View From a Hotel Window 4/17/18: Ann Arbor, MI (Plus: Release Dates in 2005 and Today)
To start off my travels, I am on a high floor overlooking a church. However, the brick building at the right of a picture is a parking garage, so I think we’re in good shape in terms of the “where is the parking lot” aspect of my travel pictures.
Tonight: I am at the Literati Bookstore here in Ann Arbor, and everything starts at 7pm. If you’re in the area, come be the guinea pigs for the rest of the tour, and hear everything first!
Tomorrow: I will be in Iowa City, at the famed Prairie Lights bookstore, also at 7pm. If you live in or near Iowa City, come on down, and bring everyone you know!
Etc: I got an email from a reader who noted that Head On is my 13th novel (which is true, uuuh, I think) and wondered how a book release day is different now than it was when Old Man’s War, my first published novel, was released back in 2005, and if it’s still exciting 13 years on.
Well, some of the things that are different:
* Old Man’s War came out on January 1st, so Head On isn’t competing with a major holiday where most people stay at home watching football and/or nursing hangovers. So that’s a positive!
* I was at home for the Old Man’s War’s release, not only because it was New Years but because I wouldn’t do a book tour for a release until The Last Colony in 2007. I’ve toured with every new novel since Fuzzy Nation in 2011, which means that for the last seven years, I’m usually somewhere else when the book comes out; like, for example, Ann Arbor, where I am today. This is not a complaint, incidentally. I like touring my books and it’s a thing not every author gets to do. But it is different from when I started out — now when a book comes out, I’m on the road.
* I’m a lot less stressed about the book release, in terms of sales. When Old Man’s War came out I was constantly checking Amazon rankings and wondering how the sales were and so on. These days and for the last several books, I don’t really check online sales rankings. One, because I know that they’re not exactly indicative of actual unit sales, and two, because as I go along and I understand the dynamics of my own sales profile, there’s less reason for me to sweat my opening numbers. In terms of sales, I’m generally a marathoner, not a sprinter, a fact that’s useful for backlist and royalties. Knowing that makes me less anxious about my opening numbers. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when I’m up near the top of sales numbers; that’s always nice. But I’m not constantly pinging my Amazon rankings.
* Likewise I worry less over reviews. I like it when they’re positive — who doesn’t? — but I don’t worry too much when they’re, shall we say, less than glowing. Part of that is simply having been a pro critic myself and remembering how the sausage gets made, and another part is simply always having had something of a thick skin. But the other part — the part I grew into, shall we say — is realizing that with very rare exceptions, an occasional bad review doesn’t hurt a book. The example I give for this is Redshirts, which got two of my worst trade reviews ever from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, but then went into the bestseller lists and won several awards including the Best Novel Hugo. Perhaps more accurately, if every review of a book is a negative one? There might be a problem. But the occasional pan that comes as part of a whole range of reviews? I don’t lose sleep over them, and they don’t bother me (or cause me to want to respond) as they might have when I was new out of the gate.
* What hasn’t changed is, simply, my fundamental excitement that something that started off in my brain is now out there in the world. And some people like it! And talk and think about it! And want more of it! I mean, how can that ever get old? It can’t. Well, I guess it could, but I’m glad it hasn’t for me. I still have what I think is the coolest job in the world. I felt that way in 2005, and I feel that way now.