The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaind– Oh, Crap, It’s MY Book

Got a note from Tor Books last week that the hardcover of The Android’s Dream is being remaindered: there were a few thousand extra copies left hanging around after the paperback came out, and it’d be a shame to pulp them, so off they go onto the bargain racks.

The note announcing the remaindering did come with nice boilerplate designed to keep the author’s ego from being totally squashed:

Please note that this does not necessarily mean that your book is going out of print. We may not end up remaindering all the inventory of your book; your book may already be available in another edition; or we may in the near future decide to offer another edition of your book for sale.

In my particular case, indeed, there is another edition available: the mass market paperback, which, I am happy to say, is chugging along nicely. Nor did the hardcover version sell poorly: it sold a bit better than the hardcover of Old Man’s War, as far as I can see. But publishing is not an exact science. With OMW they printed too few of the hardcover and had go to back for a few more printings; with TAD they swerved in the other direction and ended up with more than they needed. It’s not the first of my books to have been remaindered — that distinction goes to The Rough Guide to Money Online, my very first book, which at one point I saw offered online for a mere penny (note: it was published in 2000, so in 2008, it’s not worth even that much). But it’s the first of my novels to achieve that distinction. Given TAD’s esteem issues anyway, this seems oddly appropriate.

If you see a copy of the hardcover TAD at the remainder price (cheap!) should you feel author loyalty and pick up the paperback instead? Eh. I wouldn’t worry about it too much if I were you. I buy remainders myself — books I’d rather have in hardcover than in paperback, or books I didn’t know existed until they were plopped onto the front of store remainder display (remainders are at least generally well positioned in the bookstore). I really like TAD and want you to read it; I don’t mind if you pick up the cheap hardcover. And verily, I say onto you: a remaindered TAD would make a great cheap gift. Buy two, they’re inexpensive. Buy three and prop up that wobbly table leg!

As for me, every time I see a remaindered copy of TAD, I’m going to sign it and put it back on the table. That’ll be a surprise for someone.

(If you’re wondering about the title of this entry, please see this following Clive James poem, “The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered,” which is arguably his most famous poem, and pretty much captures the author mindset, especially the last stanza, in which is it revealed how it is different when one’s own work might happen — purely by chance — to be remaindered as well.)

36 thoughts on “The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaind– Oh, Crap, It’s MY Book

  1. I much prefer James’ “Bring me the sweat of Gabriela Sabatini”:

    Bring me the sweat of Gabriela Sabatini
    For I know it tastes as pure as Malvern water,
    Though laced with bright bubbles like the aqua minerale
    That melted the kidney stones of Michelangelo
    As sunlight the snow in spring.

    Bring me the sweat of Gabriela Sabatini
    In a green Lycergus cup with a sprig of mint,
    But add no sugar –
    The bitterness is what I want.
    If I craved sweetness I would be asking you to bring me
    The tears of Annabel Croft….

  2. Also, I’ve been wondering…another author in a completely different genre from you has an interesting autograph policy (and I don’t think you have one, do you? I haven’t seen it, am I not looking hard enough?): Send the work to a P.O. Box with an SASE, and the work will be signed as you desire (i.e. personalized or not) and dropped back in the mail. Would you ever consider doing that?

  3. MMPB + remaindered hardcover makes a great double buy for the young couple on a budget! My better half prefers MMPBs for portability reasons, while I prefer hardcovers because I am hard on books and my paperbacks tend to fall to pieces. Especially if it has that glossy page right behind the cover (you know the one. Wheel of Time paperbacks ALL had them) then the entire cover- front, back, and spine all together as one piece- is going to inadvertently peel off in my hands within an hour.

  4. Okay, I have a confession: I have never read any of your books. Ever. I never even heard of you until Wil Wheaton started pimping your work and your blog. Your blog is awesome. I’ll get to reading one of your books soon. Dontcha hate how life gets in the way of a good read?

  5. I want one! I’m going to try to snag one, (I bought a copy of the paperback for my sister for Xmas) and catch you this coming weekend. So you can sign it to the “cheap bastard”.

  6. Jeff:

    Well, I don’t know if the remaindered copies will surface that soon — they’re selling them off to wholesalers in the next few weeks.

  7. So does remaindered mean, in effect, we’re treating this book as just so much paper and paste and the author will see no royalty from its sale?

  8. I am still waiting for the Kindle versions to be available for both The Android’s Dream and The Last Colony. I think its ironic so many science fiction novels aren’t available in eBook format. I love the Kindle and I loved the two Scalzi books available for it. But I am done with hardbound and paperback novels as long as the Kindle is successful. I would love to read more of your stuff, but it has to be in Kindle readable format.

  9. I’m glad to see Tor doesn’t practice the old standby of “your book is not going out of print because then we’d have to give you the rights back and we don’t want to do that, even though we never expect to actually print any again”.

  10. deCadmus:

    Contractually I believe I am awarded some amount of royalties on remaindered books, but for obvious reasons it’s rather less than the usual rate.

    That said, I’m doing fine. No one should feel guilty picking up a remaindered copy of one of my books.

