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.)