Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mr. Cronin's Book

If you want to find out how many cds sell, if you want to find out how a certain film does in terms of box office receipts, this information is fairly available. Yet why is it that if you want to know how many copies of a certain book title passed through retail, the information becomes a bit more difficult to obtain.

Don't believe me? Go ahead and try and do a search of a particular title to see how many copies were sold. You can ask the publisher, but that's no guarantee that information is going to be forthcoming.

Now you're probably thinking: what about bestsellers lists like the New York Times' survey? You'll notice no number of books sold is detailed there.

If you want information, you have to subscribe to Nielsen. You know, the same people who magically rate your television watching. Nielsen keeps track of retail sales but you have to pay. It will cost about eighty dollars for one title, with discounts available if you want to see more. And even then, the information doesn't take into account some of the smaller presses' distributions.

Why is this important to anyone writing? Because we're basically masochistic people and the more we hear about how difficult it is to succeed in our profession, the happier we are. And also, at some point a writer needs to ask: how many copies of a book sold is a sign of success. It helps to be able to track other writers and titles and do comparisons. It helps too when writing and marketing a title. Shelf lives are short and retailers are picky about what risks they want to take with their floor space. Scratch that. Retailers don't take chances.

Except...

A story is circulating through the literary world about a bidding war that recently went down for a writer's unfinished manuscript about vampires in an apocalyptic setting. A bidding war? Who was the author? Stephen King? Anne Rice? Laurell K. Hamilton?

No.

The author's unfinished manuscript will be published under an unknown non-de-plume. And even if you did know the writer's name, chances are you haven't heard of him before nor read his prior work. The author is Jordon Ainsley (real name Justin Cronin). His prior work? A book you've probably not heard of: "Mary and O Neill", one of those literary pieces few people read which also manages to win the Pen/Hemingway Award. The what? And then there was also "The Summer Guest".

No history of genre writing. No track record with the fans.

And yet Mr. Cronin or Mr. Ainsley if you prefer, gets almost four million dollars for an unfinished manuscript in what will be the first of a vampire trilogy.

HEY!!!! FOX!!!!! If you want unfinished manuscripts and outlines, I got some for you!!! You want vampires? I'll give you vampires. If you want to read more about this go here.

The world of publishing remains a mystery to me. I guess my problem is that I see the world through left wing glasses. Maybe if I clean them and try putting on my "Capitalism Is Neat" basenball cap, it would make a little more sense.

Or not.



21 comments:

Kate S said...

Wow.

I'm too tired to do more than shake my head and wonder at the world.

SQT said...

The only thing that gives me hope in this story is the sheer unpredictability of the thing. Maybe I'll be the recipient of some random bidding war.

Hey, I can dream can't I?

Will Kinshella said...

Hey, I think I have that hat...

And now, an odd drive to write a book about vampires. If you'll all excuse me.

Sidney said...

Funny how that all works. Sometimes they do that for publicity purposes, I think, as much as anything. It always seems like it's for an idea that is kind of pedestrian. I know it's probably in the execution, but "Necroscope's" been around a long time.

Charles Gramlich said...

kate and SQT are right. This kind of thing never makes sense and even thinking about it can just make a writer tired. it's why I've pretty much given up on "trying" to write a big blockbuster that'll make a movie. I just write what I want and hope someone will read it.

Sid's right, too. The situation sounds pretty run-of-the-mill.

Sphinx Ink said...

Yep, ya gotta wonder what's going on in those publishers' minds. And ya gotta get those unpubbed mss. out there circulating among the agents and/or editors, 'cause ya gotta hope that one day you'll be in PW Daily as focus of a bidding war among publishers.

avery said...

That kind of thing makes me want to curl up on the floor in a ball. But, once I get into an acceptable approximation of the fetal position, I just start cussing and ranting--which isn't conducive to my aims at catatonia. So, I get back up again, twitching, clenching my fists and muttering, "I'll show them..."

It's all very draining.

Travis said...

Surprisingly, I'm not fussed by this.

Pythia3 said...

This was a very interesting post.

BTW thanks for all of your great posts dealing with blogging, writing, reading, publishing, etc.I really appreciate the info and the different perspectives shared.

I've never been surprised at these sorts of things. There are so many 'explanations;' i.e. wanting to' discover' the next big 'JK' name, a twist in his story that has never been done, he knows the right people, he signed away many of his rights . . .

I write what I want and hope that one day I will have some of what "they" call luck: being prepared as a writer, being at the right place at the right time with the right person and having the 'IT' story (while wearing the right outfit!). . . that's how the world works - I've been in the corporate world long enough to really see that many people don't know what the hell they are doing - they are 'winging' most of it while throwing in some creative verbiage, wearing the right clothes and dropping the right names (and saving the business money, of course - bottom line).