  11. Andy Inhatko does the same thing when he finds one of his old books in the remainders rack: signs it and puts it right back.

  12. I’ve found some fantastic books on the remaindered tables, which resulted in me seeking out more works by those authors- people such as David Quammen, Robert J Sawyer (certainly not your enemy but a rival for the hugo love) and Guy Gavriel Kay.

  13. Thank you for the hot tip. TAD was the first of your novels I discovered when it fell out of a box of my nephews books. So I won’t be giving him one as a gift. But I will buy several and keep one for myself. I will read it again and I find that reading the hardcover is the genuine experience of the novel; something get’s lost for me when reading the same novel in paperback. I don’t know if it is the feel of the book, size of the page or print or what. But it’s like the difference between eating at the dinner table and eating over the sink.

  14. One thing you could do is buy your own remainders from TOR and sign them and sell them from your website. There are probably a lot of fans who would be interested.

  15. For those of you just joining us at home, the poem comes highly recommended. Really. Especially if you dig recursion.

  16. If I recall correctly, books are remainders so fast because of some tax law change in the eighties. It used to be that publishers could afford to let books lay around for much longer in the warehouse before giving up on them. It seems ridiculous and wasteful to pulp something that I suspect would sell out eventually over the course of a few years.

  17. Dumb nuts and bolts question: why print so many hardbacks in the first place if they’re going to be remaindered? Wouldn’t it be better for Tor’s bottom line to have a smaller initial hardback print run that sells out, then go straight to paperback?

  18. Adam: I believe it costs some ridiculously small amount to actually manufacture a hardback. As long as they can come reasonably close to sales, they are better off with some remainders than having people who’d pay the hardcover premium get the paperback.

  19. I once heard from Harlan Ellison that he has a clause in his contract which gives him the option to buy any remainders at the wholesale price. He then sells them through his HERC service and at conventions. Over the course of one’s career, it can add up to a decent sum of money.

  20. So I guess, then, that it is kosher for an author to just sign a random book and plotz it back on the shelf. I’ve wondered if that was actually an okay thing to do. I could see an argument for it be considered vandalism since it’s not the author’s property at that moment.

  21. As for me, every time I see a remaindered copy of TAD, I’m going to sign it and put it back on the table. That’ll be a surprise for someone.

    Perhaps you, when the local constable hauls you in for defacing books. (Bonus hint: when explaining that you are the book’s author and not the lunatic vandal you so plainly appear to be, it might be smart to avoid launching into a substantive discussion of the book’s contents, particularly the first chapter.)

  22. Gifts are good. I always like to have a stack of gifts on hand in case of emergency, and books are nice. (So are frames.)

    The weird thing is that I gave somebody a book a few months back and he tried to return it yesterday— “no, I bought it for you.” He thought it was a loan.

  23. When I buy a remaindered book, I usually have that particular book in paperback and want to upgrade, or I know and like how the author writes and when I find one in the remaindered pile I consider it a little gift to me from the book store.

  24. So John Scalzi is quoting Clive James. Well, you need to now Mr Scalzi, that that is going to give you literary credibility here in Orstraylia, for awhile at least. So suck it up and make the most of it while you can.

    cheers,

    ‘tac

  25. 18. # Steve Burnap: If I recall correctly, books are remainders so fast because of some tax law change in the eighties.

    IIRC, the name to google for here is “Thor Power Tools”. Or maybe “Thor Power Tool”.

  26. Speaking to your idea of signing a remaindered book and then replacing it in the stack, I applaud you. I have two remainders that were purchased already autographed:

    China Mieville’s The Scar
    Harry Turtledove’s The Great War: Walk In Hell

    I had no idea they were autographed until I got home. It really was a nice surprise, considering each of them was purchased on days that otherwise blew chunks.

    The only problem I see is that I’m not altogether certain about China’s sig, since the only reference I have is online, although it compares close enough. The Turtledove had a nice sticker on the jacket saying, “Signed Copy!”

  27. I wouldn’t count too much on lit cred in Oz by quoting Clive James. As ex-pat Aussies go, he’s a bit too ex for my taste.

    As it happens, my MMPB of TAD* finally made it to the top of my “to be read” pile yesterday (it’s a helluva big pile).
    I started it on the bus on my way to work, read more in my ‘lunch’ break (I’m currently on nightshift), and still more on my way home.
    At that point I was supposed to fall into bed, but I still had about a quarter of the book to go and I was really enjoying it, so thanks to you, Mr Scalzi, I’m staggering through another 12-hour nightshift on about 3 hours sleep.**

    *whee! acronyms!
    ** which probably explains why I’m having trouble putting a sentence together

  28. Three weeks ago at a local bookstore (Books-A-Million), I saw a stack of the subject book on the remainder table. The top copy had a sticker that said “Schwartz Autographed”, and sure enough, there was your signature on the title page. (I suppose it was yours, maybe that of a stockboy somewhere . . . ).

    I suppose Schwartz is a store/chain at which you did a signing? Shame on them for not selling them all . . .

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