September 2010.)

    The more interesting question you ask is: Why can you, in South Africa, buy a copy of the US REDSHIRTS hardcover from (for instance) bn.com in the US, but you can’t buy the US e-book edition? Why do online retailers pay attention to your address and credit card when assessing your eligibility to buy an e-book, while being willing to ship any edition of any print book anywhere?

    The answer is a little arcane, but bear with me. The fact of the matter is that, when it comes to traditional printed books, neither the retail booksellers nor their customers (that’s you) are party to the contracts between John and his various publishers. Our contract with John says that _we_ won’t sell our editions of his book outside the territories in which John grants us exclusive and non-exclusive rights. Gollancz’s contract with John says that _they_ won’t sell their editions of his book outside the territories in which John grants them exclusive and non-exclusive rights. But if Amazon buys a bunch of copies in the US and someone in South Africa says “Hi, here’s my credit card, send me one,” no contractual agreement has been violated. Amazon owns those books, not us. They can do what they want with them, including selling them to people in South Africa, Shropshire, or the moons of Jupiter. Amazon is not John Scalzi, Tor, or Gollancz. You are not John Scalzi, Tor, or Gollancz.

    (Another footnote: It has been perfectly possible and legal for regular people in the US to buy British editions for decades longer than the Internet has existed. For years one of the absolutely standard ads in the back pages of the NEW YORKER was a little panel ad offering “BRITISH BOOKS BY PHONE.” There’s nothing new about this.)

    But the agreements under which online retailers sell our e-books include restrictions, imposed by us, which require them to keep track of where orders are coming from, and require them to refuse to sell to individuals who seem to be trying to purchase from outside the areas in which we have the right to sell. Effectively, in this case, Amazon (or bn.com, or Apple, or Kobo, or whoever) _is_ a party to our agreement which John. So they can’t sell you that e-book, because we don’t have the right to sell copies in South Africa.

    (Two footnotes. First, yes, everyone knows that there’s a limit to how thoroughly anyone can police these restrictions. Get a VPN connection that makes you look like you’re online from a country where we have the rights, and a credit card with a US or Canadian address, and you can probably buy the ebook with no problem. Second, the agreements I referred to concerning ebook sales, between us and the online ebook retailers, have nothing in particular to do with any current arguments over “agency models” versus other models of ebook retailing. These restrictions were in place before the “agency model” and they’re in place now.)

    Does this sound like a lot of bullshit gobbledegook? Probably. Is it true? Absolutely. Did it happen because everyone rolled out of bed one morning and said “Let’s make global ebook retailing baroquely complicated, because annoying our customers is fun”? No. Does the book industry need to be rethinking how it handles this stuff? Yep. Is it? I think it’s starting to. Meanwhile, you wanted to know why–and that long explanation is the “why.”

  16. Brilliant! also thanks to P Nielsen Hayden for the very thorough post which helps me endure with patience the 5 months before I can get a UK e-book…. BTW, do pre-orders count in the ‘sold’ total?

  17. @My Author, I mean, @John Scalzi: CONGRATS, wowzer! Once I get time to read my copy, I’ll probably get the audiobook, too; I’m weird in mostly listening to books I’ve already read (sometimes months or years later). WW did a bang-up job with Agent to the Stars; I’m sure he did great with this, too.

    @pnh: Thank you so much for explaining. I knew much of this, but people keep asking, and you rock at detailing how the industry works, how it got there, admitting how odd certain odd things are, etc. :-) It’s great to have a comment like this that puts it all together. I wish everyone on the ‘net who kept asking these Qs would come read your comment (and then not leave the inevitable cranky reply that ebooks bring out in people). ;-)

  18. @pnh Thanks for the explanation. Not that the world seems a more logical place than before, but i appreciate that you care.

    If i may ask a question about book sales: Are sales beyond Amazon more than marginal?

    From the logic they must be. Because otherwise Gollancz would end up on the loosing side. They will not sell many hardcopies through Amazon in November, since Amazon is selling that book already.

    On the other side, all SF&F fans i know are card carrying members of the Anonymous Amazionians (usually going into delirium tremens if they don’t place at least one order per day) and haven’t seen a bookstore from the inside in a decade.

    P.S. Kudos to Tor for DRM move!

  19. How nice to see the actual explanation. I’ve ready John Scalzi’s dead-tree based books and enjoyed them immensely, now I’m all electron configured I guess I’ll have to wait a while to get Red Shirts here in UK.
    While I understand the rules and such, and will wait for the new book to appear over here, it doesn’t mean I’m actually happy about it. Roll-on real global markets for this kind of service/data/works of pure pleasure.

  20. Is Germany on the exclusion list? It doesn’t seem to fit with Commonwealth and former-Commonwealth countries, and I think there were people saying they couldn’t buy it from Germany. If Germany is one of the places Tor has non-exclusive rights, is it possible that Amazon is excluding more countries than they need to?

  21. @pnh: Thanks. Last time I checked, though, neither Germany nor Czech Republic (two of I suspect many countries where we know the novel isn’t sold as ebook) were in Commonwealth, ever.

    So why, if as you say Tor does in fact have non-exclusive rights for World-minus-Commonwealth, don’t you sell the book in these territories? I don’t mind the wait as such (with my unread books backlog…), but I do mind the principle and I do mind that the edition that will eventually be available will not be the Tor one (US English, DRM free), but the UK one.

  22. @Ruth: Nope, can’t be Amazon’s fault, the book isn’t available in iBookstore either and the publishers have per-country control of availability there.

  23. @pnh That is actually a significantly less labyrinthine jumble of contracts than I’d imagined. Thanks for the explanation. One thing I’m missing, though: you seem to imply that the only actors responsible for these restrictions are Tor, John, and his agent. Yet you also seem to imply that all these parties wish it were different. Am I missing something?

  24. @PNH I wonder how global e-book rights would affect paper rights… More specifically, would you buy the “US” paper rights to a book that you wouldn’t get the e-rights to (,i.e. a book someone already had world e-book rights to)? And also would you buy world e-book rights to a book if it meant you had to buy world paper rights too?

  25. @vx: If they try to sell the book in some EU countries but not others, then the EU will probably (eventually) get around to outlawing the sale or purchase of regional rights that don’t treat the EU as a single entity. They’re really not keen on people erecting artificial trade barriers to internal EU transactions. And then the rights will simply become “EU and Commonwealth” instead of “UK and Commonwealth”.

  26. @james: where did @pnh imply that Tor wished things were different? He said specifically that the territorial restrictions on e-books were imposed by Tor (and other publishers). I imagine that’s precisely because otherwise those exclusive rights they fought and paid for would drop precipitously in value.

  27. @marcos: True. I think I probably read his into personal preference for change an institutional preference at Tor that doesn’t exist. One would hope that a forward-thinking company like Tor, which is on the same DRM wavelength as its customers, at least, would be on the same e-distro page as us as well.

  28. The question remaining after PNH’s comments, is “so what are publishers doing to address the situation?”. The situation is just as messed up for recorded music, dvds, sheet music, magazines, comics, games and other publications. Most of these industries have been sitting on their hands for a decade moaning about the situation, pointing at piracy and at the same time gleefully locking down many of the means of legally buying books, music and movies across markets.

    PNH wrote: “Does the book industry need to be rethinking how it handles this stuff? Yep. Is it? I think it’s starting to.”

    Not terribly heartening words, and in the meantime the publishing industry is losing a generation or two of buyers.

  29. It would seem that an obvious solution to this problem is to sell world-wide english rights for an ebook is sold either exclusively to a single publisher (since world-wide ecommerce doesn’t have the same physical restrictions as shipping dead trees across oceans), or non-exclusively to multiple publishers. Is there a reason why this isn’t being pursued? I don’t know much about how these rights negotiations are conducted and how they are packaged up, but I imagine that such a simple, obvious solution isn’t being followed for good business reasons (even if it does make the readers life harder).

    Also, if DRM was removed from the picture, would that allow a 3rd party retailer to be able to sell copies without having to involve the publisher? Their contract would have to be revised so that they are the ones obligated to impose conditions on the reader, but at least technically there wouldn’t have to be a transaction between the reader, the retailer, and the publisher’s DRM server…

  30. @weirdmage: You ask

    “More specifically, would you buy the “US” paper rights to a book that you wouldn’t get the e-rights to (,i.e. a book someone already had world e-book rights to)? And also would you buy world e-book rights to a book if it meant you had to buy world paper rights too?”

    As a publisher myself, I would not wish to split print and ebook rights in the same territory and in fact our policy is never to buy one without the other. I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where our edition of a book was competing with a different edition of the same book. I don’t think it’s something that authors and agents wish to do, either, as it seems counterproductive.

    That said, there are precedents for splitting the hardback and paperback rights – I believe Roald Dahl is split between Penguin and Random House in the UK purely on format. But that’s done much less often these days and is a slightly different situation (you can argue that hardbacks don’t compete with paperbacks, for example, whereas ebooks clearly compete with paperbacks.)

  31. I think Tor can’t really change things here, though. Gollancz has the territorial rights to the UK; it’s really them that are losing the most money if Tor chooses to make their books freely available as e-books across the world. Thus John (‘s agent) presumably negotiated a contract with Tor that required this. Tor would undoubtedly happily sell a copy to the commonwealth people, as PNH noted earlier. That said, they do have an interest in maintaining the ‘exclusive’ bit, in general (for other books, including those like Dream Thief that they stood to lose a lot of money on if you could buy it from the UK).

  32. @Mike Scott: The UK publishers haven’t done a sterling job in servicing Australia in many years, so I think that authors should feel free to select one for USA, Australia, Tahiti and the moon if that’s what works best. The “Commonwealth” is about as useful a concept for distribution issues as the Mason-Dixon line, and the UK has been much more focused on the EU over the last decade anyway.

    The EU has done nothing effective about price or access discrepancies (due to geolocation locks) across its member states in respect of say the iTunes or Amazon stores.

  33. vx asks: “@pnh: Thanks. Last time I checked, though, neither Germany nor Czech Republic (two of I suspect many countries where we know the novel isn’t sold as ebook) were in Commonwealth, ever. So why, if as you say Tor does in fact have non-exclusive rights for World-minus-Commonwealth, don’t you sell the book in these territories?”

    Yes, obviously, exclusive English-language rights in Germany aren’t traditionally sold along with the UK-and-etcetera package of territories. Like the rest of the Continent, New York and London publishers generally treat Germany as part of the “open market” — which is to say, we both get to sell our English-language editions there. (Non-Europeans who are reading this: Don’t laugh, lots of English-language books get sold all over Europe. Go into the big bookstore at Rome’s main train station, walk upstairs, and look at the half-acre of English-language books.)

    But it was brought to my attention just last week that amazon.de defaults to selling the UK ebook of at least one of my other titles, instead of giving customers the choice of the UK ebook or Tor’s (perfectly well available right now!) ebook. And a quick check on amazon.de tells me that it’s telling customers for the English-language ebook of REDSHIRTS to wait until the UK edition is released in November.

