Everything yesterday was sort of wrecked by the arrival of sales statements for Low Red Moon and Threshold for the most recent sales period. Those things are rarely ever good tidings. The first one for Threshold was, back in '02, and the first one for Murder of Angels wasn't too terrible, but generally, they're cause for the gnashing of teeth and suchlike. Locusts and plagues and smoldering volcanoes. Anyway, I got to talking about the lack of promotion from Roc and how this has been the case since the very beginning, since Silk, how publishers expect books to somehow mysteriously sell themselves, etc. and etc. And that led to the question of whether or not reviews help sell books and then to the question of whether or not only some reviews sell books. Recently, a couple of months ago, I was talking with my agent, Merrilee, and I was lamenting the lackluster sales of Murder of Angels, even after the glowing review in Entertainment Weekly, which, regardless of its merits or lack thereof, seems about as mainstream a magazine as I could ever hope to be reviewed by. And Merrilee said that, in her experience, reviews in EW do not translate into sales. Yesterday, I looked up the magazine's circulation. It's supposedly 1.7 million (this from EW's website). So, I imagined what seemed to me a worst-case scenario. Let's imagine that only 1% of the 1.7 million people who read EW read the review and then bought MoA. That would still be a whopping 17,000 books sold, which is about twice the first printing of the novel. I know that didn't happen. Then I decided to be more pessimistic. What if only one half of one 1% read the review and bought the book? That would still be 8,500 people, which would have sent the novel into a second printing. That didn't happen either. So, what about a mere one quarter of 1%? That's still 4,250 books, a very sizable dent in the first printing. But that evidently didn't happen, either. So, it would seem that even if one is lucky enough to get a good review in a magazine with a 1.7 million circulation, one cannot expect any significant increase in sales from that review. Tons of free advertising can be worthless. On the one hand, this is the sort of thing that all working authors need to spend a lot of time thinking about. On the other hand, it's the sort of thing that shuts me down and keeps me from writing. It's the sort of thing that makes me wish I could afford to confine my publishing to the specialty press. The books that I've done with Gauntlet Publishing and Subterranean Press have either sold out (some before publication) or will soon be sold out. And these are relatively hard-to-find expensive hardbacks, not $14 trade paperbacks available at Borders and Barnes and Noble. It's a laughable, ludicrous affair, this "business" of writing for a living.
Yesterday afternoon, wishing to escape the house and the questions I'd been asking, Spooky and I took the digital camera and drove up Oakdale Road, through Druid Hills, where lots of big trees came down on Thursday night. It was amazing, in a terrible, sad way, seeing these enormous trees wrenched from the sandy, clayey soil. We've had far too much rain this year. The Southeast is running between ten and twenty-five inches above average this summer. The ground is saturated, so big trees that are perfectly healthy are falling. I'm half afraid that homeowners may soon take to cutting them down, preemptive strikes, as it were. Some of these trees are a hundred years old. Many are 70 . It's an awful thing to see. Anyway, the photos are behind the cut, if you're interested:
With me for scale,
The hole left by this tree is at least six feet deep.
This one pulled up a sizable chunk of sidewalk.
Same as above, different view.
Yesterday was, of course, the 60th anniversary of America's use of an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. No one knows how many people were killed that day. Estimates range from 60,000 to 200,000. Last night, I watched Hiroshima: The First Weapon of Mass Destruction on the Discovery Channel. Despite the lurid, "timely" title, it was a decent documentary, and the interviews with survivors and the reenactments were especially chilling. The makers seemed torn between the horror of the bombing and the fact that it forced the Japanese to surrender and thus ended WWII (though I consider the Cold War an extension of WWII, just as I consider WWII an extension of WWI created by the Treaty of Versailles) and, in theory, saved more lives than were taken in the bombing. It may be true that lives were saved, and it may not. It's impossible to say, for sure, what course the war would have taken had the bomb not been dropped on Hiroshima. Regardless, I believe there will never be any sane way to justify America's use of atomic weapons against Japan in WWII, just as there will never be any way to justify Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor (though, at least it can be said that Japan's target was genuinely military). I snurched the following quote from the_urban_monk. It's part of a speech delivered twenty years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the bombing, by Father George Zabelka, the chaplain with the U.S. Air Force who was the priest for the men who bombed Hiroshima. I have little good to say about Christianity, but these are powerful words, nonetheless, especially at a time when many Christain Americans justify the present war with religious arguments:
War is now, always has been, and always will be bad, bad news. I was there. I saw real war. Those who have seen real war will bear me out. I assure you, it is not of Christ. It is not Christ’s way. There is no way to conduct real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus. There is no way to train people for real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus.
I was there, and I was wrong. Yes, war is hell, and Christ did not come to justify the creation of hell on earth by his disciples. The justification of war may be compatible with some religions and philosophies, but it is not compatible with the nonviolent teaching of Jesus. I was wrong. And to those of whatever nationality or religion who have been hurt because I fell under the influence of the father of lies, I say with my whole heart and soul I am sorry. I beg forgiveness.