Two people, because of discussions elsewhere on the internet, have sent email asking me questions about release weeks, and how when a reader buys a book affects me, personally. I thought I would take the opportunity to answer them here. But, as usual, before I answer a question, I need to explain the context.
(This might be a little on the long side – and because I want everything to be clear here, if anything I’ve said is confusing in any way, please ask me to clarify).
First: Everything I am saying about release week refers to traditionally published books, in large part because most of it relates to the sale of physical books through traditional outlets. Ebooks figure into the discussion, but not in the same way.
If you haven’t heard the phrase “release week”, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably someone who goes into a bookstore, browses, finds a book (or more) that looks interesting, and buys it. The book is either in the store, or it’s not. However.
Every book has an on-sale date. In most cases, this date is “soft”. It is the day by which every bookstore that ordered the title, prior to its release, can be expected to have copies. In order for the book to be on the shelves of stores in CA and also in NY, they need to be picked, packed, loaded onto trucks, and delivered. The location of the warehouses define, in part, which stores will get copies first. Clearly the books do not arrive at the vendors on the same day.
When the books arrive, the bookstore people will receive the books, which are invoiced from the time the books were picked for packing and shipping. They price them, and they put them on the shelves. Is there an On Sale notification? There’s a sticker on the outside of the box. It’s often small, green or yellow. It’s not always at the top of the box. And, in most cases, it is functionally invisible. A large store will receive a hundred boxes, many of which do not have these stickers, but all of which require the same receiving & stickering.
What this means in a practical sense is that the book will begin to appear on bookshelves before its theoretical release day as it arrives in the various stores. There are a (very few) occasions when the bookstores have signed binding legal agreements not to display a book before a certain date (Harry Potter’s later volumes); if you don’t sign, no books. For the most part, though, the books get put on the shelf.
People find them. People buy them.
Why, then, does release week matter to some authors?
The NYT (New York Times) Bestseller lists.
The NYT Bestseller lists are aggregate and weighted surveys of (totally unnamed) bookstores and venues in which books can be purchased. They are reported to be primarily brick-and-mortar outlets. In order to prevent authors from deliberately gaming the system (by, say, ordering 500 copies of their own books through an NYT store), the list is kept private.
They accumulate numbers for each of the fifty-two weeks of the year. Once a week, they tabulate and release their list.
The theory behind release week is this: it’s when the greatest concentration of sales should occur. If you are desperate to make the NYT list in any position, you want all of your initial sales to occur during the same week.
Why would an author want to be on that list so badly?
Let me make a small list.
1. Increased visibility
2. “New York Times Bestseller” appended to your author name forever.
3. Marketing buzz. If you make it onto the list, it means you have reader-momentum.
There are additional reasons. Some authors feel that if they don’t crack that list, their career is over. Their books won’t sell to publishers, and they won’t be able to continue to write them.
However: in my very, very humble opinion, if you’re not cracking the top 10 – the print list – it’s insignificant. As a reader, I generally consider “NYT Bestelling author” to be an insubstantial bit of fluff. I don’t pay attention to it because it doesn’t matter to me as a reader.
Obviously, the way I respond as a reader influences my thoughts on the matter as a writer. If something says #1 NYT Bestseller, that’s impressive. (Not that it influences whether or not I want to read the book). Short of that, I don’t pay attention. My husband feels that I am somehow not the typical consumer – but really, I have a lot of books, and it’s one of the few areas in which I do feel I am the typical consumer — inasmuch as any reader is.
So here’s my take. Well, no, let me say instead: Here’s Ilona Andrew’s take.
How does all of this silliness affect the reader? It doesn’t. You shouldn’t have anxiety when you go to a book store or when you preorder. You shouldn’t worry about when to buy the book or how it will affect the author. If you like the book, get it. A sale is a sale and we thank you for it.
So, the plan is, if you find the book early and you want it, buy it. If you see it early – score! You get the book early. Email us if you liked it. We’ll be totally happy for you.
They have a much larger audience than I do, but started out from the same position; they sell well, but they do it because people liked their books and told other people about them.
It’s interesting to note that they hit the NYT list on the week before release week. (I say they rather than she because it’s a husband & wife writing team, not because I am bad at pronouns. Well, okay, I’m sometimes bad with pronouns, but.)
Having said all of this, it’s normal for authors to worry about how a book is selling. This is actually much, much easier to do as time passes, because after a couple of decades, we become more aware of writers we know and love that can’t sell to publishers because of prior low-sales records. Series that we love writing/reading aren’t viable anymore.