    I don’t know what the story is with this, but I’ll certainly try to find out. It may be that the US side of Macmillan doesn’t have all its details worked out with amazon.de — this is possible; the various versions of Amazon have some autonomy from one another, necessitated by the different legal and regulatory regimes in which they operate. At any rate, I can certainly tell you that it’s not because Tor is _refusing_ to sell the ebook in Germany. While some people often seem to be be under the impression that we lounge around at our desks, lighting our cigars with $100 bills, and cackling over not making books available to people who want to give us money for them, in fact this happens fairly rarely.

  34. weirdmage asks: “Would you buy the ‘US’ paper rights to a book that you wouldn’t get the e-rights to (,i.e. a book someone already had world e-book rights to)?”

    It’s very unlikely.

  35. well somehow the “how does this apply to Germany and other EU countries which are not Commonwealth or former Commonwealth” is still not answered. There’s a theory by “Mike Scott” above which _might_ answer it but I have doubts and would have preferred to have a definitive answer to that question from PNH himself.

    Somehow, it bothers me to get told “look, here’s your answer” and then another (albeit interesting) question is answered (in an interesting way) but my own question is left unanswered. Well. Hmm. Probably the problem is that there was no specific promise regarding an answer to my question even though our hosts tweet just now could have been interpreted that way (“Why the Redshirts ebook is not currently legally available in some countries”).

    Well I’ll wait. Maybe we’ll get an answer at some stage.

  36. Is there any way that US military forces stationed abroad can buy ebooks? Do they need a stateside address, or is their APO/FPO address sufficient?

  37. I’m glad it’s selling very well- I enjoyed it, very much, and have infected a couple of co-workers with the virus.

  38. a note for PNH re amazon.de and the availability of UK vs US ebooks:
    there is another interesting parallel example, namely the new Laundry book by Charles Stross, where the reverse is true, i.e. amazon.de is offering the US version and not the UK version (in this case Germany getting the book earlier than the UK). Different publishers though, but still, it doesn’t just seem to be a by-country thing where Germany ALWAYS gets lumped in with the UK, it seems to be amazon-to-publisher specific (all the other sellers mentioned on the tor ebook-sellers list are out of the picture because they flat out refuse to sell to ANYONE who doesn’t have a US billing address and a credit card with a US billing address).

  39. Marcos writes: “Where did @pnh imply that Tor wished things were different? He said specifically that the territorial restrictions on e-books were imposed by Tor (and other publishers). I imagine that’s precisely because otherwise those exclusive rights they fought and paid for would drop precipitously in value.”

    Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. English-language publishers in both New York and London all have an interest in pushing the frontiers of where their books can sell. One of the things that reigns us in is authors and their agents. In other words, we don’t actually profit from requiring Amazon US to refuse to sell our e-book to someone in the UK. But John does, because it makes the UK rights package more saleable.

    Jorenko answers Marcos: “I think I probably read his into personal preference for change an institutional preference at Tor that doesn’t exist.”

    To be clear, I’m speaking for myself and my own opinions, which generally boil down to “The traditional division-of-territories model is increasingly dysfunctional, particularly for authors who have a platform with global reach.” But I know I’m not alone at Tor in believing this, and I know I’m not the only person at Macmillan pondering what might be done about it.

    Yes, everything that’s showing its age should be fixed immediately. I’d like that, and also a pony.

  40. Mike Williams writes: “PNH wrote: ‘Does the book industry need to be rethinking how it handles this stuff? Yep. Is it? I think it’s starting to.’ Not terribly heartening words, and in the meantime the publishing industry is losing a generation or two of buyers.”

    People like you are why people like me rarely post explanations like this. Fortunately, I don’t actually care whether you’re “heartened” or not; I’m busy trying to actually deal with the problems.

  41. Another reason people like me rarely wade into discussions like this is that we get yelled at for not answering questions WHEN WE’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF TYPING A LONG ANSWER. Jesus Christ, people, were you raised in a barn?

  42. in grand old democratic style I say it is time to spread the wealth! Let’s have something like a 10 or 20 book give away!

  43. @PNH and @iocounu Thanks for your answers.
    -Would seem like world e-book rights would mean less paper editions available then. Or at least those who prefer paper (, who are still in the majority as far as I know,) would have to buy more expensive import editions.

  44. Mike Williams: “In the meantime the publishing industry is losing a generation or two of buyers.”

    Oh, malarkey.

    Sorry, but this irritated me too. The publishing industry is doing no such thing, as anyone who thinks about it for two seconds will realize. If you’re going to make up cod expertise about publishing, could you please do a better job of it?

    Thank you.

  45. John – I’m totally loving my hard copy of ‘Redshirts’, and have recommended it on Facebook. Several times, and will recommend it again. I’m currently kinda housebound, taking care of my mom 24-7, so I don’t get out much. But I’m doing my part to push it! I’ll get the e-book, too, ’cause I loves me some Wil Wheaton reading a book. Thanks for continuing to produce stuff I love to read!

  46. As for the PNH comment. It confirmed my understanding of the issue. Ultimately it comes down to greed and money. Which is fine, no one works for free. Writing books, publishing them etc is like any other business, they want to make money. Greed is good.

  47. @Weirdmage – When we buy world rights in anything, we tend to sell them on to a local publisher – so I buy world rights, publish it myself in the UK, and sell US rights to a US publisher. It often comes to the same thing as if the agent retained rights and sold them on to that US publisher themselves, except that in the former case I feel there’s generally more chance of getting a simultaneous or close-to-simultaneous release.

    The reality of publishing in print, and to a slightly lesser but still significant extent in digital, is that it really helps to have boots on the ground in the territory you’re selling into. You can’t really manage US publication from London.

  48. It’s certainly true that the statement “$MEDIAINDUSTRY is losing $BIGNUM sales due to being totally NOT HIP LIKE ME” is almost always arguably true, and almost never useful. “Comrades! The Bureau has determined your output is suboptimal! Production must be increased to the levels mandated by Gosplan!”

    Put another way, if there were never any unexploited opportunities, business would be boring. The fact that book publishing isn’t perfectly optimized is one of the reasons it’s interesting to work in.

    And speaking of work, I actually have to go to it, so I won’t be online for at least an hour from this post.

  49. Congratulations on the 1st week sales. It must be gratifying. One appealing feature of REDSHIRTS for me was that it was a shorter book. My reading time is limited these days. Having a good book that I can get through quickly is an advantage. The upward trend in novel size has cut some authors almost completely out of my library.

    @PHN Thank you for the explaination. It makes sense that when an author/agent tries to optimize their profit across several markets that it increases complexity.

    I assume that the revenue losses due to “I can’t wait” e-book piracy are small relative to the gains made by having separate publishers, or does that calculus even play into the decision?

    Interesting topic. Thanks for giving us a peek into the publishing world.

  50. I think the industry has to look at the problem through the other end of the looking glass. Don’t restrict sales of ebooks. Why would you ever turn away a buyer? Instead, sell the books to whoever wants to buy them — and send the resulting revenue to whichever publisher owns the rights to sell to that buyer. If no publisher has bought the rights, send the revenue to the author’s agent. Extra work? Sure, but once it is set up the extra admin is trivial. It is technically relatively easy to do — any of the current major distributors of ebooks has software that could administer it.

    It increases sales (because some sales are currently being lost) without significantly. Nobody loses.

    Longer term, the whole concept of regional rights sales makes no sense. The logical way of slicing the book rights pie is language rights, not regional rights.

  51. Hey PNH – I wanted to make a comment re: the book design – jacket, cloth and end papers. As someone who notices these things, I wanted to compliment the designers on the design of the book jacket, cloth and end papers. The actual colors of the book cloth & end papers meld very nicely with the book jacket. So good job packaging a really good, fun book!

    (I have marketing and design friends – it rubs off.)

  52. @Greg – whenever you see a long-standing industry-wide problem which appears to have an easy and technically-trivial fix, consider the possibility that it is more complicated to deal with than you suspect.

  53. @iucounu I understand rights and subrights. But as PNH commented to me earlier, it’s “very unlikely” he’d buy paper rights to a book he wouldn’t get e-book rights to. So would you then be selling e-book rights to the US too? And wouldn’t that mean it would go against the author’s best interest to even sell world rights to you in the first place?
    Or to put it another way, could a publishing world where world rights became common “force” you to open a US division?

  54. Thank you John and @pnh for the detailed, enlightening response. Really enjoying Redshirts.

  55. Congrats on the sales, John, and well-deserved. Anyone who hasn’t bought and (figuratively) devoured the book by now is obviously a poopyhead.

    @ iucounu: Near as I can tell, easy and technically-trivial fixes tend to leave out one particular complication: humans. (E.g. any economic theory that takes the idea of “rational actors” any more seriously than the idea of “perfectly spherical elephants” in physics.)

  56. Totally deserved. You gave a GREAT reading last night at Vroman’s, in Pasadena. I counted over 70 people in the audience, who were all smiling and applauding. One wearing an official Redshirts red shirt, others wearing generic red shirts.. You got so much applause for mentioning Feynman and Hawking (as to what’s wrong with Red Matter) that you noted there must be a lot of Caltech people in the audience. Thanks for autographing Redshirts for my son. And anyone in Southern California who did NOT go see you in Pasadena: Go to Burbank today! Look forward to seeing you again at San Diego Comic-Con.

  57. As an FYI to people in Germany, Kobo is currently willing to sell me the ebook and I have a German credit card and German IP address. (I word it like that because I’m actually sitting in China but my computer is deluded and thinks it’s in Germany).

  58. @weirdmage “So would you then be selling e-book rights to the US too? And wouldn’t that mean it would go against the author’s best interest to even sell world rights to you in the first place?”

    Yes, we’d sell ebook rights with print rights. Publishers generally don’t want to split them, as I’ve said. the question of whether an author is better off letting their publisher sell overseas rights vs. letting their agent sell them – well, it depends. We’d pay more up front for world rights, and there’s no guarantee of selling coeditions, so it can be less risky. Also, publishers have very effective foreign rights teams, and for some books they’re going to be best at selling them. For example, I worked at a place once where there was a six-strong rights team with twelve foreign languages between them – they were excellent and very successful. There are all sorts of pros and cons, and it’s up to the publisher to make a pitch as to why on balance it’s right for a given book and author.

  59. Congrats John. May the tale be high and last long.

    Patrick, thanks for your explanations here.

  60. People in the UK *could* order a physical book from the US, but the shipping costs and customs bills mean we’re unlikely to do it unless it’s a book we can’t get any other way. It’d basically triple the cost of the book – not something that’s really sensible when we can get it in six months without all of those expenses.

    I just hope I can avoid spoilers that long. :(

    @PNH: Thanks for all of the insider information. It’s greatly appreciated. It still sucks having to wait, but it sucks slightly less with an explanation as to why.