I have been trying to remember that saying that explains all of this in a nutshell . . . can anyone help me? The gist if it has to do with the fact that people are hired for the highest position at their lowest level of ability . . .

Anyway, Stewart, missed you at the meeting - next meeting bring your laptop for Blogging 101 (for John and Phillis - Jon needs Blogging 225 or whatever!)

Bye :)

Jon said...

Lindy,
I think you're tinking of the Peter Principle: One rises to their level of incompetence, one step above their true slot.

And it's John who's interested in Blogging 225...not Jon. Although I need a ton of upgrading to my skills.

Number of copies sold? As long as I have access to my own I'll be happy. But, yes, it should be more of a public record. Probably not, so as to save face for the editor who green-lights a dog.

Vwriter said...

Hello Stewart:

I asked Justin if he wouldn't mind discussing the matter because it came off so seedy in the original posting. He seems like a nice guy. Anyway, I'll let you know if he has anything to say on how it came about. Or, maybe he'll drop by...

miller580 said...

OK, now let me add this. With a 4 million dollar payoff. You know this book will be a success (in terms of sales) even if it is written poorly...even if it sucks! It will also probably have a movie tie in fairly quick...think Davinci Code. It will probably be talked up by Oprah and the Oprah wannabees, as well. Why do I say this. Well with that much cash up front and the loss of the Boy Wizard it is time for another mega media blitz.

That’s not to say that I am not glad that a writer is out there hitting the jackpot. Great for him. And if we are all lucky he will write at least a good book…maybe even a great book…who knows. It's just I personally get tired of being beaten over the head by the advertising and hype of the latest and greatest…whether it’s the Simpson's or Harry Potter, or Britney Spears.

Stewart, I gotta say I don’t think this is really capitalism...but corporatism. One mammoth media conglomerate that will (by way of their print, tv, radio, and internet influences) advertise and force feed this book to us. Good or bad the sheeple will buy without thinking, because the commercial said it was good—because Oprah said it was good. And because they are told it is good…most of the sheeple will say it is good.

Oh well good for him. I am tired. Good Night.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Everyone thanks for posting. I don't begrudge the guy his book, and he is obviously a talented writer. So, here's to him. I lift my glass and nod my head.

That being said, I agree with Jim, it is a matter of corporatism. And yet, we continue to go to the movies, to buy the books, to listen to the music.

And seriously, FOX, or WARNER BROTHERS, or SONY..if any VP is reading this..feel free to exploit me.

Will Kinshella said...

I love him to death, but I think someday our man Miller's going to end up in a clock tower with a sniper rifle and a bag of oreos...

SQT said...

Miller nailed it on the head. With a $4million payout the publisher is going to promote the heck out of this thing and make sure they get their money back.

I don't begrudge the author either. I dream of offers like that.

miller580 said...

Clock Towers are hard to come by these days...

Pythia3 said...

Thanks Jon, that's it! Now I can rest my forgetful mind!

And yes, I know John and Phillis need blogging 101 whereas you need blogging 225 (that's the upgrade class)

PS And Jon, I 'tink' your German is coming out. LOL :)

James Burnett said...

This is disturbing and almost depressing. I've been shopping my novels for so long, only to hear "we like 'em but we don't know if you have enough of a name to sell 'em."

Sheesh! This makes me want to beat my head against the wall. But I agree with sqt that the unpredictability this demonstrates offers hope that one day we might all get discovered.

Vwriter said...

Hello Stewart and the rest of you.

Here's what Justin told me regarding his big and advance and his status re: "...No history of genre writing. No track record with the fans..."

(although I'm sure it's still likely to be criticized by anyone looking for secret deals or manipulative capitalistic machinations)

"My hope is that a deal like this can be encouraging to other writers. There's always a certain amount of arm waving when somebody gets a big advance; i know, because I've done some of that myself in the past. (Blogs are the worst, which is why I don't read any.) Bottom line, I think the book just hit a nerve with editors. I'm a career writer, somebody who's been at this a long time. I've paid plenty of dues -- chiefly, the dues of writing every day for twenty years. My philosophy is, I always write the book that feels like it wants to be written, and let the chips fall. I think this is good advice, actually, for anyone who writes. That's what I did in this case and, well, people seemed to like it. Secret publishing connection? I'm a suburban Texas dad who writes in his garage after his kids go to bed.

As I said, I hope this is encouraging. I hope you like my other books (no vampires). Best of luck in your writing -- jcc..."

If and when any of us hit the level of success that Justin has achieved and other people rant a bit, I hope we remember to be as dignified as he continues to show himself to be.

And, it's not a bad idea to read his work. His prose is as impressive as his humility.

miller580 said...

vwriter- thanks for the insight. It actually is inspiring that there are writers out there catching a break.

So few do...and even fewer who are good do.

Kate S said...
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