Officially Out Of Print

In the mail yesterday, a letter from my non-fiction agent with confirmation that my books The Rough Guide to the Universe and The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Movies were officially out of print, and that the rights to them have reverted to me. While it’s nominally sad to have any book go out of print, I will note that the reason for going out of print was not related to lack of sales (both were selling fine, and The Universe indeed had a second edition), but because Rough Guides has decided to focus on travel books (its original core competency). I think you can try to make an argument that the Universe book, at least, is in some way a travel guide; however, the powers that be at RG appear to disagree. So that’s the end of these books’ lives as Rough Guides.

But is it the end of these books entirely? Well, that’s the nice thing about living in this particular publishing era, isn’t it: It doesn’t have to be. I could try to find a new publisher for the books (they would need new names, at the very least), or I could publish them myself, or I could repurpose the content for other books/projects, or I could just say “screw it” and put them up on my Web site. It’s up to me at this point (and, uh, a publisher wanting to release the book(s) in at least a couple of scenarios). The books aren’t dead; they just have different options now.

These two books being out of print means that all my Rough Guide books are now OOP (the other one, The Rough Guide to Online Finance, has been out of print for years and is never ever coming back). Three books out of print out of twenty, over the course of more than a dozen years, is not a bad percentage, actually.



33 Comments on “Officially Out Of Print”

  1. Given that they make frequent use of the “Rough Guide” moniker, would a slight change in title be in order should you decide to re-publish them under any option?

  2. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the option of electronic publishing. I don’t know much (anything, really) about the economics of digital distribution. But superficially it seems like a suitable way to satisfy the long tail of demand with relatively minimal investment.

  3. Have you considered e-publishing? I hear some people have had some success with that. You could even release a chapter at a time, serially. I bet that might work.

  4. I had no idea you wrote “Rough Guide to the Universe.” I’m an avid star gazer and telescope builder. I don’t own it, but if you republish it somewhere, I will.

    When NGC 4826 starts acting crazy, I whip out my big 10″ (f4)

    / Apologies to Aerosmith.

  5. To really increase sales, I’d forgo the Scalzi’s Guide and go straight to Bacon Cat’s Guide. Watch all the moneys roll in.

  6. Guys:

    I’m curious as to why some of you seem to think when I discuss “self-publishing” that publishing electronically is not inherently a subset of that.

  7. I picked up your Astronomy tome after I ran into you at Comicon Phoenix. Glad I got it when I did!

  8. If you leave them out of print and continue to rise in general popularity, you’ll see the prices bid up on eBay by completionists and general Scalzi-fetishists. Neal Stephenson saw that happen with his first work of fiction, The Big U, and worked with his publisher to get it back in print.

    His claimed that he didn’t bring it back to make money, but because The Big U was such a horrible book that he couldn’t stand to see people paying inflated prices for it.

  9. This is a sad event. Labor and bring forth, send it out in the world, see it succeed, age, and be left behind. My sympathy, John.

  10. Matthewcaffrey:

    As they are non-fiction books, I doubt the interest will be the same. My “Rough Guide to Money Online” book has been out of print for years and there are currently 28 copies available on Amazon’s used market for a penny.

  11. It’s a cracking percentage, as they go. Especially when you consider that the finance one being out of print is in no way a reflection on you or what you wrote, but simply down to the fact that as time goes on the best options for finance change (as taxes, laws, etc change).

  12. Nick H:

    Well, to be clear, that first book was a complete sales failure; they had hoped to sell hundreds of thousands of them, and they, uh, didn’t. But the nice thing is that Rough Guides blamed it (appropriately) on the collapse of the Internet Bubble in 2000, and not me, and let me write two other books for them.

  13. Oh, please please pretty please, make a digital edition of the Rough Galaxy to the Universe.

  14. It makes sense to me that Rough guide might wish to focus on its travel core, but if they already have a book in hand that is selling well, why take it out of print? I can understand why they might prefer not to publish any new non-travel titles.

    I suppose it must cost disproportionate marketing effort to place just two titles in other sections of the store.

  15. What happened to the good old days when publishers never let books go offically out of print because why should they let the author have his rights back?

  16. “I’m curious as to why some of you seem to think when I discuss “self-publishing” that publishing electronically is not inherently a subset of that.”

    Assuming that this is a straight question. In my mind, self publishing includes the entirely different option of print-on-demand, though probably not for established authors. And the bulk of digital publication is through established retail channels, which are not ‘selves’, but businesses. That’s why I missed the implication of digital editions under ‘self publishing’.

  17. I would really like to see an updated edition of the Sci-fi Movies guide. Scalzi’s Guide to SF Movies sounds like a nice name. You could even add youth opinions “with the assistance of Athena, goddess of Wisdom.” (I guess then it would have to be Scalzis’ Guide…)

  18. I know that it being out of publication sucks but I really like that the rights go back to you now. It seems a more respectful way of doing business than having someone hold something you created until Ragnarok.

    I would think that this is due to standard clauses etc in contracts and you bring informed and having good representation. Looking forward to hearing what your plans are once you’ve hashed them out.

  19. “I’m curious as to why some of you seem to think when I discuss “self-publishing” that publishing electronically is not inherently a subset of that.”

    Well, sure, it is. But some of us remain distinctly unimpressed with the ebook experience as is currently exists and aren’t inclined to give them more than minimal notice or respect. I’ve got the latest whiz-bang Kindle, but it only gets used as a last resort.

    Ebooks may be the future, but I’m not all that impressed at the moment.

  20. As a collecter, as well as a fan of your writing, I have the Movies book, but not the other.
    Obviously you may consider epub – for the record I for one would buy it simply because I haven’t read it yet.
    I’d certainly also buy a hard copy version simply to complete my collection.
    Off now to buy the Money book for that exact reason.

  21. One reason *not* to publish the Guide to the Universe as an e-book. eReaders emit light, which will hurt your night vision, which is bad for actually looking at the universe through a telescope.

  22. Hmm… I own both The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and The Rough Guide to the Universe (both editions), all signed. Maybe now is a good time to sell. ;-)

  23. @Jerome O’Neil – eInk readers (such as non-Fire Kindles) don’t emit light, just like paper they’re reflective and need light for the text to be visible. So as troublesome as a book if you intend to stand by your scope trying to read it by torchlight. :)

  24. One can always invert the colors so it’s white text on black (for non-eInk/tablety readers) and preserve your vision that way. But it looks weird and I shudder to think what that would do to the glossy photographs of pretty celestial things. Best to go with ye olde red flashlight.

    Does not apply to the movie book, of course, since you shouldn’t be reading that in a theater anyway!