  61. @Happy

    In the UK you would be paying for shipping, but you wouldn’t be paying customs bills. There’s no VAT on books in the UK. If the package is properly labeled it’ll go straight through.

  62. I’m curious about that rethinking you mentioned, Patrick. It’s hard for me to imagine any system that wouldn’t have this problem, and that publishers, authors, readers, and retailers would tolerate. The three or four alternate models that I’ve thought of all have obvious flaws. Maybe that means I don’t have a good enough imagination.

  63. “we don’t actually profit from requiring Amazon US to refuse to sell our e-book to someone in the UK. But John does, because it makes the UK rights package more saleable.”

    So, unlike book cover design, price, printing errors, ebook formatting issues, publication date, book tour appearance location, and the numerous other issues that John (or, admittedly, other writers) so often tell us to blame the publishers and not the authors for, in the particular case of me not yet being able to buy a Redshirts ebook in the UK, I can blame John? Cool! (This is the point I feel the etiquette of complaining about ebooks demands that I should promise never to buy a John Scalzi book ever again… but that would be a lie.)

  64. @TNH + @PNH who disliked my comments:

    @PNH: I asked first, what is being done to address the issue of territorial divisions? You didn’t answer that and then threw it back to me under an ad hominem. That’s basically like the record industry has behaved since napster came on the scene.

    @TNH: You don’t believe publishing is losing a generation of buyers? (And note I didn’t say it was “lost”). I look at so many younger friends who don’t pay for music, movies and now rarely ever for any written media (books, magazines, …) because they have it all for free and have always done so, simply because that’s the way it has been since they first sat down at a computer.

    If you have some expertise about publishing then answer the questions.

  65. @Greg “Instead, sell the books to whoever wants to buy them — and send the resulting revenue to whichever publisher owns the rights to sell to that buyer. If no publisher has bought the rights, send the revenue to the author’s agent.”

    This sounds like it would be a bookkeeping nightmare, since whichever entity was in charge of this ( I doubt a retailer would like to spend money to figure out how much money to send to various publishers.) would have to have copies of every author contract for every book sold, since the percentages would change in each contract and within each individual contract based on copies sold, whether the rights were first sale or not, etc.

  66. @PNH, I hope that the publishers manage to get all their ducks in a row, so that e-book lovers will be able to legally get the books they want. but until then I am supposed do live with this annoyance. I’m not holding my breath, though.
    But I have found that not all e-booksellers are created equal where territorial restrictions are concerned, Diesel e-books has Redshirts listed as US only, but Amazon does not. And this is not the only ebook I have been able to buy at Amazon when I have been turned away elsewhere. I rather wonder where that comes from. Are lesser e-bookstores so scared of the Territorial Restrictions police that they automatically slap on restrictions on their own, just to be on the safe side?

  67. and send the resulting revenue to whichever publisher owns the rights to sell to that buyer

    No anti-trust implications in that, at all.

  68. It’s not that complex. The retailer sends the money to a distributor already. The distributor already knows how to disburse the funds for each title. It adds one relatively small layer of complexity for the distributor. And anyway, not many books are governed by more that three contracts, and most have only one (or none).

    It isn’t a theoretical suggestion. We’re already doing it on a couple of titles and have more in the works.

  69. Mike Williams:

    “You didn’t answer that and then threw it back to me under an ad hominem.”

    Mike, you may be under the impression that you get to choose the conversation you have. You made entirely unsupported statements that reflect only your opinion, couched as if they are fact, and PNH’s ad hominem response to that is not unreasonable given the statement, which (I imagine) he finds ridiculous and indicative that you’ve already decided what you’re going to think about the issue. Not every ad hominem argument is inherently invalid.

    If you want people to respond to questions, try not presenting them couched as if you already know everything. Likewise, if you don’t want people who actually work in the publishing industry and have access to actual data to respond to your anecdotal, unsupported assertions as if they are anecdotal and unsupported, supply supporting data.

    Shorter version: You get what you give.

  70. I don’t think most people realize that authors are not employees of the publishing company. Most people work for someone else and are not business owners. So they may not realize how different it is. John is a small business owner. He has a business contract with TOR. TOR is basically one of his customers and they buy a specific license from him. He does not earn a salary, does not get a W-2, or receive benefits. He only makes money based off of what he sells. So when he sells a license to TOR he does it in a way that will maximize his revenues. Being self employed is very risky. If your product doesn’t sell, you don’t make any money. You do not get a regular pay check. I think publishers generally pay authors twice/year right?

    This is why so much of an authors job is sales. This is why they go to book signings and conventions, and have blogs, and try to be entertaining. It is why you see authors teaching classes and doing other work. They are selling multiple products. When you work for someone, you go to work for that person, do what that person says, and get your pay check.

    I like Patrick’s post, but there are probably quite a few people outside of the book industry who don’t realize this. Most people do not pay attention to how businesses they purchase products from get money. If I go to Walmart, I don’t really care how their sales are doing.

    From Patricks post, I gather that most authors do not make enough money in foreign book sales to be bothered to shop for foreign publishers. So it is easier to sell TOR a broader license. I get the impression that the sales of their books in many countries will not be high enough to warrant publishers there to spend money on advertising, so it is easier to just sell to TOR and get a little more money from them. However, when you are a bestseller, you have more opportunity so it is in your interest to look for publishers who specialize in local markets since they will know how to market your books better. If my impression is incorrect please let me know. From what I have read most authors work for less than they can make at McDonalds.

    I have a question for John. Why is it in your interest to restrict English Language e-book sales in other countries? I can understand why a publisher you sell the writes to in these countries would want that and may pay a little more for it, but I would think you might get more sales if you let people buy your e-books in English from anyone. This way people in that country do not have to wait for a publisher to buy the writes. What about people from countries where you don’t sell writes? My understanding is that book sales are highest when they first come out. If you make people in other countries wait longer, the excitement can fade and you might sell less books.

    This question is from someone who does not know anything about the book industry. I also think if you explain that, people may be less likely to think you suck for not letting them buy your book. I think most people who are mad about the restrictions are mad because they don’t get that you are self employed and that being self employed is MUCH riskier than working for someone (and a lot more work).

  71. Hm. Looks like Redshirts won’t be available to me until October – which probably again means that according to the Book Business, Norway is part of UK-and-etcetera.
    (When did that happen????)

  72. @pnh,

    Thank you for the well-written explanation. I second Kendall’s semi-suggestion “I wish everyone on the ‘net who kept asking these Qs would come read your comment” — any chance of putting a comment like that up as a posting on tor.com? Or posting a link on tor.com to this post on Whatever?

  73. That HarperCollins initiative is interesting. The actual takeaway isn’t that “all HarperCollins books will be available in all formats everywhere,” it’s that (they say) they’re setting up infrastructure that will guarantee that their books will be available in as many formats as possible in all the territories they control all at once on Day 1 of publication.

    It doesn’t say they’ll have worldwide English-language rights to everything they publish, only that they plan to exploit all the rights to they do have as widely and quickly as they can. Which is of course what everyone is trying to do.

  74. I am not paying for the codas — they are the kind of stuff that your estate drags out and sells to the fanboys after you’ve passed on.

    As for the story itself:, great concept, competent writing, weak ending, but the real problem is it wasn’t funny. I chuckled at exactly one remark. This thing should have been laugh out loud funny every other page (If it wasn’t a comedy then there are far, far greater problems here.) I think I was part of your target audience as GalaxyQuest is one of my favorite movies of all time.

    Some people can do comedy, some can’t. Suggest you play to your strengths or find a talented cowriter who can do comedy (and do some unbiased test audiences or something).

    Seriously, I paid a lot for a Kindle book and preordered it as I am sure many others did, so keep in mind that many of your sales are based on your past works, not the strength of this one. Unfortunately, this one is now a past work and will impact future sales.

    There are a couple dozen authors where I preorder everything they do. Having said that, you probably know what’s coming and it sounds harsher than I mean it to but you just fell off the list. I hope you get back on, in time.

  75. @snazster: that’s some epic rudeness, there. “Keep in mind that many of your sales are based on your past works, not the strength of this one. Unfortunately, this one is now a past work and will impact future sales.” Goodness me!

  76. @pnh So the short version is that this is all John’s fault for trying to be an eeviiiilll capitalist and make more money off of his hard work, that punk :) As an aside it’s interesting that in a way people who are upset about the ebook not being released worldwide at the same time are essentially pushing for a global publishing entity over more regional publishers. Pushing out regional publishers strikes me as a bad idea in the long run.

    Also fascinating point about people buying books from England before Amazon. I remember how happy I was when I realized I could buy books from amazon.uk months before they came to the US. Had no idea it was possible before then, wish I had.

  77. @ Greg 11:31 It’s not that complex. The retailer sends the money to a distributor already. The distributor already knows how to disburse the funds for each title. It adds one relatively small layer of complexity for the distributor. And anyway, not many books are governed by more that three contracts, and most have only one (or none).

    What if different publishers have negotiated for different percentages from the author? What if the author’s book is in book of the month club format in some countries and not others? Who gets sued if the distributor screws up? The more books you add, the more complicated it gets.

  78. @ Mike Williams: I am lost. What are you complaining about? The ‘what is the publishing industry doing to rectify’ something? These are competing businesses. My take on this is that John can get more money out of UK and German publishers if he restricts the licenses he sells to TOR. TOR does not specialize in those market so they are not willing to pay John as much money to buy the writes there as he can get from publishers who specialize in those markets. Those publishers know the markets better ,so think they can market the books better and sell more copies. Since they think they can sell more copies of John’s books, they are willing to pay him more money. So he sells to TOR.

    Industries don’t rectify. They don’t work together. Businesses compete. About the only thing I think that could be done would be for the publisher who owns TOR to buy publishers in the UK and Germany. Then offer John and others a more inclusive contract. A lot of large companies more into foreign markets by buying companies their. I don’t know if there are any large international conglomerates in the publishing industry.

    Whenever I see stuff where someone says something like ‘how will the industry rectify’, its clear its posted by someone who does not get how businesses work.

    I don’t get the whole ‘your losing a generation of people because they can steal your work and get it for free’. Not sure how to compete against free other than to hire the same lawyers that the Movie/Music industry has and mass sue people.

    I get the impression that Mike Williams has a history posting comments here. I don’t read comments all that often. Is he one of those guys who want to be able to buy e-books for less money and gets all mad when you are not interested in selling to him? Then goes ‘fine I won’t buy, Ill do without or I’ll download it for free’. Then you go ‘ok see ya’. Then gets all angry because your not mad at the loss of business. These are the guys who clutter book pages on Amazon and Bn.com with negative reviews because the ebook is too expensive. This is rather annoying because I like to check reviews before I read a book and have to sift through this crap.

    BTW, I get the vast majority of my books out of the library. So I don’t really pay for them either. The publishers don’t seem too concerned about me.