In my less sanguine moments, I’m looking into a gloomy future left in the wake of the death of Borders, because Borders did carry my books, and they did carry my backlist. Loss of that shelf-space across the US makes keeping books that have been in-print since their first publication almost impossible; the West novels are too long for the current PoD reprints that are occurring for other mass markets, and they don’t have the sales volume of, say, Patrick Rothfuss. (A volume which I think he deserves because I think his writing is brilliant).
But with the broader acceptance of self-publishing and e-publishing, there are at least options.
- Assassin Fantastic contains Echoes, a story about Kallandras’ early years
- Battle Magic contains Warlord, a story about the origin of Jewel’s domicis, Avandar.
- The 30th Anniversary DAW Fantasy contains The Memory of Stone, a story about the head of the Maker’s guild, his apprentice, and her creations.
- Sirius, the Dog Star contains Huntbrother, a story about Cynthia of Maubreche that takes place after Hunter’s Death.
- Women of War contains The Black Ospreys, a story about The Kalakar and the formation of the Black Ospreys.
- In the Shadow of Evil contains The Weapon, a story taking place in the time of Veralaan and the Blood Barons.
Short Story Collections as Michelle West
Speaking with Angels (Hardcover)Five Star (Imprint of the Gale Group), June 2003, 0-7862-5343-6, 337 pagesFive Star publishes hard covers directed towards the library market so youmay not find it in most bookstores. However, it is listed atAmazon.Five Star’s web address is http://www.galegroup.com/fivestar.Cover Artist: Jody LeeIntroduction by Tanya HuffStories:
- Winter originally published in Deals with the Devil, 1994
- Gifted originally published in Aladdin, Master of the Lamp, 1992
- Hunger originally published in Christmas Ghosts, 1993
- Four Attempts at a Letter originally published in By any other Fame, 1994
- Turn of the Card originally published in Tarot Fantastic, 1997
- Sunrise originally published in A Dangerous Magic, 1999
- The Law of Man originally published in Elf Fantastic, 1997
- Ghostwood originally published in Enchanted Forests, 1995
- Under the Skin originally published in Elf Magic, 1997
- Elegy originally published in Moon Shots, 1999
- Diamonds originally published in Alien Pets, 1998
- Return of the King originally published in Merlin, 1999
- To Speak with Angels originally published in Villians Victorious, 2001
Short Stories as Michelle Sagara
- Birthnight, in Christmas Bestiary, ed. Rosalind M. Greenberg and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, November 1992, 0-88677-528-0, 20 pages.
- Gifted, in Aladdin, Master of the Lamp ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, December 1992, 0-88677-545-0, 12 pages.
- Shadow of a Change, in Dinosaur Fantastic, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, July 1993, 0-88677-566-3, 15 pages.
- For Love of God, in Alternate Warriors, ed. Mike Resnick, Tor, September 1993, 0-812-52346-6, 14 pages.
- Hunger, in Christmas Ghosts, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, November 1993, 0-88677-586-8, 12 pages.
- Four Attempts at a Letter, in By any other Fame, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, January 1994, 0-88677-594-9, 18 pages.
- Winter, in Deals with the Devil, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg and Loren D. Estheman, DAW, October 1994, 0-88677-623-6, 14 pages.
- What She Won’t Remember, in Alternate Outlaws, ed. Mike Resnick, Tor, October 1994, 0-812-53344-5, 21 pages.
- The Hidden Grove, in Witch Fantastic, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, January 1995, 0-88677-640-6, 13 pages.
- Ghostwood, in Enchanted Forests, ed. Katharine Kerr and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, December 1995, 0-88677-672-4, 21 pages.
- Shadow of a Change (reprint), in Dinosaurs! (hardcover), ed. Martin H. Greenberg, Donald I. Fine Books, 1996, 1-55611-482-6, 16 pages.
- When a Child Cries in Phantoms of the Night ed. Richard Gilliam and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, June 1996, 0-88677-696-1, 14 pages.
- The Sword in the Stone, in Alternate Tyrants (trade paperback), ed. Mike Resnick, Tor, April 1997, 0-812-54835-3, 21 pgs
Short Stories as Michelle West or Michelle Sagara West
- Choice (Valdemar Story) in Sword of Ice ed. Mercedes Lackey DAW, Jan 1997, 0-88677-720-8, 27 pages.
- Turn of the Card in Tarot Fantastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Lawrence Schimel, DAW, Feb 1997, 0-88677-729-1, 30 pages.
- The Law of Man in Elf Fantastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, April 1997, 0-88677-736-4, 25 pages.
- Flight in Return of the Dinosaurs ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, May 1997, 0-88677-753-4, 21 pages.
- The Vision of Men in The Fortune Teller ed. Lawrence Schimel and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, August 1997, 0-88677-748-8, 23 pages.
