Friday, March 23, 2012

The Book Fairy

Years ago, when Simon & Schuster remaindered Come Spring, I panicked and bought an enormous supply of my own books. It gave me the saddest feeling to know these hardcovers might be trashed. For who knew what “remaindered” meant ? It was my first novel. The books represented one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

The thrill, oh the delicious thrill, of that wonderful call from my agent, Claire Smith, saying she had sold my novel—and to a top publishing house. For real money. In fact, some wonderful subsidiary rights sales quickly followed. I was young. I was happy. I was incredibly stupid. The first words out of Claire's mouth should have been “welcome to the NFL, baby.”

The hits were brutal. This week, Rick and John posted information about the ebook industry. Rick’s breakdown of hardcover realities were a cruel reminder of the disconnect between the author’s expectations and the publisher’s fight to stay above water.
Back in 1986, hardcover books were only on the shelf for 3 months at the most. Mass market paperbacks were in place for 2-3 weeks. It simply was not enough time to book signings and drum up interest among libraries and book clubs. I didn’t understand that. I reeled when my agent told me my books was sold long before it was published. How could that be? Truth was, my sales depended on advance orders placed through sales reps.

Now of course, the entire mass market paperback industry has nearly disappeared. Most titles are reprints of best sellers or established writers in the ever-popular romance genre. The number of distributors has dwindled to a few.  Frankly, the whole industry—from the writer, publisher and every link in between-- is trying to assimilate the huge transformation from hardcover books to ebooks.
Recently, Poisoned Pen Press offered its authors a chance to buy remaindered hardcovers. I bought a good supply of Deadly Descent. My purchase of hardcover copies of Come Spring had paid off. When organizations asked for donations for auctions, I had books. When Amazon was born, I had books available. I took copies to writers’ conferences and stayed in the game. This backlog of books kept my career alive until I began publishing again.

Every once in a while, I sally forth with a pile of hurt books. These are books with a tear in the cover, usually acquired from careless handling at events where I’m expected to supply stock. Also, sometimes I screw up autographs so badly the book is beyond redemption. These books are no longer in prime condition for other signings.  I distribute them to retirement homes, free exchange racks at coffee shops and Friends of the Library books sales.
Retirement centers welcome free books for their residents and coffee shops love beefing up the selections for their patrons. My goal is to engage readers who otherwise would never read my books. There’s always the possibility that someone will become a fan and buy a future release.

I’m the Good Book Fairy, not the Wicked Witch of the West. I spread sunshine and cheer with just a wee touch of murder wherever I go.


F.T. Bradley said...

Strangely, I found this post very uplifting. You took charge in a way, and that's the best we can all do, right?

I like this book fairy idea.

Charlotte Hinger said...

F.T. Thanks. S & S wanted Come Spring to be the first of a triolgy. Then my editor was fired. I naively hadn't pushed for a contract. That was my first hit. Here's the really good news: Good books are written, good books are sold, good books get read. It's sort of an unstoppable event--like Spring.

Jill said...

Thanks for a great post! Lots of good ideas here, esp. senior homes! I'll get right on that...

Hannah Dennison said...

I found your post uplifting too. It's wonderful. Oh - and I'm happy I'm not the only one who bungles the odd autograph here and there!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, I get to talking (when am I not?)don't pay attention to what I'm writing and create phrases I simply CANNOT rescue.

I thought it was interesting this post was viewed as uplifting. But it really is a matter of hanging in there.

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