  79. John-
    Congratulations on the sales figures. I’m listening to Redshirts now; I love Wheaton’s narration, and the book so far is hilarious. One request, though: can you leave some of the “so-and-so said” bits out? It’s not a huge problem when I read the book, but when I’m listening, dialogue between characters that consist of a lot of short sentences becomes something like

    “Did you see that?” he said.
    “What?” she said.
    “That thing over there!” she said.
    “What thing over there?” he said.
    “That thing with the two sets of jaws, drool like acid, making a hissing sound!” she said.
    “Didn’t see it,” he said.

    When I read it I slide right over it, but when I listen to the narration, it yanks me right out of the story.

  80. Some publishers are now demanding world English rights (including world e-rights) but there’s a catch in this from the writer’s POV. Some writers sell very well in one market zone, but not in the other(s.) When publishers routinely purchased by zone, those publishers with presence across zones also routinely had different writers (with some overlap) in each zone. In this lack of complete overlap, there were “holes” into which new writers could find a niche even without having a worldwide appeal. (Yes, we always hope. But it can take time and many writers have benefited from these openings.

    For a writer moving from national (or zone) to international (or multi-zone) publication, the option to find a publisher local to the new nation (or zone) means, if you’re successful, working with a local publisher who is thoroughly familiar with the local market and thus can tailor the clothes of the book (the cover, the advertising) to suit it. My UK covers look nothing like my US covers, but the books sell and the UK email I get is strongly in favor of the Orbit covers–whereas my US email is in favor of the Del Rey covers. Would either publisher (both with global presence) be as savvy in the market it didn’t start in? Would either be willing to spend the money to produce two completely different physical packages? Maybe. But what the two are doing has worked for me so far. Would the additional sales from immediate global e-book availability make up for the potential loss if a single publisher decided to package the book the same worldwide without regard to local preferences in format, cover, ads? No way to tell. Email complaints on the zone problem are a tiny minority of the email complaints about other things, or the email specifically about the e-books. And again–in midstream, the horse I’m riding hasn’t fallen over and drowned yet, so I’m inclined to stick with what’s working.

    Another potential problem for writers: we are governed by “the numbers”. Bad numbers, no new contract. The exact level of “bad numbers” that means no new contract depends on the secret ruminations of the Nazgul involved (or so we like to believe) and we writers never know quite where the tripwire is. For that reason, I, like some other writers, have concerns about putting our mortgage, health care, and lives of the first through eighth-born into the basket of just one publisher who is handling all our stuff worldwide. With a US and a UK publisher divvying up English rights, if a given book sells like hotcakes in one zone and doesn’t do well in the other, there’s no harm done to the writer’s standing with the publisher who’s making the money…the numbers there are still good. So even if that writer can’t get a new contract with the other publisher, there’s a safety net. But if you averaged a book’s sell-through in the “good” zone with its performance in the “bad” zone, a single publisher might decide that writer had fallen below the yellow line. Bouncing back to regular publication is a lot easier if at least one publisher still wants you, and your books are coming out regularly somewhere.

  81. @Snazster: have to disagree. The codas were an excellent addition to the novel. They are not properly part of the novel, but at the same time answered a few questions that most readers will have at the end–and they are wonderful and beautiful things in themselves, especially the second and third.

    I loved the book, especially the metaness of it all as I love meta. And I found it hilarious but more in a way that made me smile a lot than fall off the chair laughing, except at the part…don’t want to spoil…it was the first mention of a certain gossip blog; when I read that I happened to be having breakfast at McDonald’s because I had 20 minutes to kill between a dentist’s appointment and catching the train to work, and I laughed so hard I attracted offended stares from the collection of elderly folks, obviously regulars, who were loudly discussing Why Obama Sucks And Romney’s No Better. The only thing that could be considered “bad” about it to me is that I keep thinking about how much my late brother, who watched and loved Star Trek from the broadcast of the first episode in 1966 would have loved this book. I’m sad he didn’t have the chance to read it.

  82. I am not paying for the codas — they are the kind of stuff that your estate drags out and sells to the fanboys after you’ve passed on.

    Amazingly, the comment managed to go downhill from here, which I would have thought was impossible.

  83. guessingo: “About the only thing I think that could be done would be for the publisher who owns TOR to buy publishers in the UK and Germany.”

    You might want to spend five minutes on Google looking into who owns Tor.

  84. “Publishing is losing a generation of buyers” is “The Lurkers Support Me In Email” of this kind of conversation.

    Seriously, yes, here in the steel-and-glass headquarters of the World Publishing Conspiracy (our motto: “Destroy All Your Tiny Hopes”), we really do know several things. We know that when reasonable people get told that they can’t buy something for months to come, even though millions of people in other countries can buy it, some of them will feel justified in simply pirating a copy. (Not that any of us have ever experienced these feelings, perish the thought.) We know that it’s a complicated set of problems with a lot of moving parts, and that meanwhile, many customers are quite reasonably baffled and impatient. And we have a pretty good idea of exactly how much piracy there is and what are its primary causes and vectors, and we’re pretty sure that statements like “publishing is losing a generation of buyers” are over the top.

    You want to talk about losing a generation of customers, let’s talk about the destruction of the ID channel of mass-market paperback distribution in the 1990s, driven not by consumer preference but by the internal administrative priorities of a very few giant periodical distributors who were the abruptly-merged heirs of a network of several hundred previously-independent wholesalers and jobbers–a process that was set off by the desire of formerly-regional retail chains to rationalize their purchasing and inventory IT now that they’d gone national. (We’re talking about Safeway, Albertson’s, etc., not Barnes & Noble.) There was a real disaster for US publishing, a meteor impact far worse than the annoyances under discussion here.

    The problems of e-books and territories have a good chance of being solved over the next few years. The damage to American culture and society from losing the kind of paperback mass-market we had from roughly 1950 to 1985, the world in which books of all kinds, literary fiction, important public affairs books, all kinds of books had cheap paperback editions available in grocery stores — is unlikely to be repaired in our lifetimes. But it doesn’t seem to provoke the same level of ire on the internet.

  85. @PNH: regarding the rudeness of the Whatever commentariat: you did notice that the second (!) comment in a thread about the amazing success of this novel was a snarky comment about how it wasn’t as good as the commenter’s prefered book.

    @Scalzi, I loved the book, and unlike Snazster, I thought the ending of the primary novel was fantastic, as it completely cemented what I view as the central point of the entire excercise. Congrats on your well-deserved success.

  86. So am I the only one who is tempted to take a rocket to the “moons of Jupiter” just to see how the Amazon service is for regular paper books?

    PNH, you are da bomb. Thank you for sharing.

  87. Just wanted to say hurray! I’m sure that feels like waking up to a basket of puppies. Puppies that you don’t have to clean up after and that never chew on your favorite shoes. Actually I’m not sure that’s what it feels like, but I bet it’s good.

  88. It was the 4 bumper magnets that sold this book. The brilliance of not mentioning the book (or anything related to it) is the stuff of marketing legend now. And to think, not long ago you could buy one of these things for only $61 on eBay.

  89. Patrick’s response to Mike Williams wasn’t an ad hominem anyway. For it to be an ad hominem, Patrick would have had to assert that Mike’s argument was invalid because of who Mike is, not just expressed annoyance at Mike.

    And Snazster sure isn’t making any friends here.

  90. Very interesting explanation, Mr Hayden.

    Of course, I’m not from the USA or the UK so I get to … handle… this annoyance a lot, and hope for the day that somehow my desire is revealed as a great business plan and somehow there are hordes of me that would be buying ebooks like there is no tomorrow and surviving on cat food because all the shinies I want are just a click away, no “where are you from?” question.

    Bonus points because more or less everybody I know tells me the stupid “Why dont you download them for free then!” when I complain. Doh. Cause I want to GIVE THE AUTHOR AND THE PEOPLE THAT WORKED AT THIS MONEY, THUS MAKING THEM WRITE & PUBLISH MORE OF IT. Also ETHICS.

    Extra bonus points cause I cant really get more books, I’m about to die in an avalanche of dead trees

    But well, the world is not perfect. Yet. Maybe one day the geek bibliophile non American ebook consumer will be revealed as a force to change the world and pave over those reasonable artifacts you explained conspiring to keep me away from your files :-P

  91. Question: is it easier/faster to get errors fixed in e-book editions? I did notice two errors in the version I got through Barnes & Noble. Fairly simple to fix, but both times the error threw me out of the story.

    Overall, I enjoyed the book (story and codas) very much. I hope to get the chance to meet you at a con or a signing someday.

  92. So if I buy an e-copy here in America, and find someone in another country where distribution hasn’t yet started who wants to buy my copy, can I sell it to them? Assume that I’m not trying to pirate anything — I’ve read it, I don’t plan on reading it again, and once I sell it and send it to the buyer, I’ll delete my copy.

  93. bill: That’s an issue with ebooks. I THINK you bought a license, not a true ownership of the item. Some terms of the license permit sharing or lending, but none I’m aware of permit sale. Has that changed?

  94. I dunno. Borland Software used to have a license for Turbo Pascal that was as much like a book as it could be.

  95. The distribution issue sounds really thorny: How do you straighten that out _and_ let authors keep control over their work and how it’s distributed?

    As for retailers selling the book then just debiting the appropriate publisher, I don’t see that working. The text is created by the author, but the publisher turns that into a book, from cover art to font to page breaks. Each publisher creates their own ebook from the author’s text and they’ll want that to be sold under their name. I’m sure Tor thinks their presentation of Redshirts is best for their audience, and they don’t want their brand diminished (and customers peeved over things they didn’t do, it’s enough to deal with the peeves over things they did do,) by delivering a Gollancz book when they’re listed as the publisher.

  96. bill: Sure, the license COULD permit sale, it just doesn’t right now. Most prevent lending as well, but there’s some pressure on the retailers there that has produced a bit of movement.

  97. I’m pretty sure that the answer to whether you can resell an ebook is “its’ complicated”, or maybe “it depends”. Here are some of the things that it depends on. (I’m sure that a good IP lawyer could add to this list):
    - The copyright laws of your country. (The US has “first-sale doctrine”, which is relevant at least to printed copies.)
    - Whether the ebook had DRM, and, if so, what your country’s laws say about DRM. (Redshirts ebooks are sold without DRM, fortunately. If there is DRM, however, US laws forbid DRM circumvention in most circumstances, even to do otherwise legal things.)
    - Whether the transaction in which you paid for the book and got a copy of the book is legally considered a “sale” or a “licensing”. Note that which of those things a court considers it to be is not necessarily the same as which of those things the seller considers it to be.
    - Assuming there was a shrinkwrap or clickthrough license, the details of that license’s terms are relevant.
    - Assuming there was a shrinkwrap or clickthrough license, which of the license’s terms are enforceable is relevant. (Some of these licenses have been tested in court, and some of them have been found to be enforceable. I don’t think anyone can confidently say for sure just what the limits of those licenses are, though.)

