Posted on October 28, 2003 Posted by John Scalzi
Pamie went looking for her book at a bookstore and discovered that not only was it no longer on the shelves, but that the copies that had been on the shelves had been sent back to publisher. This is part of the life cycle of nearly every book, and Pamie’s a bit depressed about it. She’s not quite sure how to wrap her brain around it (“I have no conclusion or witty reaction to this news. I’m just reporting it. Maybe in a month I’ll know how to process it.”) but from someone who’s been there, Pamie, sweetheart, I guessing you’re still a bit depressed.
Of course, how else should one be? This is something nearly all creative people face at some point or another once they’ve put something out: The disappearance of product — which is to say, your blood in artistic form. Authors have the thing where they cruise through the store to find their book, to find it missing from the shelves, or worse — consigned to the pay-by-the-pound literary purgatory known as the remainder table. Musicians have to deal with their CD showing up in the Used CD shop. It doesn’t mean the book or CD was a failure, mind you — I’ve seen a fair supply of Stephen King and Norman Mailer and Orson Scott Card hardbacks on remainder tables (it’s how I got Harlot’s Ghost for four bucks). Also, I’m quite positive Pamie’s book would be considered a success just off the sales of her Web site readers alone. But it’s still no damn fun.
The Rough Guide to Money Online, which you’ll recall was my first published book, is currently loitering in remainder racks if you can find it at all. As well it should; the book’s three years old and purports to be about the Internet, and that’s just no good. The general information is still okay, but the specific information is dreadfully out of date; half the financial Web sites listed have gone the way of the dodo. This is what one gets for publishing an Internet book in November of 2000. Short of Rough Guides asking me to update and revise the book, which I don’t expect them to do, I wouldn’t suggest anyone buy it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t look to see if it’s on the shelves, or that I’m not a little bit rueful that you can pick it up for $2.75. At least the Universe book is still chugging along merrily — and the universe, as far as we know, will be around for a while.
Perhaps the lesson here is that it’s better to have been published and remaindered than never to have been published at all. But I think it’s more to the point to say that you do everything you can for a book (or CD, or whatever) when it comes out: You promote it, you celebrate it, you cherish it and hope for its success — and eventually you let it go and your start on the next one. Or get back to the next one, should you be so lucky.
I’m not worried about Pamie. She’s got it going on, yo. But I certainly understand.
Whatever Everyone Else is Saying