- By the Work, One Knows in Zodiac Fantastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and A.R.Morlen, DAW, September 1997, 0-88677-751-8, 34 pages.
- Under the Skin in Elf Magic ed. Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, October 1997, 0-88677-761-5, 20 pages.
- The Dead that Sow in Wizard Fantastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, November 1997, 0-88677-756-9, 25 pages.
- Kin in Olympus ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Bruce D. Arthurs, DAW, March 1998, 0-88677-775-5, 18 pages.
- Childhood’s End in Tad William’s Mirror World (hardcover) Harper Prism, June 1998, 0-06-105545-X, 26 pages.
- Step on the Crack in Black Cats and Broken Mirrors ed. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, DAW, June 1998, 0-88677-788-7, 18 pages.
- The Vision of Men in Things Invisible to See (trade paperback) ed. Lawrence Schimel, Ultra Violet Library, September 1998, 1-885865-22-8, 27 pgs.
- Warlord in Battle Magic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff, DAW, October 1998, 0-88677-820-4, 39 pages.
- Diamonds in Alien Pets ed. Denise Little, DAW, December 1998, 0-88677-822-0, 22 pages.
- Sunrise in A Dangerous Magic ed. Denise Little, DAW, February 1999, 0-88677-825-5, 52 pages.
- Elegy in Moon Shots ed. Peter Crowther, DAW, July 1999, 0-88677-848-4, 25 pages.
- Return of the King in Merlin ed. Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, September 1999, 0-88677-841-7, 26 pages.
- Work In Progress in Alien Abductions ed. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, DAW, October 1999, 0-88677-856-5, 33 pages.
- Water Baby in Earth, Air, Fire and Water ed. Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, November 1999, 0-88677-857-3, 29 pages.
- Faces Made of Clay in Mardi Gras Madness (trade paperback) ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Russel Davis, Cumberland House, 2000, 1-58182-077-1, ? pages.
- Sacrifice in Spell Fanstastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff, DAW, March 2000, 0-88677-878-6, 27 pages.
- Shelter in Perchance to Dream ed. Denise Little, DAW, April 2000, 0-88677-888-3, 36 pages.
- Dust in How I Survived My Summer Vacation (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Pocket Books, August 2000, 0-7434-0040-2, 46 pages.
- Déjà Vu in Single White Vampire Seeks Same ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Brittiany A.Koren, DAW, January 2001, 0-88677-922-7, 26 pages.
- To Speak with Angels in Villians Victorious ed. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, DAW, April 2001, 0-88677-980-4, 13 pages.
- Lady of the Lake in Out of Avalon ed. Jennifer Roberson, DAW, May 2001, 0-451-45831-1, 28 pages.
- Echoes in Assassin Fantastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter, DAW, July 2001, 0-7564-0002-3, 43 pages.
- Truth in The Mutant Files ed. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, DAW, August 2001, 0-7564-0004-X, 30 pages.
- The Last Flight in Creature Fantastic ed. Denise Little, DAW, September 2001, 0-7564-0007-X, 23 pages.
- The Knight of Hydan Athe in Knight Fantastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, DAW, April 2002, 0-7564-0052-X, 45 pages.
- The Memory of Stone in The 30th Anniversary DAW Fantasy ed. Elizabeth R. Wollheim and Sheila E. Glibert, DAW, May 2002, 0-7564-0070-8, 62 pages.
- Legacy in Familiars ed. Denise Little, DAW, July 2002, 0-7564-0081-3, 90 pages.
- The Nightingale in Once Upon a Galaxy ed. Wil McCarthy, Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, DAW, Sept 2002, 0-7564-0091-0, 38 pages.
- A Quiet Justice in Vengeance Fantastic ed. Denise Little, DAW, Oct 2002, 0-7564-0084-8, 27 pages.
- The Augustine Painters in Apprentice Fantastic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Russel Davis, DAW, Nov 2002, 0-7564-0093-7, 44 pages.
- How to Kill and Immortal in The Bakka Anthology (trade paperback) ed. Kristen Pederson Chew, Bakka Bookstore, Dec 2002, 0-9731508-3-1, 26 pages.
- Birthnight (Reprint with New Introduction By Michelle West) in Magical Beginnings ed. Steven H. Silver and Martin H. Greenberg DAW, Feb 2003, 0-7564-0121-6, 18 pages.
- Diary in The Sorceror’s Academy ed. Denise Little DAW, Sept 2003, 0-7564-0157-7, 34 pages.
- Winter Death (Valdemar Story) in Sun in Glory ed. Mercedes Lackey DAW, Dec 2003, 0-7564-0166-6, 64 pages.