  98. DRM doesn’t (of necessity) change your rights to sale of the item. Non-DRM’ed items can and normally do have the same licensing restrictions as DRM’ed, it’s a matter of how hard it is to transfer (not very versus very easy) rather than how legal it is.

  99. I appreciate the responses from people who are making educated guesses. My question, though, is to John and Patrick, who (I hope) can answer definitively.

  100. Congratulations! I bought the Nook version first, but it was because you had a book signing that was relatively local to me (Pasadena) that I bought the hard cover version to be signed for my dad. Also, thank you for signing my Nook last night. The even was a lot of fun (also made me wish I lived close enough to visit Vroman’s regularly –awesome bookstore!). I’m tempted to drive out Burbank tonight, but apparently it takes almost a half a tank of gas to drive out there and back, so I better not…

  101. I don’t think you can expect a definitive answer from anyone. Patrick might be able to give you a definitive answer about the Macmillan legal department’s position, but that’s not quite the question you asked.

  102. I get the distinct impression Snazster doesn’t like metafiction. That’s an entirely valid point of view, although probably more welcome when expressed with more couth than was employed here. Someone who doesn’t care for metafiction probably won’t care for Redshirts.

  103. “I don’t think you can expect a definitive answer from anyone. Patrick might be able to give you a definitive answer about the Macmillan legal department’s position, but that’s not quite the question you asked.”

    Then shame on me for asking poorly, because if Patrick (or John) did answer, I’d take it as a definitive answer to the question I meant to ask.

    And if his answer was “yes” (or something close to it), I’d say that their progressive attitude (as has been expressed by not using DRM) is commendable.

    And if it were “no”, then I’d realize that I’m not really buying anything, but (at best) renting it.

  104. @pnh

    The book market changed from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. On the other hand (especially with eBooks) people buy more books (per person). Books are read quicker, customers expect instant availability. Publishers need to go with the flow, if they don’t want to be replaced completely by Amazon.

    It’s not that the change has happened already. We’re still right at the beginning. There is no time to take a breather and play “catch up”.

  105. Bill: IANAL, but the concept that you’re referring to is called the “right of first sale”. In essence, the publishing house has the right to the first sale, subsequent sales of that item they sold are not theirs to control. It’s been a standard of book sales forever…and hence, “Used Books” stores exist. It is fairly settled that in the software world, the “right of first sale” does not apply. Microsoft can sell (or license if that’s a better term) Windows XX to you and you have no right to re-sell it to someone else. It is my *laymans understanding* that the right of first sale for ebooks follows more like software than like physical books…i.e., you cannot resell it. However, even if that is true *now*, it’s not a safe question to answer at the moment since the USSC appears to be taking up at least one “right of first sale” case, and that could change things (and it would appear to me, not for the better).

  106. I agree with Andrew H. that somebody who doesn’t care for metafiction probably won’t care for Redshirts. Me, I love the meta, and was making increasingly loud noises of delight through the second half of the book. (The loudest ones were shouts of “Jesus, Scalzi!” when you did certain bits of meta fun there.)

    Also, the codas are definitely part of what Redshirts is. I particularly loved the first/second/third person thing; that worked really well, and the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts — which is pretty much what I love in a great read.

    (I’ll stop being a babbling fangirl now, and go get some work done.)

  107. @pnh Oh, the situation isnt, but as you explained, you can get to unreasonable situation by a confluence of factors. At least is less petty thn the theory that all you guys are out to torture me with books I cant have :-P

    And good to know people like you are aware, thats the first step toward change.

  108. I live in a small European country that is both outside of the EU and, like most European countries, never was part of the commonwealth. I have to use the American Amazon site to buy ebooks. I don’t get to buy German ones on the German Amazon even though I read German, and I don’t get to buy UK English ones from the UK Amazon even though I much prefer UK style covers. Amazon sez: Only US for yoooo! I also have to wait until November. I can’t even download a sample until then and frankly, if it isn’t in my sample folder on my Kindle I’m likely to forget about it. So: is this the same problem as amazon.de or yet a third variation on this annoyingly familiar theme?

    
    

    Last time I asked about this (for another book by another author, both that shall remain nameless), I was basically (in somewhat rude terms) told to wait for the translation which means I will never get to read it, as genre fiction isn’t translated into the local language unless it’s Lord of the Rings.

    
    

    Besides, I read books in the original language when I can, doesn’t everyone?

    
    

    So Scalzi, do remind us about Redshirts in November or you’re likely to lose sales.

  109. Ditto to Latro: I’m a European reader too, who reads a lot of English books, and have found Kobo to be the only Internet-bookstore to consistently allow me to buy most of these books. Amazon is generally quite restrictive and very erratic in which books it won’t sell because of territorial restrictions, and others generally won’t sell any ebooks at all to a non-UK and non-US resident.

    @pnh: thank you for the clear explanations.
    I’d heard before that for paper books, the point of sale is legally considered to be with the seller, thus the country where the publisher is who sells and ships the books to the (overseas) shops, or maybe where the online store is that the (overseas) customer buys it from. And that for sales of digital content, ebooks legally count the same as music, films, software and such, and that for those the law says that the point of sale is the country in which the buyer’s computer is located.
    This apparently made sense from the point of view of sellers of audiovisual media and software, who wanted/needed to stagger their release dates, but creates these weird discrepancies between paper and e-book availability in books.

    This has me worried about creating an unintended censorship, making it impossible for people in non-US countries to buy a book if that book is only published in e-book format, and the publisher has only bought the US rights.
    A paper book could still be ordered from overseas, even if it costs more; but an e-book for which the e-book-rights to some countries have not been sold will not be available at all in those countries.
    PNH’s explanation about the non-exclusive worldwide rights, and the idea that several internet bookstores are being unnecessarily restrictive in where they are willing to sell, and may be brought to better behaviour if publishers contact them, is somewhat reassuring in that regard.
    There is still an issue if, in the case of mr.Scalzi’s book, no English publisher had been willing to buy the UK & Commonwealth rights. Would the English, Australian, South African etc. citizens in that case have been unable to ever buy the ebook? The contracts-construct as explained seems to indicate that.

    I do think that rights limited by language instead of physical territories make more sense in the case of e-books. That way unintended censorship could not ensue, and it would still be possible, as it is in paper books, to buy whichever edition one prefers, either the UK or the US one, or even both.
    And if a foreign publisher wants to buy the rights to publish a translation, that would still be possible as well.
    On the other hand, I understand the usefulness of specific expertise from local publishers, especially in the US-UK divide.
    I am not a lawyer, but perhaps contracts based on language could be made more specific, e.g. selling TOR the rights to issue an American-English paper and e-book edition; and Gollancz the rights to issue a British-English edition, on paper and as an e-book, each with a readership-specific cover and packaging.
    If there are two editions of a book, one in the UK and one in the US, I’ve heard that it is fairly usual to slightly adapt the text, to the locally relevant spelling, and locally customary words (e.g. the word films in one edition could be ‘translated’ into movies in the other, change colour to color, etc.). If that is indeed customary, making such a distinction in the contract might be legally feasible. In effect, the UK edition could be treated as a ‘translation’ of the US edition (or the other way round, depending on where it was sold first).
    Are the two kinds of English different and recognizable enough to make something like this legally workable?

  110. I live in France and order my ebooks on amazon.fr but I only have the uk edition available. Is it the same pb ?

  111. Ditto to Latro: I\’m a European reader too, who reads a lot of English books, and have found Kobo to be the only Internet-bookstore to consistently allow me to buy most of these books. Amazon is generally quite restrictive and very erratic in which books it won\’t sell because of territorial restrictions, and others generally won\’t sell any ebooks at all to a non-UK and non-US resident.

    @pnh: thank you for the clear explanations.
    I\’d heard before that for paper books, the point of sale is legally considered to be with the seller, thus the country where the publisher is who sells and ships the books to the (overseas) shops, or maybe where the online store is that the (overseas) customer buys it from. And that for sales of digital content, ebooks legally count the same as music, films, software and such, and that for those the law says that the point of sale is the country in which the buyer\’s computer is located.
    This apparently made sense from the point of view of sellers of audiovisual media and software, who wanted/needed to stagger their release dates, but creates these weird discrepancies between paper and e-book availability in books.

    This has me worried about creating an unintended censorship, making it impossible for people in non-US countries to buy a book if that book is only published in e-book format, and the publisher has only bought the US rights.
    A paper book could still be ordered from overseas, even if it costs more; but an e-book for which the e-book-rights to some countries have not been sold will not be available at all in those countries.
    PNH\’s explanation about the non-exclusive worldwide rights, and the idea that several internet bookstores are being unnecessarily restrictive in where they are willing to sell, and may be brought to better behaviour if publishers contact them, is somewhat reassuring in that regard.
    There is still an issue if, in the case of mr.Scalzi\’s book, no English publisher had been willing to buy the UK & Commonwealth rights. Would the English, Australian, South African etc. citizens in that case have been unable to ever buy the ebook? The contracts-construct as explained seems to indicate that.

    I do think that rights limited by language instead of physical territories make more sense in the case of e-books. That way unintended censorship could not ensue, and it would still be possible, as it is in paper books, to buy whichever edition one prefers, either the UK or the US one, or even both.
    And if a foreign publisher wants to buy the rights to publish a translation, that would still be possible as well.
    On the other hand, I understand the usefulness of specific expertise from local publishers, especially in the US-UK divide.
    I am not a lawyer, but perhaps contracts based on language could be made more specific, e.g. selling TOR the rights to issue an American-English paper and e-book edition; and Gollancz the rights to issue a British-English edition, on paper and as an e-book, each with a readership-specific cover and packaging.
    If there are two editions of a book, one in the UK and one in the US, I\’ve heard that it is fairly usual to slightly adapt the text, to the locally relevant spelling, and locally customary words (e.g. the word films in one edition could be \’translated\’ into movies in the other, change colour to color, etc.). If that is indeed customary, making such a distinction in the contract might be legally feasible. In effect, the UK edition could be treated as a \’translation\’ of the US edition (or the other way round, depending on where it was sold first).
    Are the two kinds of English different and recognizable enough to make something like this legally workable?

  112. @Abi

    When i started reading (1970′s), books were a more cherished possession. They were lot more expensive (in relation to income) and the selection limited. If you read SF&F, the market in Germany was practically nil.

    The production of a book was a lot slower, more labor intensive. So there were less books published.
    You took what you could get. Prices were fixed, competition was for authors more than for readers.

  113. @Martin

    I started reading in the 1970′s and early 1980′s as well, in the US. My perception is very different than yours; books were already extremely common, with a wide selection in pretty much every genre. They were cheap enough to afford pretty much as many as you wanted, particularly in the mass-market paperback format, and there was a thriving second-hand market as well. Even a book-a-day reader like me (back when I had time!) had no effective chance of running out of good reading material.

    Publishers competed for readers. Competed hard, because there were plenty of books to go around.

