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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...

Comments

( 58 comments — Have your say! )
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tagplazen
Aug. 3rd, 2006 04:26 am (UTC)
I so wish I had a rocket launcher to loan you two right now.

It would make a great big boom, and then you could affix toilet handles to the tombstones of the numbskulls involved.

"Oh that? That's for when I shit on your grave. I just want to make sure the turd actually resides on your chest for eternity."
usagiko
Aug. 3rd, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
I concur with this comment.

Seriously, this should be the time when you're making a deal to borrow a suicide bomber and mail one to their offices. :D

Once I get some extra cash (yay for being a poor student :D) I'll be pre-ordering. You can bet on it. You're talented, you're an awesome person. You do not deserve this. [shakes fist]
tim_pratt
Aug. 3rd, 2006 04:27 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry, Caitlin. Reading this makes me feel like I've been punched in the stomach. I can't imagine how terrible it must be for you.
docbrite
Aug. 3rd, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
Jesus God almighty in a little pink sidecar trailing bloody wads of abortus. Shit-for-brains publishers gaily breaching contracts at will just as if they were meaningless, which I suppose they pretty much are as far as writers are concerned. One day we will return to New York, take a room at the Algonquin, and bomb them all. Some kind of nice slow nerve gas bomb that really makes them suffer before the protracted, messy death.
sclerotic_rings
Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
It's Riddell's Law: "Any sufficiently developed incompetence is indistinguishable from conspiracy."
(no subject) - stardustgirl - Aug. 3rd, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
scarletboi
Aug. 3rd, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)
*begins making a list of friends who need copies of Threshold and Daughter of Hounds*
bosstweed
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:02 am (UTC)
That's horrible. I'm sorry to hear you not only got screwed, but were not informed that you had been screwed. Don't know what your legal recourse is here, or what the right thing to do would be, given Penguin is your publisher and all, but I sincerely hope you get some sort of recompense. If not in terms of actual $$$ right now, perhaps in the form of a better contract next time you negotiate. Good luck.

For what it's worth, you are the first author I've ever felt inclined to explicitly "support" in the buying-of-books way. I'm looking forward to getting my copy of Alabaster and will be buying a copy of DoH. I've missed your journal entries, and it was good to see your icon on the FList. Sad it came under bad circumstances, but we are listening.
chris_walsh
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:31 am (UTC)
bosstweed said it better than I could at the moment.

*grumbles clenched-jawed on Caitlin's behalf*

I'll figure out some ordering come morning...
corucia
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:02 am (UTC)
Damn, that sucks every which way.

I'll pre-order Threshold and Daughter of Hounds paperbacks shortly.

One thing for those who intend to order multiple copies to keep in mind - It's my understanding that Amazon calculates rankings, etc. by number of orders sold, and NOT number of books sold. In other words, an order of one book and an order of ten books counts identically to them.... if I'm wrong, please correct me!
grandmofhelsing
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:18 am (UTC)
Mindful of Poppy's warning that she hates hearing that people cannot find her books, I didn't say anything several months ago when I noticed I was no longer seeing your books in the local bookshops. Now, of course, I know why, and I count myself lucky I was able to get a copy of one of them for a friend before they went out of print. Personally, I think, if you regain the rights to them, you should make the books available both via online and via print-on-demand of some sort. I can't imagine turning another friend onto someone's work by trying to get them to read a huge PDF.
chris_walsh
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:41 am (UTC)
I've actually been checking your part of the shelves at the various Powell's bookstores here in Portland, and noticing the used copies of LRM and MoA starting to outnumber the new copies. Part of me wonders if buying any of those used copies (along with the new books I'm planning to order) would help; part (no, much) of me doubts it, but I wanted to ask anyway if that would help.

In the meantime, I can non-ironically quote Bart Simpson: "I am shocked and appalled." (And I know Beavis & Butthead would know what to say at a time like this...)

I'm sorry, Caitlin.
upstart_crow
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:51 am (UTC)
Holee shit. I am so sorry this happened to you!
smu
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:52 am (UTC)
I work in a bookstore in New Jersey and I always make sure authors I like that aren't as well known as the likes of Dan Brown are stocked. I think my store is one of the few that always has Poppy Z. Brite and your novels.

It's odd that your books went out of print. I ordered some of them in Janurary and they arrived at my store fine. It's insane that this was done to you, highly irritating and wrong of your publisher.

I hope this gets resolved. I love your books and your vision. I can't wait for the new book as well, and I promise you that I'll stack it in the front of the store proudly!
gwynnega
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:59 am (UTC)
That is absolutely horrible. So sorry to hear about this fiasco. Anyhow, I've just subscribed to Sirenia Digest...
greygirlbeast
Aug. 3rd, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
Anyhow, I've just subscribed to Sirenia Digest...

Thank you very much.
awdrey_gore
Aug. 3rd, 2006 06:32 am (UTC)
Longtime watcher delurking out of sheer disgust...
That explains why I cannot find any of your books on retail bookstore shelves. I have all your books already but I tend to send people copies of my favorite books and was unable to find Low Red Moon anywhere outside used book stores. I just thought it was "one of those things."

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.

Done and done. I wish you the best.
setsuled
Aug. 3rd, 2006 07:18 am (UTC)
I'm really sorry to hear about this. Around here, I've noticed that Borders has your books but Barnes and Noble usually doesn't.

Is there no legal fund for authors out there? It seems like it would be a pretty natural thing, considering how defenceless authors appear to be against this sort of bollocks.

I hope things get better for you.
mevennen
Aug. 3rd, 2006 09:37 am (UTC)
This is absolutely fucking appalling. I am so sorry that you've been put through this shit. The publishing industry really is the limit. I discovered this for myself when Bantam's accounts department insisted that DARKLAND should be pulled - the previous book had underperformed, probably because they changed the goalposts on what constitutes sound performance - and even though the book was finished and delivered ahead of deadline, 6 months later they asked for the advance to be returned. My agent invited them to go fuck themselves and we've heard nothing since.

I think the next thing I do will be to work with arms dealers - they're bound to be more professional, at least.
matociquala
Aug. 3rd, 2006 10:54 am (UTC)
Oi. I haven't hit one of these yet myself, but I'm just waiting for it with clenched teeth at this point. Profoundest sympathies to you both.

Argh.

(no subject) - sclerotic_rings - Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - docbrite - Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
stephen_dedman
Aug. 3rd, 2006 11:01 am (UTC)
Condolences. Worst treatment I've had from a publisher was when the bean counters decided to revert the rights on the first novel in a series while the third was in the mail to my editor, who hadn't been informed of this decision.

I loved Silk, and I'm working as buyer for an sf/f/h bookshop at present, so I'll buy as many copies of both books as I can.
sclerotic_rings
Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC)
And people wonder why I advocate the mandatory spaying and neutering of MBAs. Weedeaters for the boys and Roto-Rooters for the girls, and anyone who bitches doesn't get anaesthesia.
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( 58 comments — Have your say! )