- Dime Store Rings in The Magic Shop ed. Denise Little DAW, Feb 2004, 0-7564-0173-9, 24 pages.
- To the Gods Their Due in Conqueror Fantastic ed. Pamela Sargent DAW, April 2004, 0-7564-0191-7, 55 pages.
- The Stolen Child in Faerie Tales ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Russel Davis DAW, May 2004, 0-7564-0182-8, 40 pages.
- Huntbrother in Sirius, the Dog Star ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter DAW, June 2004, 0-7564-0186-0, 63 pages.
- The Rose Garden in Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City ed. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers DAW, July 2004, 0-7564-0233-6, 32 pages.
- The Colors of Augustine in Summoned to Destiny (trade paperback) ed. Julie Czerneda Fitzenhenry and Whiteside, Oct 2004, 1-55041-861-0. 100 pages. (Note: This story takes place in the same universe as The Augustine Painters in Apprentice Fantastic.)
- Unicorn Hunt in Maiden, Matron, Crone ed. Kerrie Huges and Martin H. Greenberg DAW, May 2005, 0-7564-0286-7, 36 pages.
- The Black Ospreys in Women of War ed. Tanya Huff and Alexander Potter DAW, July 2005, 0-7564-0284-0, 52 pages.
- The Weapon in In the Shadow of Evil ed. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers DAW, August 2005, 0-7564-0287-5, 46 pages.
- The Snow Queen written with Debbie Ridpath Ohi in Magic Tails ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Janet Pack DAW, September 2005, 0-7564-0288-3, 46 pages.
- Shahira in Children of Magic ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes DAW, June 2006, 0-7564-0361-8, 39 pages.
Other Publications as Michelle Sagara
- Introduction to What Ho, Magic!, A Collection of Short Stories by Tanya Huff Meisha Merlin Publishing, March 1999, 1-892065-04-5, 4 pages.
Other Publications as Michelle West
- Introduction to Troll Bridge by Terry Pratchett in My Favorite Fantasy Story, ed. Martin H. Greenberg, DAW, August 2000, 0-88677-905-7, 2 pages.
- La Loi de l’Homme in It Etait Une Fee (trade paperback) [FRENCH] ed. Léa Silhol, Editions de l’Oxymore, 2000, 2-913939-03-1, 30 pages.
- Sacrifice in Sortiléges (trade paperback) [FRENCH] ed. Natacha Giordano, Editions de l’Oxymore, May 2001, 2-913939-06-6, 24 pages.
- Une Justice Silencieuse in Mythophages (trade paperback) [FRENCH] ed. Léa Silhol, Editions de l’Oxymore, Sept 2004, 2-913939-31-7, 32 pages.
- Die Herrin Vom See in Jenseits Von Avalon (hardcover) [GERMAN] ed. Jennifer Roberson, Knaur, 1999, 3-426-66059-8, 31 pgs
- Die Herrin Vom See in Jenseits Von Avalon (hardcover) [GERMAN] ed. Jennifer Roberson, Knaur, 1999, 3-426-66059-8, 31 pgs
- Le Secret D’Elantra (Translation of Cast in Shadow) Translated by Sylvie Lebreton Luna, 2006, 2-280-15437-4, Trade Paperback, 411 pgs
- Interview with Michelle Sagara West in Northern Dreamers (Interviews with Famous Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Writers) (trade paperback) by Edo von Belkom, Quarry Press, 1998, 1-55082-206-3, 10 pages.
- For the Love of Riley in Seven Seasons of Buffy (trade paperback) ed. Glenn Yeffeth, Benbella Books, April 2003, 1-932100-08-3, 7 pages.
- Why We Love Lindsay in Five Seasons of Angel (trade paperback) ed. Glenn Yeffeth, Benbella Books, October 2004, 1-932100-33-4, 10 pages.
- More than a Marriage of Convenience in Finding Serenity (trade paperback) ed. Jane Espenson, Benbella Books, 2004, 1-932100-43-1, 8 pages.
Book Review Column
Guilty Pleasures—The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (incomplete)
- May 1996
- July 1996
- September 1996
- December 1996
- April 1997
- May 1997
Musing on Books – The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (incomplete)
- September 1997
- January 1998
- March 1998
- July 1998
- December 1998
- April 1999
- August 1999
- February 2000
- June 2000
- November 2000
- July 2001
- July 2002
- December 2002
- April 2003
- September 2003
- February 2004
- May 2004
- September 2004
- Many since then…
If anyone has a more complete set of issues of F+SF and is willing to go through themto report the columns I missed, I’d be more than grateful.(firstname.lastname@example.org).