    That was a buyer’s market. From a binder’s point of view, it was also the cheapest form of delivery of words to humans in history (if you include the cost of the eReader in the eBooks).

    Then, as PNH indicated in his comment at 12:25 today, it all changed. The distribution channel for mass-market paperbacks collapsed from a bunch of independent jobbers to a much-reduced, consolidated set of companies. Instead of variety, national supermarket chains wanted more copies of fewer works. That’s been the death of the mass-market paperback as a universal, cheap source of varied literature:

    The damage to American culture and society from losing the kind of paperback mass-market we had from roughly 1950 to 1985, the world in which books of all kinds, literary fiction, important public affairs books, all kinds of books had cheap paperback editions available in grocery stores — is unlikely to be repaired in our lifetimes.

    The situation may have been different in Germany, but it’s the US situation that formed the current market conditions. And in that context, I’m afraid the idea that we have suddenly come to a buyer’s market, and sellers had best run scared, doesn’t really map to reality. That ship sailed, was torpedoed, and sank in the last century. Whatever we’re changing from and to, it’s not that.

  114. @ John … W00T – bought and read in one sitting. Made me happy, so thank you, and congrats.

    @pnh … thanks for taking the time to talk about this.

    As John as frequently points out, books are collective undertakings: editing, proofreading, typesetting, cover design, etc …
    To my mind (and I probably misunderstand) – most of this is “post processing” – Gollancz will have no issue creating their own book from John’s manuscript, with distinctive cover art, proper english spelling, and their own typos…
    However editing seems to me (again, probably wrongly) sitting on a blurry line between writing and publishing – and I guess different author / editor pairs set the line differently.

    So, taking Redshirts as an example, I would assume that Gollancz is buying a product in which Tor (through you as editor) had already had a (modest, or not) hand – hence I would assume Tor would wish for some kind of compensation.

    Am I completely misunderstanding the role of editor? Or is this something that is in fact taken into account in contract negociations?

    Also, as an extra data point for non-us, non-uk, non-europe, non-english e-book markets … I’m in Abu Dhabi (and yes, my computer thought it was in Chicago when Redshirts came out. Nice coincidence …). Since we have no Amazon.middle-east, they default to amazon.com, and a quick look confirms:
    - the us book version is available
    - the us kindle version is not mentionned anywhere
    - the us audible version is listed, but with a placard saying I can’t buy it from the Middle East.

    Not sure how this squares with your contract and your rights, but I have to say, managing this mess must make a few people at Tor get premature gray hair!

  115. Before John gets the Mallet humming — my comment about mass-market paperback pricing works just as well if you substitute

    From a binder’s point of view, it was also the cheapest form of delivery of words to humans in at that point in history.

    for

    From a binder’s point of view, it was also the cheapest form of delivery of words to humans in history (if you include the cost of the eReader in the eBooks).

  116. Sorry for double-posting. WordPress made me get a password first, at the point of posting – that may have caused it. Please delete the second & this message, if you can, as the original is so long.

  117. @pnh: Thank you for the explanation.

    The interesting thing is that by being first to market, you’re actually winning more of the business. I live in New Zealand, I pre-ordered the hardcover from Amazon. It hasn’t arrived yet, but that’s mail for you. Hasn’t stopped me reading it either.

    Even better, buying from Amazon is 30-50% cheaper than buying locally – paperbacks retail for US$20 here. This means that Amazon is even cheaper than the discount 2-for-1 bins. I refuse to buy books locally, I feel taken advantage of. :) In my circle of friends, none of us buy books locally.

    If I don’t want the book on my shelf, but I want to read it, the lack of an ebook is actually a lost sale for the author. I _would_ have paid for the book, but I can’t. I usually go “meh” and go read something else. I’ve got plenty of books to read. :) Of course, all three of the NZ book chains (Dymock’s, Borders, Whitcoull’s) have gone into bankruptcy in the past decade. People refuse to buy books at prices substantially higher than US retail.

    As you’ve said, that’s not the fault of the publisher, that’s the author trying to maximise their return. I’m not sure that the returns are going to be there for much longer, US publishers are going to capture the entire value strictly by being first to market, and the last man standing.

    As an aside, when O’Reilly had their 9.99 sales, I was buying ebooks daily for a month. I don’t think I’ve read even 1/2 the books I bought. If the subject looked interesting, I was buying. They had a direct line to my credit card. They would email me with the offer, I would look at the subject and if it interested me, I would buy it. THAT was an extremely effective piece of marketing. Then they upped it to $15, and I haven’t bought near as many since. However, for that month, I bought _everything_. :) It’s even in my RSS feed to check daily. :)

  118. Bill: I’m pretty sure reselling your e-book of REDSHIRTS violates our EULA, DRM-free though it may be.

    I personally take a very dim view of EULAs, but you wanted the answer, and that’s the answer. My views on the subject are well-known to Macmillan management. Like I said on a slightly different subject, there are a lot of moving parts here, and I wouldn’t bet on things operating exactly the same way a year from now, five years from now, or ten years from now.

  119. E-bookstores seem to be restricting their buyers way more than legally necessary, in what looks like an attempt to create a captive pool of customers and/or a monopoly for a specific set of customers. I recently learned that in the USA it’s not illegal for a large business to deliberately set out to get rid of all competitors and gain a monopoly in a certain market segment – which is definitely illegal in Europe, and (to me at least) a shocking idea. The US idea of waiting until all competitors are gone, then making the public prove that the monopolist firm is setting unnecessarily high prices or offering unacceptably bad goods or service because people have no other recourse, seems to me quite unlikely to promote consumer choice and satisfaction, as well as being bad for the economy in general.

    The Internet e-book stores all put their own kind of DRM on the ebooks they sell, so you can only read them with their apps or on their Ereaders. It’s a bother having your books spread out over several different apps on your computer, irrespective of any kind of grouping you might want to keep them in – instead based solely on where you’ve bought them. This makes people inclined to stay with the shop and Ereader they’ve started with. Also, switching to a different Ereader makes a lot of your library unreadable, which is unacceptable to most readers.

    This is quite irritating, and if you translate the same effect to paper books it becomes plainly ridiculous.
    It’s like the books I’ve bought in my home village shop (Kobo) can only be kept on the shelf in the kitchen, and read in the kitchen; while the books I bought in the market town (Amazon) need to be kept in the living room bookcase and read in the blue chair there; the book I bought on my trip to the city (B&N, except they wouldn’t sell me anything digital) is not allowed out of the bedroom, and the books I got on holiday (iTunes) need to stay in the bathroom, never mind them getting damp/my Ereader being unable to handle them…
    Hello? Is this reasonable? Who decides where, in which bookcase/app/program or grouping or place on my computer I get to keep my books, and how and on what I get to read them?

    For being the first large publisher to put a stop to this nonsense, by making the Internet-stores sell their books without the hated DRM, mr. Nielsen Hayden and TOR deserve a lot of thanks!

    Alas, it’s not the only kind of restriction the large e-book stores use. They also use a lot of geographical restrictions. Amazon.co.uk will only sell e-books to inhabitants of Great-Britain (or maybe the Commonwealth?) – everybody else has to buy their ebooks at Amazon.com. Amazon.de and Amazon.fr refuse to sell me e-books, even German and French ones, because I should shop at dot-com; but I generally much prefer the English covers and thus, if available, the English edition, which Amazon.com doesn’t sell. On paper books there is no such restriction: I’ve bought these from all three.
    Amazon.fr did refuse to sell me a French CD I particularly wanted, and which is available nowhere else… that’s music but not digital, so I’m not sure which set of rules should apply; but it looks like the geographic restrictions on digital goods to me.
    Borders and B&N wouldn’t sell me e-books at all because I’m not in the US or UK.
    I always thought this was because of the geographical restrictions in publishers’ contracts, but from what @pnh said above, this may not be the reason in all or even most cases.

    In that case, the publishers are getting the bad press for restricting readers’ access to e-books, which may very well be legally available from these shops as far as they know under the non-exclusive rest-of-the-world license in the contract they’ve paid for. That’s costing them sales and goodwill, just because the big internet-bookstores are being unnecessarily restrictive (either to further their own commercial goals, or because they’ve got the wrong default legal setting for all these books). Maybe that’s something the big publishers should advise their legal departments to have a look at?

  120. Paul A.: “I would assume that Gollancz is buying a product in which Tor (through you as editor) had already had a (modest, or not) hand – hence I would assume Tor would wish for some kind of compensation.”

    I think you may be confused. Gollancz didn’t buy UK/Commonwealth rights to REDSHIRTS from Tor. They bought those rights directly from John. (Although such deals between publishers happen sometimes as well.)

  121. Kaleissin: Based on what you say I’m betting you’re in Norway. But I’m having some trouble reconciling your statement that Amazon forces you to use the US Amazon site _and_ your statement that Amazon says you have to wait until November for REDSHIRTS.

    In terms of actual contractual agreements you should be fully entitled to buy a Tor e-book of REDSHIRTS right now. I’d be very interested in hearing more details of your experience with any retailer that won’t sell you a copy; if you like, please feel free to email me at pnh@panix.com.

  122. @pnh: I think the question that Paul A was asking was does John own the rights to the edits that were made, or are they owned by Tor? I’m a software developer, so I’m used to thinking in terms of variations of the same piece of work each with different rights attached. :)

    Will the international release be benefiting from the editing process John went through with you, or do they have to start from scratch? If they don’t start from scratch, then I guess the increased editing cost is part of the costs of having first-mover advantage.

    If my theory about international readers stampeding for the US hardcover resulting in the book being on the bestseller list is correct, there might be an interesting model where there is a time limited international window for ebook sales. In other words, to gain the benefit of the hardcore fans to pump the numbers, you’re able to sell the book (e or otherwise) internationally for a set period of time – until the other markets get their editions out. I’m guessing that’s way to scary to manage.

    But then, crazy fans are already able to buy the ebook if they want to spend 30mins figuring it out.

  123. I want to cover lots of territory, cause my brain won’t shut up until I do.

    @guess, I think the problem is that you are looking at the ebook rights as a separate item from the publishing rights. They are, or are normally, sold together. This means that when John sold the rights to TOR to publish the English language version of his book for the US and non-UK/former commonwealth territories, this sold both print and ebook rights as one.

    There are reasons why an author would choose to sell the print rights like this. Others have mentioned a few, mostly focuses on up-front money, but mostly it is about which publisher is right for that market. That is, which publisher knows which advertising, cover art and styling, and promotion will work, and what won’t, for a particular market. @iucounu mentioned that when he buys worldwide rights, they usually sell the non-UK rights to a US publisher. For the author, this means that US and other markets are being handled by a publisher that they aren’t sure about, or at least had no real control over who it is. They could end up with a publisher who is really focused and knows the market and that type of book, and can do a great job. Then again, they can end up with a publisher who is just going to print it and go. This could happen if that publisher was purchasing a group of books because they really wanted one or two, and just took the rest because they had to. I am not saying that this happens in @iucounu’s case, but it could happen in some cases.

