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ruminations

My grateful thanks to everyone who's posted a review of Murder of Angels in the last twenty-four hours. You're all very kind and have built for me a nice bulwark against the shit weasels. And the things you've written mean a lot to me, above and beyond being a response to "FruitLoop." All you have to do is look back over the journal for last summer and spring ('03) to see how hard this novel was for me to write. It was the hardest, by far. I spent months going to places I didn't want to go, and my reward is to see the book appreciated and to see it sell well enough that the next book, and the book after that, will sell.

I've a few lingering thoughts on "FruitLoops" comments, and it's easier to express thse thoughts here than to ignore them. Mostly, if this person wanted to accuse me of stealing from other authors and sources, they might have chosen something more appropriate than Kate and Leopold. I mean, really. Start with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever, Baum's Oz books, Paul Thomas Anderson's film Magnolia, Neil Gaiman's A Game of You, H. P. Lovecraft's entire ouvre, C. S. Lewis' Narnia books, and the works of Clive Barker and Charles De Lint. These are books that did strongly influence the story that I tell in Murder of Angels. Some of them are acknowledged in the "Author's Note" in the front of the book. But a reader and qualified would-be reviewer with a background in American fantasy would have recognized these influences without my pointing them out. Just as Murder of Angels is a novel about syncretism, so it is a novel that was written, as are all good novels, syncretically. It's a quilt I've made. That's what writers do. We quilt, stitching with all we've read and seen and hope and fear. Anyway, if you're going to accuse me of theft, please stick to those books and movies that have anything worth taking.

I was pleased with robyn_ma's observations about how I allow myself to get so very bent out of shape by the Amazonian shit weasels (Mustela coprophilas). I quote:

Fundamentally, these forums exist for people without an official forum to vent, positively or negatively. But what of the possibility of shills? For all we know, studio plants are writing some of the incomprehensibly positive reviews of sludge like Without a Paddle</i> on imdb ... and for all we know, some idiot with an ax to grind against greygirlbeast could post a negative review of </i>Murder of Angels on the grounds that it's "a rip-off" of Kate and leopold or some such asshattery. And the Amazon.com reviews are more insidious, because what a potential buyer reads on that product page could influence whether s/he buys the book. That means fewer sales for greygirlbeast, who, although not all about the benjamins, would at least like to avoid having to eat ketchup sandwiches because a few nosepickers sprinkled their duh-ness all over her work.

I could not have said it better myself. I know that Amazon has made some cosmetic attempts to make their "reviewers" more accountable. For example, you can now see those people supposedly posting under their own name. We would be better served if the "reviews" were dropped altogether, at least until Amazon is willing to impose strict rules regarding who can and cannot write "reviews." I do not say this because I hope never to have another negative Amazon review (though I do), but because I'd prefer those negative reviews at least not be written by people who are obviously unprepared for the task.

I also noticed this morning that Amazon is offerring a discount if you buy Murder of Angels with Poppy's Liquor. I think anyone would have to admit that's an odd combination. Liquor is a wonderful novel, but bundling it with Murder of Angels seems to display a notable ignorance of the substance of both books. Hell, what do I know. I'm just a writer. I can only dream of being something as indespensible to society as an Amazon.com employee.

I would also like to take a moment to complain about Amazon allowing dealers to sell used copies of a new book on the same page where one is meant to buy new copies of that same book. In short, this undercuts sales figures and makes my publishers very unhappy. And then they proceed to make me unhappy. Yes, you can save a few bucks, but those used copies do not figure into the sales figures that Amazon generates and which are becoming increasingly important to "the industry" (shudder). Amazon could at least do the author the courtesy of offerring the used copies elsewhere on their site. And how the frell can there even be "used" copies when the the novel was just released on Tuesday!?

Yes, I am in a snotty mood this morning. It's because I've swallowed about a ten gallons of the stuff since last night. I'm feeling much better, but not yet good. And Spooky's still more under the weather than I am. She spent most of yesterday camped out on the sofa, playing Morrowind. I managed to work all day yesterday, catching up on neglected correspondence, giving an interview to someone who's doing an article on blogging for a French magazine, arranging another interview, selecting an author's photo for The Dry Salvages, and finishing with the last batch of monster doodles. It was a very full day for someone with a snot factory running full tilt inside her head. About ten o'clock, I abandoned work, took a hot bath, and played Morrowind until about 2:30, when I got fevery again and went to bed. I was going to watch Gladiator again, because I've been in the mood for it, but opted for Morrowind, instead. Nar'eth the Dunmer has left Balmora and Ald-Ruhn for the time being and relocated to Sadrith Mora, having grown weary of Fighter's Guild politics and backstabbing and suchlike. Last night, I helped Larienna Macrina rid the ruins at Nchurdamz of a particularly nasty Daedric monster named Hrelvesuu. I also poked about the ruins at Shashpilamat, killed an assortment of Daedra, and scored some very nice orc armour.

