August 2nd, 2006


End of Unconformity; Deposition Resumes Here

Sometimes — most of the time — I find publishing to be an unfathomable and generally unprofitable inconvenience, made necessary by bill collectors, creditors, hunger, and addictions. Other times, I find it to be an abomination of a sort which ought never to be visited upon any sentient organism. The last seven days have fallen squarely into the latter category. And I have made no entry during that time for a number of reasons, but primarily because I wanted to reach a point where I could explain what has happened and, to the best of my ability, why it has happened.

On Thursday afternoon, less than one day after we arrived here in Rhode Island, I received the following e-mail from Tyler Stewart, owner of Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, re: my reading/signing there on August 5th:

Sorry to bother you, but we're a bit in a jam. We just heard from Penguin that you are out of print there. I am not quite sure what else we can get in. Can you think of anything that we can get in for the event? If not, we'll repackage the event to be a meet the author/reading.

And my first thought was, What?, because, of course, I knew damn well that both Low Red Moon and Murder of Angels were still available in trade paperback, as neither was planned to go out of print until next year, prior to the release of mass-market paperback editions of each novel (as with Threshold). But. A quick check of Amazon, which I virtually never look at anymore, confirmed that yes, both LRM and MoA are, indeed, out of print. Equal parts shocked and furious, I called my lit agent, Merrilee, who was trying to escape NYC for a month in Maine. She immediately contacted my editor at Penguin, Liz Scheier, who had no idea either book was out of print. I was told it must be a mistake, and Liz promised to look into it and get back to Merrilee ASAP. So, the wait began. The wait stretched through Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and the early part of Wednesday, each day more black and desperate that the day before. I sat here in RI and did that thing which I am very bad at doing. I waited. There was nothing else I could do. I imagined innumerable and increasingly unlikely scenarios to account for this impossible thing. Most likely, I suspected that when the Threshold tpb was remaindered early in 2006, some cretin at the warehouse in New Jersey pulled everything with the name Kiernan stamped upon it and that was that.

Finally, this afternoon, I heard from Merrilee, who'd finally heard from my editor. And it was perhaps the worst possible news. There were no books in the warehouse because, for reasons that have yet to be made clear to me, Penguin remaindered both titles in February. Why, then, was I not informed? Liz told Merrilee that she never got the e-mail from the production manager advising her to advise me of the decision. Yes, you may pause here to shake your heads in disbelief.

There is a clause in all my Penguin contracts which states that I must be notified well in advance of a book's being pulled from the warehouses, and that I will be allowed to purchase however many of the remaining copies of said book I wish to purchase at a substantial discount. The constant reader will recall that when Silk was pulled, subpress stepped in and generously gave me the funds to purchase more than 1,000 of the remaining copies. Subpress could do that because of this clause. I would copy it here, only I have none of the contracts with me. Copies of the contracts for Low Red Moon and Murder of Angels are being overnighted to me from NYC, and I'll post the relevant bits in another entry tomorrow. But trust me; it's true.

So, in February, I was not notified that a decision had been made — contra earlier plans — to keep the trades in print until a few months before the mmps were released in 2007. And I was not given my contractually guaranteed opportunity to buy unsold copies, should I have wished to do so.

As of this evening, I do not know how this thing's going to play out. I know that my agent is appalled that I have been treated this way by Penguin. And she's a very good agent, one of the best, and I trust that she will do everything that she can. But the books are gone. They've been gone for about six months. That's the weirdest part about this whole mess; it actually happened to me half a year back. Penguin will still be releasing the Threshold mmp and Daughter of Hounds in January. More than that, I cannot say. Merrilee has asked that all rights on both novels be returned to me immediately, that I might try to market them elsewhere (normally, the publisher retains the rights for a predetermined period). Personally, I hope that Penguin still plans to release the mass-market paperback editions of these novels next year. But, as of tonight, I can't say. I have decided that if rights revert to me, I will likely make both books available via the web, under creative commons, for free, in an attempt to boost sales of Daughter of Hounds and Threshold.

And if you are one of my readers, and if this horrifies you as much as it should — if you would like to help — I would ask that you please, please preorder as many copies of the Threshold mmp and Daughter of Hounds as you can reasonably afford to preorder. That's what you can do to help. There's also Sirenia Digest, for which I am presently very grateful. Either way, thanks ahead of time.

As for the Pandemonium reading, without which I'd still not know this had happened, Spooky spoke with Ruth Evensen, the store's events coordinator, this afternoon. Given the news and the stress of the past few days, I was no longer sure I was up to the event. A final decision will be made in the morning, but I will likely decide to cancel. To everyone who was planning to attend, I sincerely apologize. I was very much looking forward to it, but the shape I'm in right now, I really don't think you'd want to see me. My heart wouldn't be in the reading. Regardless, the folks at Pandemonium have been great through all this, and I would not have you think otherwise.

Last year, I called Harlan Ellison for some reason or another. I cannot recall just why. But he ended up telling me, "The hard part isn't becoming a writer. It's staying a writer." Those words ring true each and every day, but right now they seem like the only thing any other author has ever said to me that matters. And tonight it occurs to me that anyone can handle the good reviews, the awards and award nominations, the praise from one's peers, and so forth. What takes strength — what proves if I will, ultimately, stay a writer — is how I take the idiotic, baffling bullshit, the senseless defeats, and the blows dealt me by the paper pushers and bean counters who have never yet and never shall read a word that I've written.

Tomorrow morning, I hope that this journal will return to it's usual same old-same old, though I will continue to post details about this fiasco as they are made available. I am in a very strange place tonight. And I need some rest...