    @Martin’s comment about books being more expensive with fewer titles, supported by the fact that the SF&F selection in Germany was nil, appears to be a hasty generalization based upon his personal experience. That is to say, since the selection in his area was very small, then the selection everywhere is very small. The part about cost due to slower, more labor intensive publishing, is just an “after the conclusion” support. In reality, the cost of paperbacks have remained very comparable to inflation, and was not all that more expensive then. Heck, if technology was the deciding factor there, then paperbacks should have been insanely expensive back in the 40′s and 50′s, when they were really taking off.

    Also, competition is always for readers. When there is a competition for a specific author, it is because that author can bring with them readers. The change that happened in the 90′s came from the fact that there were fewer places to find a variety of paperbacks. The large chain stores, Safeway, Albertsons, et al, started wanting copies of “hits” and not a wide variety anymore. This caused a problem with paperback publishers because they needed high volume to make each book to at least break even, but these stores didn’t want those anymore, they only wanted a handful of books.

    Well, this is my take on it. Please know that I am not a publisher, nor an author, so I could just be pulling stuff out of my rear end on this.

  124. Hanneke: I feel your pain. Just speaking for Tor and other US Macmillan imprints, my understanding (considerably enhanced by a couple of informative conversations I had today) is that a lot of the bottleneck is simply mechanical; our digital folks are scrambling to add appropriately fine-grained regional-rights metadata to tens of thousands of titles, and propagate it to dozens of retailers all over the world — and so are the digital departments of all the other publishers. Remember, Rome wasn’t burnt in a day.

    As I said to Kaleissin above, I’d be happy to hear from anyone in an Open Market country (meaning any country that’s neither the US, Canada, the Philippines, the UK, Ireland, or a present-or-former Commonwealth country) that’s having trouble getting an ebook retailer to sell them a particular Tor ebook. Details please, screen shots or links all very helpful. I mean, of course, an ebook retailer that you can otherwise purchase stuff from; I can’t help you with “I want to buy from Retailer XYZ but they won’t sell to my country at all.”

  125. Jason: “If my theory about international readers stampeding for the US hardcover resulting in the book being on the bestseller list is correct” … Well, from the numbers I’ve seen, I don’t think it was the sole factor making the difference.

    As for who owns the edits — John owns the edits. It’s his book. Says so right there on the copyright page.

    (We own the typesetting, the cover and jacket, and the book design, if you want to get technical about it. But it’s John’s _book_.)

  126. How do Canadian rights get settled? We usually get the US books (which can be good or bad, depending, though I was pleased to get to read a funny book on a bad day when Redshirts came out even here last week), but sometimes the UK ones, and sometimes some intermediate ones. Jasper Fforde’s adult books come with the US, well after UK, but his YA books come some time in between UK and US, probably with UK spellings. Harry Potter got UK spellings and covers (and still does, if I were to buy the ebooks).

    (At least most publishers have quit giving special higher prices to Canadians, finally realising that since most of us live within an hour of the US and the dollar’s been at par for years, we get annoyed when we see US price 8.99 Canadian price 10.99 (or worse for paperback, or much much worse for hardcover) printed on the book and either wait for a trip to the US or the library or choose a different book. Not that I am bitter about years and years of this or anything.)

  127. @pnh: I agree international sales are obviously not the sole factor. It’s a great book, by an author with a great track record who works his ass off promoting his work. :)

    Thanks a tonne for answering the questions. I look forward to Tor’s ebook store. Hopefully you’ll be able to sell me some books!

  128. By the way, to the person who extolled the slogan “greed is good” — I’ve never agreed with that. Greed is desire unconstrained by common sense. Greed is “I like this delicious cake so much that I’m going to eat the whole thing immediately, all by myself.” As opposed to eating and enjoying a single slice of the cake, and living to be 97 and enjoying thousands more fabulous meals while doing so.

    Greed is desire so out-of-control that it impoverishes the greedy person and those around them. Which is a bad basis for continuing business, it seems to me.

  129. The New York Times bestseller list is THE big time list in North America. Congratulations, John!
    Yes, @pnh knows what he’s talking about.
    I posted something too long, with a howler of a typo, and irritating to some readers on another thread, so I’ll return to lurking now. My wife and son congratulate you too, John.

  130. Jillheather: Ah, Canadian rights. They usually travel with US rights, certainly if the book project was initiated by a US publisher. Sometimes the British publisher gets them if the project began with them.

    It can be a source of contention. When a British publisher has worldwide English-language rights and they’re trying to sell me on buying US rights from them, I generally insist on getting Canadian rights as well. I can be flexible. For instance, I did a deal with a London publisher, a couple of years ago, for the first three books by a hot new SF writer–a deal for somewhat more money than we’d normally pay for someone’s first three books. The London publisher had already sold their edition of the first book into Canada, and they were just a few weeks away from shipping actual copies to Canadian accounts. It didn’t seem sensible to insist that they cancel those orders–that would have been a nasty game of beggar-thy-neighbor whose main victim would have been a (very good) first-time author. So I agreed that we’d acquire mere _non-exclusive_ Canadian rights on the first book. We got exclusive Canadian rights on the other two books on the deal, however.

    We’ve occasionally agreed to publish a book without having any Canadian rights, but see also: blue moons, rains of frogs, etc. (The commonest reason is that the book already has a Canadian publisher. They exist! I know they do! Get me started and I’ll tell you about the several months that TNH and I worked part-time for QUILL & QUIRE in Toronto…)

  131. @pnh: Redshirts is available for open market customers (in Holland) on Kobo.

    As the others are generally a lot more restrictive, I’ve mostly given up on them.
    I just checked Amazon for you, from Holland: Amazon.de shows the Tor kindle edition as “Dieser Titel ist für Kunden aus Ihrem Land nicht verfügbar.” (“This title is not available for customers from your country”) The same notice is given for the Gollancz Kindle edition which is announced for november 2012. This may thus be more because Amazon wants all the ‘Open Market Customers’ to buy at dot-com: any Kindle book I try to buy at dot-de, I get sent to Amazon.com.
    At Amazon.com, the Redshirts Kindle edition says: “Pricing information not available.” and “Not currently available.” I can’t buy it there either, but whether that is due to some problem with the e-book (maybe taking the DRM off?) or my country of origin is less clear. If it’s not available for USA customers just now either, it might have nothing to do with the geographical restrictions.
    The Gollancz edition is not (yet?) being announced there, so I can’t compare them.

    In similar situations, where I was unable to get an existing ebook from Kobo for a couple of months after it’s availability to US or UK customers, I’ve already contacted the publisher (Ace, Del Rey and Harlequin respectively), and generally the situation has then been rectified fairly quickly; as far as I can see mostly by them setting the shop straight on the geographical restrictions bit. I will continue to do so on a book-by-book basis.

    Sorry that I can’t be more specific and send you screenshots just now, but Redshirts looks like it’s doing fine.

  132. Hanneke: Thanks. Interesting that you get different results from Amazon.com than I do. (I assure you, the REDSHIRTS ebook shows as available from here.) Anyway, as far as amazon.de goes, our digital-publishing folks are now On It and with any luck our e-edition will show as available there quite soon.

  133. @nph — Thank you for a concise explanation. It all makes sense … well, no it doesn’t, as you well know … but it’s now an understandably frustrating puzzle. I appreciate your comments and participation here.

    Scalzi and all of the folks at Tor — congratulations!

  134. I live in South Korea and when the book first launched I had the same sort of situation as Hanneke. The Tor kindle edition was listed as not available for me and the Gollancz kindle edition was available for preorder. This ended up being a strange sort of luck for me as I headed over to Audbile and picked it up as an audiobook instead. I loved the audiobook, so I’m glad I did. After reading through this I just went and checked out Amazon and discovered that now I can by the Kindle version, though I probably won’t be any time soon seeing as I have the audiobook. I have no idea how long the kindle version was unavailable to customers from S. Korea, but next time I see a book I’m interested in is unavailable I might do a little research to find out if it is *supposed* to be.

  135. Scalzi: Redshirts sold roughly two and a half times as many copies in its first week than Old Man’s War sold in its entire first year.

    Holy shit…

    And congratulations!

  136. FLTransplant: Depends entirely on how the reseller implements the contractual terms PNH mentioned. B&N won’t sell you the book unless it thinks that your IP is in the US. If you set up your Amazon account from the US, you should be able to buy US books with it. Some VPNs/proxies will be blocked, some won’t; that depends on whether or not the’yre flagged as proxies in the geolocation-database vendor’s system.

    Not only can said database be incorrect (in your favor or otherwise), it can be possible to bend it to your will. When I lived in the UK, I had a static IP address from my ISP (Andrews & Arnold, who are so awesome that they implement the “shiboleet” protocol) and its reverse-DNS was in a domain name I control. That domain name had publicly-visible ownership information, including my APO box — hey, it’s a US address! At some point, MaxMind updated their information appropriately, and my Bristol-area computer went rhotic.

    I noticed this change when I realized that I could access Hulu without a VPN. If that wasn’t useful enough, my ability to access iPlayer was unaffected. Clearly, the BBC and Hulu use different database vendors.

  137. @PNH, thanks for telling Amazon that Norway isn’t part of UK-and-etcetera, Now it is available for me to buy! (Yesterday I had to wait until October)
    (Diesel e-books still insists Redshirts is US only, which means fewer sales for them)

  138. “Bill: I’m pretty sure reselling your e-book of REDSHIRTS violates our EULA, DRM-free though it may be.

    I personally take a very dim view of EULAs, but you wanted the answer, and that’s the answer.”

    @pnh — thanks for the straight answer to the question. I also appreciate what I’m inferring — that it is not your preference that this is the current situation.

    But given that it is what it is, then the use of the words “buy” and “sell” would seem to be inaccurate when referring to EULA’ed e-books, and perhaps dishonest. If I can’t sell it, then I haven’t bought it.

  139. And, BTW, just finished reading the book. It’s quite good. John, I don’t know if you considered the codas to be an experiment, but if so, I’d say it was successful. They added another layer of satisfaction, like dessert and coffee would to an excellent meal.

  140. Does Kindle allow lending of books for a limited time between registered owners? If the rights-owner allows it, a B&N ebook can be lent to another Nook owner for either 2 or 3 weeks, exactly like a real book — you can’t read it while your friend has it, but it does have the advantage of coming back to you automatically at the end of that time, rather than you having to go to their house and repossess it or worrying that they’ll leave town or let the dog eat it. NOT THAT I’M STILL BITTER, EX-FRIENDS.

  141. Really, one of the problems I see with the whole region thing (apart from I WANT MY BOOOOOKS) is that is so … artificial in this world.

    If I try to buy a book from this PC and the seller does any IP geolocation stuff, its going to say SPAIN.

    PC at work will say UK, we go to a proxy there.