I still don't have any Dragon*Con photos for you. They're all on Spooky's iBook, and neither of us have felt like resizing them in Photoshop, transferring them via thumbdrive to my iBook, and uploading them. Maybe later today, after I've made an effort to get "Bradbury Weather" moving again. Maybe I can also find the time and energy to post the new manga pages to Nebari.net. Maybe I can pull a rabbit out of this hat.

Comments

( 12 comments — Have your say! )
cheekytubemouse
Sep. 9th, 2004 04:22 pm (UTC)
I would also like to take a moment to complain about Amazon allowing dealers to sell used copies of a new book on the same page where one is meant to buy new copies of that same book.

I use the "Comment" field of my wish list entries to specify "NEW only please" or "used okay." (Looking back I notice that most of the "used okay" comments are for dvds or books that have gone out of print.)
tagplazen
Sep. 9th, 2004 04:27 pm (UTC)
Amazon sucks the big one, I've had more than a few friends that worked for them, and one sec company I worked for our space was right next to Amazon's offices in the ID of Seattle. About once a day I'd get calls from friends that worked there going, "I need a cigarette" and then they'd talk about meetings where twenty somethings with blue hair are leading pep rallies about how great it is to work for Amazon, how they're all one big happy team, the normal corp drone speak.

A friend of mine moved out to Seattle from NY because his gf's family is from here. He was doing temp work and they sent him to Amazon to work the phones. He's telling me how he pulled his hair back, toned down the clothes, the entire nine yards because he really needs the cash. After his first day, he gets back to their house to hear a message on the answering machine from the temp agency not to go back the next day. It takes him three days to find out why they canned him, he had no idea why and we're coming up with all types of theories. Finally, he finds out that he put a telemarketer through to Jeff Bezos. Apparently, Mr. Bezos likes to play the game "I'm just one of the guys" and won't have CEO put next to his name on the extension list, so when C recieved the phone call, he looked his name up and patched him through. "How am I supposed to know who Jeff Bezos is? I'm a guitar player, I could give a rat's ass about techies." When he finally found out that was the reason we just about died laughing, "I'm just one of the guys, but goddamnit, everyone should just know who I am!"

Figured it might cheer you up.
troublebox
Sep. 9th, 2004 08:23 pm (UTC)
Hehe! I worked at the Seattle DC in the ID for two years (“Distribution Center” and “Industrial District”, for the uninitiated) and I totally remember that blue-haired cheerleader chick!

What a bizarre place to work … in a lot of ways, absolutely awful, but, when you’re driving a forklift and your stock options are above 6-figures, it’s really easy to buy into all that pre-bubble hype. And so much slacker, 13th Gen intrigue!

(God! I’m having flashbacks.)
tagplazen
Sep. 10th, 2004 05:10 pm (UTC)
LOL, I think that woman's infamous at this point. ;-)
robyn_ma
Sep. 9th, 2004 04:50 pm (UTC)
'I would also like to take a moment to complain about Amazon allowing dealers to sell used copies of a new book on the same page where one is meant to buy new copies of that same book.'

yeah, i just noticed they do that. (for personal reasons, i don't purchase from amazon.com anymore.) that practice strikes me as what neil gaiman would call 'dodgy,' or something equally british-sounding. if a book's out of print, then selling a copy used is fair game. that's what places like half.com are for. but setting one's table right alongside the author's table and hawking her book for less is more than a little crass.

unfortunately, the barnes & noble website does the same thing, though it just provides a link that says 'used copies available' and doesn't tell you right up front, 'hey look! you can buy a used copy for $7.42!' or whatever.

one tactic you might use is to post a particularly heart-wrenching photo of sophie and say 'this is my beloved cat. she is 112 years old. any money you spend on used copies of my books LEECHES THE VERY BLOOD OUT OF HER POOR LITTLE VEINS, YOU SLIMY HYGIENICALLY-CHALLENGED FANBOY.'

or better yet, use the cheney approach: 'it's important for bookbuyers to make the right choice when they go to my products pages on amazon.com, because if you make the wrong choice and buy my books used, the danger is that sophie will go without dentures, that nar'eth will go without contacts, and that i will sulk really rather flamboyantly.'

i'm glad you enjoyed my post i/r/t amazon.com reviews, as it was something i'd been meaning to go on about for some time.
greygirlbeast
Sep. 9th, 2004 05:44 pm (UTC)
one tactic you might use is to post a particularly heart-wrenching photo of sophie and say 'this is my beloved cat. she is 112 years old. any money you spend on used copies of my books LEECHES THE VERY BLOOD OUT OF HER POOR LITTLE VEINS, YOU SLIMY HYGIENICALLY-CHALLENGED FANBOY.'

That's what i call stragedy!
nihilistic_kid
Sep. 9th, 2004 04:57 pm (UTC)
And how the frell can there even be "used" copies when the the novel was just released on Tuesday!?


