Perspective From the Other Side

As I write this, I’m two months away from seeing The Spaceship Next Door re-released by HMH/Adams* and available for the first time for a whole lot of people who don’t read ebooks and/or don’t read indie/self-published books, and/or just never heard of me before.

The last couple of months has been an education, and things haven’t really even gotten going yet. I’ve already said this a few times to the good people at the publishing house, but seeing this industry from the side of the traditional publisher is fascinating, so far.

*This stands for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—which is the publisher—and John Joseph Adams Books—which is the name of their sci-fi/fantasy imprint.

A starred review is good, right?

Let’s start with the most recent thing. A couple of days ago I received a lot of congratulatory emails from various people at HMH/Adams for the STARRED REVIEW from Publishers Weekly.

I was supposed to know what this meant and that it was a big deal. I didn’t. Because I’ve gotten reviews before. Lots of them. From all over the place. And when I look up Publishers Weekly, sure, I’ve heard of them, but their subscriber base isn’t exactly huge, and I don’t know any indie authors who are saying, my god, I have to get reviewed by PW or whatever. It just hasn’t come up.

(From my wife: “It’s only one star, are you sure it’s good?”)

But here’s why. I’m never going to get one of my self-published print books in any kind of wide distribution to bookstores. I’m not set up for it. None of us is. The requirements include: discount bulk shipping; warehousing; allowability for returns. This is not an industry designed for indie authors.

That includes something I never thought about before: how bookstores find out about books in the first place.

If you want to know why a Publishers Weekly review is so important, it’s because the reviews aren’t for the readers. It’s for the people who decide what books to stock in stores and libraries.

And a starred review means Publishers Weekly thinks it’s “a book of outstanding quality.” Which is really, really good.

Here’s a link to that review.

And a nice pull-quote:

Doucette writes winning characters who read like real people, and Sorrow Falls is similarly credible. The head-spinning ideas both power the narrative and invite the reader to think hard, while plenty of humor and action move the plot along. This excellent work will appeal to readers from middle school through adulthood.

–Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

In which I continue to be a unicorn

I’ve come across the occasional reminder that I’ve gone about things somewhat differently than most. This has become obvious on a few occasions in which I had a question for the publisher regarding one detail or another. Each new person I speak to over there begins with, do you have an agent? They might know that.

More telling was the first question posed to me in an interview.

The promotional material for The Spaceship Next Door has, in separate places, the following information:

  1. this book is already a bestseller in audio
  2. one of my other titles is The Frequency of Aliens, a sequel to The Spaceship Next Door

The first question I got, then, was, can I explain this highly unusual release schedule of mine, where the first book is released in audio before it’s released in print or ebook, while the sequel is already available?

The publisher’s promotional material is, of course, downplaying the part where this is a re-release of a self-published book, and I don’t blame the interviewer for not making that connection because the longer I spent on The Other Side of publishing, the more I realize how invisible self-publishing is over here.

In their defense

The interviewer actually read the book. I’ve been interviewed a lot over the years, but hardly ever by someone who’d actually read the thing I was being interviewed about.

Everyone’s in bed with everyone else

A couple of months ago I went about the tedious business of setting up an author page on the German version of Amazon. Amazon doesn’t do this for us, and I found out why in the weirdest way possible.

This is what the U.S. version of my page looks like, in case you’re unfamiliar with it.

I can control most of the elements on that page, and it’s a great way to make sure someone interested in one of your books can learn about your other books.

Aside: for reasons surpassing understanding, Amazon only has author pages on some of their country-specific sites. Right now, those sites are: U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Japan. Why not Canada, and Australia? Or India? I don’t know. Nobody knows.

The thing is, unlike when I publish a book through Kindle Direct Publishing, I can’t put things up on the U.S. author page and expect those things to be repeated on the other country pages. I have to go to each one, claim my profile, claim my books, and populate the page.

It’s not all that hard, but only because Google Translate exists.

About a week later, I received an email in German, which translated, read that my publisher could not confirm that the email address I provided belongs to the author of the books I claimed, and if I had an issue with this, I should touch base with my publisher.

Then, a publisher that was not Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was identified. (I won’t name the publisher, but it’s a larger company than HMH.)

As it happens, HMH’s international print distribution is limited, so they partner with an ostensible rival in order to sell books in countries like Germany. (And France, and Japan, I’m betting. I haven’t tried setting up those author pages yet.) attempted to validate my claim on the HMH edition of The Spaceship Next Door by asking the publisher on file—again, not HMH—and that publisher had no idea who I was.

This is why the author pages don’t cross international lines: the rights are different depending on the territory. Apparently, so does the publisher.

Publishing is a strange business, man.

Film deals

Haha just kidding, I can’t talk about this at all right now. Soon, maybe, I’ll have something film-related to talk about, because I mean, I did get a starred review and all; I hear those are important.

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  1. Tracy-James Jones on July 5, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Awesome, as always. Looking forward to your continued success.

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