    Virtual PC at client network where I admin stuff (not that I would use it for this), would say SWITZERLAND.

    I dont really engage into the whole “Lets fool Amazon.com to sell me a book” dance … yet, but for what I’ve been told is trivial. A hassle, but trivial.

    So, well, any effort wasted into putting it is effort wasted, really.

    And dont get me started about prices. Books are around 18-20-30-35 € over here, depending if it is paperback or hardback, “hot” or not, size, bulk. And growing. And probably we will end with full VAT on them soon. ebooks, when I can get them, give me the opportunity to get the books really cheap without having to look at old-stock-that-didnt-sell sales, but hey, even paperback, I save more by buying from the UK. And no bad translation!

  142. (Oh, btw, if you ever go to Switzerland, dont buy books there. Prices were so absurdly high I looked back at Spanish booksellers with longing and love. Redshirts, hardcover, sells for the Swiss frank equivalent of 40 $, for what I see on the web)

  143. @Abi

    The German market has been very different and still is very different.

    First: We have a so called “price binding”. For every book published in Germany, the publisher has to set a price. It is illegal to sell books to an end customer for a different price (there are exceptions, but few). The intention was/is to prevent price wars on a “cultural good”. The price binding does not affect books published outside Germany. So often it is three times cheaper to buy the English original book (not price bound) than the German translation (price bound since published here).

    Second: SF&F has had a late blossom here. Book stores tended to have them in corners less visible than porn magazines. It was a genre to be sneered upon by old school litterateurs. Therefor also a lot of translations were awful (we used to say it was the late revenge of the axis on the allies) and took a lot of time. Long books were split up into several volumes on the German market (without making this transparent to the reader). Terry Pratchett had even ads for instant soup inserted into his early books (where they tried to refer to the story within the ad). Due to this, the hard core SF&F fan of my generation reads in English. I am thankful for that, since it greatly improved my skills in a foreign tongue.

    Third: Books were rarely sold in super markets. Rummage table sales perhaps, but since they had no price advantage, they had never any kind of measurable market shares. Books were sold in small book stores by people who loved their books (and used to hate SF&F). Those mom and pa shops were the ideal that was politically wanted by the publishers..

    All this made German publishers fat, dumb and lazy like a Havenite legislaturalist admiral at the outbreak of the war with Manticore (if you get my meaning). So Amazon came like a shock to them. The eBook is a complete mystery to them. They really think selling an eBook in a Mom and Pa book store (no joke!) would be sound business model. They are caught between a rock (the old retail chain which they pampered for decades) and a hard place (the internet).

  144. @ Patrick:
    Thank you, that was enlightening. Sorry to come so late to the party; I’m in the UK. I wonder if you would be kind enough to clear up another, related issue?

    An audio book of a title by a US SF/F author was offered for sale by audible.co.uk for a period of roughly six months before disappearing, along with the listings for the author himself and all other titles by him. (Seems I narrowly missed the window to buy it). Upon inquiry, the author kindly told me that while the US version of the audio books was no longer for sale in the UK, there were no plans to produce and sell a UK version. I gather that he had no influence on this decision and felt it did not reflect his wishes.

    I’d be curious to know what the rights tangle behind that might be? And if I had bought the audio book during the period of sale, would it have been ‘clawed back’ as some ebooks have been in the past, or would it have remained a ‘legal’ copy?
    Thanks!

  145. just as a confirmation from Germany: amazon.de now offers both the UK kindle edition (from 15th of november onwards) and the US kindle edition (from 5th of june onwards) for sale inside Germany (and probably Austria, though I didn’t check). Kobo also now sells it to ppl with German IP addresses (last week it claimed not to know what this Redshirts thing was, if one came from a German IP).

    Kaloo Kalay!

  146. I feel like I see Canada getting UK editions of books more than once in a blue moon, but it’s definitely on the rarer side. (And, not unexpectedly, always for books from the UK.) So that makes sense.

    Incidentally, Kobo is still (in Canada) selling the DRMed version.

  147. I just wanted to add to all the people saying thanks for explaining this, pnh. It’s good to hear about this kind of thing from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    Also, I once was offered a job in New Zealand. I flew down there, looked around, liked the country, liked the job, liked the people — and then I wandered into a bookstore (as one does). Needless to say, I didn’t take the job. I’ve been a four-book-a-week person for decades; I can barely afford the habit as it is. (This was pre-ebooks; I’d probably consider things to be different now.)

  148. Yesterday the kindle-page for Redshirts said November, today it is available. Can it be that the Germany fix also fixed things here?

    
    

    More interestingly, “The Apocalypse Codex” (Charles Stross) were to be available in October and now it will be available on the 3rd of July.

    
    

    Coincidentally, the price of a book of fiction in Norway tends to start at 300NOK, that’s about 50USD, no matter the format: hardcover or paperback. Ebooks get VAT (being software *sigh*) and so are more expensive than paper. Audio-books ar generally a bit more expensive too. Children’s books are more expensive, maybe because they have illustrations. In addition there’s the family saga (bodice-rippery), only sold at kiosks and supermarkets, that are proper mass market paperbacks but I don’t read’em so I don’t know the average price. There’s a law being pushed through to lock in prices/make rebates illegal on the proper fiction books “in order to protect the Norwegian language”. The publishers owns the bookstore chains here :)

    
    

    I haven’t read/bought fiction written in Norwegian since high school, simply couldn’t afford it.

  149. A confirmation: buying the ebook from Amazon.com now works with a Romanian address and card. It didn’t work last week. Yay!

  150. Very happy to see all these cases of people in what we call “Open Market” countries suddenly being able to buy the REDSHIRTS ebook. Without going into all the technical details, I can confirm that the discussion in this comment thread was the proximate cause. Thanks to the folks at Macmillan Digital for jumping on the problem!

    Tizz: I’m sorry to have to say that I have no idea what that Audible.com problem you report might have been about. My completely uninformed guess would be that the audiobook’s six months of availability in the UK might have simply been a mistake, and that Audible then realized that they didn’t actually have those rights. But I don’t actually know.

    (I do know, again without any particularly knowledge of this situation, that authors are human and prone to being confused just like everyone else, and that they aren’t always the most expert reporters of their own rights situations. Which is one of several reasons most authors need literary agents.)

  151. Just a reminder that the presence and terms of a EULA are relevant to the question of whether you can legally resell something, but they are not the only thing that’s relevant.

    If you’re interested in these questions I recommend that you take a look at Vernor v. Autodesk (2010) to see some of the things that the courts look at. In that case an appeals court held that a software EULA could legally restrict resale. I don’t know (and I strongly suspect that nobody knows for sure) how broadly applicable that ruling is.

  152. If you want to be the e-book version on kindle try changing your address to a US one .You go to Manage Kindle and then country settings and find a US/UK address ( online real estate websites are my choice). I live in Ireland but regularly switch between a US and UK address on amazon for the cheapest price (cause buying off amazon.com with an Irish address adds about 30% to the e-book price) and availability. I don’t need to use a VPN or UK/US credit card (yet).

  153. The same international digital rights issue has come up on Charlie Stross’ blog a few times, and his answer raises a good point:

    If you give worldwide digital rights to $BIGWORLDPUB (which is the most probable outcome for worldwide digital rights, realistically), you’re severely handicapping $LOCALPUBs. And presumably $LOCALPUBs are the main venue for developing local talent, which really hurts the chances of new authors trying to break in from smaller countries – who do you think has a better chance of selling to $BIGWORLDPUB, someone in the US/UK or someone in NZ?

    It’s a different angle from the problem EMoon raised, but in a lot of ways it’s the same issue – local publishers can have serious benefits for their markets, but worldwide digital rights screw with local publishers.

  154. @pnh Sorry I’m late to the party here, I’ve tried to read all the points back and forth from your initial post. There’s one thing I wanted to pick up on though. You wrote “Does this sound like a lot of bullshit gobbledegook? Probably. Is it true? Absolutely. Did it happen because everyone rolled out of bed one morning and said “Let’s make global ebook retailing baroquely complicated, because annoying our customers is fun”? No.”
    Well, first of all, it didn’t sound like gobbledegook. You did a great job at providing an explanation for something that must frustrate anyone with an ebook reader who has also ordered physical books from outside their home market.
    Secondly though, I have to question your statement that everyone (meaning publishers) _didn’t_ roll out of bed one morning and decide to make ebook retailing baroquely complicated. Surely that’s exactly what they did when they made the sale of an ebook subject to a different kind of agreement to that which covered the sale of the same book in physical form. You said yourself that “the agreements under which online retailers sell our e-books include restrictions, imposed by us, which require them to keep track of where orders are coming from, and require them to refuse to sell to individuals who seem to be trying to purchase from outside the areas in which we have the right to sell.” Those are _new_ restrictions brought in for ebooks that you don’t enforce for physical books. It would be no harder to enforce them for physical books. You would just have to have the retailer refuse to ship to an address outside the territory to which you have rights. It could be circumvented in a similar way to having a VPN address, but having a friend take delivery of the book and forward it to you, but like the VPN hole with ebooks, this is probably a small use case.
    Why is there an obligation placed on the retailer to enforce the territorial rights agreed between author and publisher in the ebook scenario and not in the physical book one? That’s the root cause of the difference between buying a foreign ebook and a foreign physical book and it seems to me that it’s entirely decided by the publisher and was done knowing that it’s different to what had gone before with physical books, making it look like they (publishers) did roll out of bed and decide to make it complicated.
    To me it feels like the difference between CDs and DVDs. When CDs came along, they were just a digitized version of the music. When DVDs were released, media publishers had realized that once the information was digital, other stuff could be encoded in there too which they could use to their advantage. No longer was there a global market, but there was a chance to create one with artificial and arbitrary boundaries via regional codes. These boundaries serve no purpose for the paying customer and produce the forces that drive piracy when a title is available one side of a boundary but not on the other. CDs and physical books work anywhere and still make money. Why not leave those existing models in place when DVDs and ebooks came along?

  155. I know I’m not alone in this sentiment: I am finding this discussion thread *extraordinarily* informative and educational. Thanks to PNH and all others contributing so much, so intelligently for those of us who were confused. :)

  156. > While some people often seem to be be under the impression that we lounge around at our desks, lighting our cigars with $100 bills, and cackling over not making books available to people who want to give us money for them, in fact this happens fairly rarely

    First off, Patrick, thank you for jumping in and explaining things in this thread. It’s much appreciated.

    Second, “fairly rarely” suggests a higher frequency than “never”. Is there a story you want to share? :)

  157. Re: lending Kindle books to other people – the publisher has to allow. The real annoying kicker, though, is that Amazon will only let you lend a book once in the lifetime of ownership. So very annoying. . .pushes me to check out other sellers or stick with physical copies.

  158. Patrick’s explanation was indeed helpful–I was briefly under the mistaken impression that I WAS, in fact, John Scalzi. And possibly Gollancz. #MayNeedMoreSleep

This is the place where you leave the things you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s