Tomorrow the first episode of The Human Division is officially released into the world, which counts as the book release to me. It will also be either my seventeenth or twentieth published book, depending on whether one counts The Sagan Diary, The God Engines and Metatropolis to go along with the nine novels and eight non-fiction books (I do personally, as TSD and TGE were individual hardcovers and I edited Metatropolis as well as being a contributor). But no matter how you slice it, holy cow, that’s a lot of books, and I get excited every time a new one goes out into the world. It never gets old, or at least it never gets old to me.
For fun, I thought I would dig through the archive and fish out the Whatever entry I wrote when my very first book, The Rough Guide to Money Online, came out (yes, folks, my very first book was a book on online finance. Now you know why I’m always yelling at writers about taking care of their money; it’s not just an affectation). Here’s how I felt about it at the time, more than a dozen years ago now.
November 6, 2000
The book is out in stores today. Actually, the book was out in stores yesterday, too; I called up the local Barnes & Noble to check, and sure enough, they had it on the shelves. “Heck, we got a bunch of ’em,” the ever-helpful sales clerk said. We took a little family trip over there, just to see what it looked like to have one’s book on a book rack.
The answer: Well, just look at the picture. There it is, wedged between all the Dummies and Idiots books. In a nice touch, the book is “face out,” which means it’ll draw the eye of the reader more than other books on the shelf. No, I didn’t reach in and do it that way myself — it was like that when I got there (however, should you go to a book store and and see it “spine out,” feel free to shove other books out of the way and face it forward. You’ll feel my love from afar). As I was readying the picture, Athena grabbed a couple of copies and grinned up at her mom. Look, mama, she seems to be saying. If he sells enough of these, maybe I’ll get to go to college! Well, and maybe you will, Athena. Maybe you will.
I realize it’s just a little bit dorky to go to a book store just to stare at your book sitting there on the shelf, but quite obviously, I don’t really care. This only happens once: The only time I’ll ever see my book sitting in a book store for the very first time. It’s not at all unlike being present at the birth of your first child. Other children and other books will be special, too, but first is first.
Which is not to say I reacted to seeing my book on the shelf the same way I reacted to Athena being born — I didn’t sit there in a bawling daze, amazed at the small package I held in my hand. After all, I’ve had my copies of the book for about a month now. I’m used to it. I just looked at it, took a couple of pictures to memorialize the occasion, and then headed over to the kids books section, where Krissy was picking out new bedtime story material for Athena. Hopefully all those copies of the book will find nice new homes soon.
Won’t you adopt one? Heck, get two. They’re small.
I’ll note that Money Online (pictured here with Ghlaghghee, who looks understandably weary at yet another pig-related object pressed up against her) did rather poorly; Rough Guides had high hopes for it, based on the million-plus sales of their Internet book, but it ended up selling less than ten thousand copies overall. Being released as the first Internet bubble was collapsing and everyone with money was running away from the Web probably didn’t help. Fortunately the Rough Guides people didn’t hold it against me and signed me for two other books. Flop or not, it got my foot in the door and for that reason — and because it was my first book, after all — I still have very fond memories of it.
Now we’re sixteen (or nineteen) books on, and a book release is still a big thing for me. I like that it is. I like my job.
I’ve had the occasional report of a big damn Audible.com ad with Redshirts on it at or near Times Square for a while now, but finally someone has sent a picture of it to me (thank you, Ken!) and here it is, at the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.
I don’t know. Maybe one day I’ll become jaded at the sight of big damn billboard with one of my books on it, but when that day comes, I hope you all line up to smack me across the head. Because I’m not gonna lie: this stuff is great.
I already posted a note in SFWA’s online discussion forums on this subject, but in the spirit of “belts and suspenders” am posting here, too.
Most of you who read here know that I currently serve as the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and that I am currently in the middle of my third term in that role. I have been delighted and honored to serve my fellow science fiction and fantasy writers for these past three years; I think the boards I have been part of have done a lot of excellent work for SFWA. We’ve had a hell of a lot of fun as well, all without undue drama or ego. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I have loved doing it, and have appreciated the trust put in me by my peers and fellow authors.
For all that, three consecutive terms as president of SFWA is a lot — so much of “a lot” that no one else has done such a crazy thing — and I also believe that SFWA as an organization is not well-served by its leadership role remaining static for too long. It’s time to let someone else take the wheel. To that end, this is me announcing that my current term, which ends on June 30, will be my last. SFWA will have a president on July 1, but it will not be me.
The good news is that SFWA has a number of members who could ably serve as its president; hopefully one (or more) of them will now step forward to take on the role. I know one of the constant concerns SFWA members have about serving on the board is how much time it will take from their careers. As I’ve noted elsewhere, there’s no doubt it’s work. But if you have other excellent board members, as I have been fortunate to have these past few years, you can do the work SFWA requires and still have time for your writing. I’ve written and will have published three novels during my tenure (the first episode of the third makes its official debut tomorrow), so it is possible to serve writers and be a writer at the same time.
If you’re a SFWA member and are considering a spell on the board, head over to SFWA’s online forums, and to the SFWA Elections 2013 area, where the formal Call for Candidates resides, as well as threads for each open position. There’s still time to decide to run, as the deadline for declaring and presenting your platform, is February 16.
I’ve enjoyed being president of SFWA, and will continue to enjoy it, for another five and a half months. I’m looking forward to seeing who will be president next.