They're not used, they're new and deeply discounted, but sold as used anyway. (You'll also note that the "collectible" copies are only rarely so for new books either.) On the bright side, it doesn't really have any impact on either your royalty or the publisher's bottom line. The folks selling "used" books don't actually have them, they just have an Ingram account. I first noticed this with my book, which is out via an independent press: single orders from the stock in Ingram's warehouses matched exactly the change in the number of "used" booksellers offering the title in amazon. When the number shrank from 33 to 29, for example, it was accompanied by the movement of four individual copies from Ingram to a retailer. Most real bookstores don't bother ordering single copies of a title that just came out -- they'll order more or none at all.

Your publisher "sells" books to Ingram at a 55% discount, and the wholesalers pass on the deep discount to the consumer. "New used" book prices will be very low, but will almost never dip under 45% of the cover price. While most bookstores, including amazon itself, won't discount more than 35% because they actually have employees to keep fed and lights to keep on, these guys can and will simply because they don't have any overhead related to the title.
Remember, it's not actually in their warehouse, but in Ingram's, thus the assurance that the book "usually ships in 1-2 business days" instead of "ships in 24 hours.

These businesses make their money off the tight margin, sometimes even a few cents, and shipping and handling costs. They ship media mail, which won't cost more than $1.80 for the most part, but charge $3.49 for a book of your size and weight. For first class mail, which should only cost around $3, they charge $5.49. The difference between the actual cost of shipping and their high charge makes up for the deep discount they offer.

As far as your royalty statement, however, it's just another book being shipped from Ingram to some store -- a store that won't return it as they don't order it until a reader does. Ditto your publisher's bottom line: they sell titles to wholesalers like Ingram and B&T at 55% off in the first place, and have designed their production costs, your royalty, the sales price, and the entire P&L statement with a discount that deep for some percentage of sales in mind in the first place.

So "new used" books can be annoying and can certainlty be dishonest, but they don't actually hurt your income. As far as whether truly used books sold alongside your new title do, that's another and more complicated story.
greygirlbeast
Sep. 9th, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
So "new used" books can be annoying and can certainlty be dishonest, but they don't actually hurt your income.

Bit it does affect the "Amazon.com Sales Rank." And, increasingly, publishers actually look at that as an indicator of how well a book is doing. The "used" sales don't count towards the sales rank, which means that when someone chooses the "used" option, my number don't benefit. It's silly dren to have to worry about, but it's something that comes up when I talk with my editor.

I just can't imagine why Amazon does this. They'd make more money if they didn't, I should think.
nihilistic_kid
Sep. 9th, 2004 05:52 pm (UTC)
It does damage the rank, for sure, but it is odd that publishers come to use that number, especially since Ingram ipage and Baker&Taylor's BTOL system, not to mention major publishers's own fulfillment departments, have much better real-time numbers than amazon's kooky system.

Amazon, over the long term, is looking to position itself as a distributor rather than a retailer -- sort of a warehouse club for various items. A lot of their seemingly odd or money-losing ideas are oriented toward putting pressure on publishers, DVD manufacturers, clothing companies, etc. to giving them deeper discounts.
troublebox
Sep. 9th, 2004 06:36 pm (UTC)
I’m not going to say much here because, quite frankly, I can’t imagine this discussion going too well for me. I just wanted to say that I worked at Amazon.com for 4 years and it was the best job I ever had.

I moved directly to Amazon after the “alternative” bookstore I worked at was put out of business by the brand new Barnes & Noble that moved in next door. Small bookstores just can’t compete with the steep discounts B&N uses to sell the latest Cornwell, King, Steele and Clancy novels, especially when that small store is using those sure-fire sales to undercut losses from a wide range of independent magazines, pornography and other items that don’t have the profit margins and sales numbers B&N is looking for. After that experience, I was very happy to be working for a company that was reaming B&N on a consistent basis… For me, B&N is always going to be the true evil in the bookselling world.

That said, I’m not going to defend the prominent placement of Amazon’s used book sales. It really seems like they went too far trying to improve the customer experience (“Look, cheap books!”), without giving authors their hard-earned dues.

As for the combined Murder of Angels and Liquor discount, I’m sure that’s all based on data mining and customer sales records. Considering the amount of information they have on their customers’ spending habits, I’m sure it’s fairly trivial to deduce that people who bought books by Caitlin R. Kiernan are more likely to buy books by Poppy Z. Brite than Danielle Steele or Bill O’Reilly… And, in providing that bundle, they’re merely giving Caitlin R. Kiernan fans a deal they might actually find appealing (as opposed to that Murder of Angels / Swift Boat Veterans for Truth bundle they’re hawking at bn.com).
greygirlbeast
Sep. 9th, 2004 08:03 pm (UTC)
(as opposed to that Murder of Angels / Swift Boat Veterans for Truth bundle they’re hawking at bn.com).

What? Yow.

As for the whole independant bookseller vs. big chains (not just B&N) vs. Amazon thing, I don't know. I miss real bookstores, which are harder and harder to find. The chains intentionally killed them off. And in that respect, I see Amazon as karmic retribution, even if it's just another flavour of corporate bulldren.
troublebox
Sep. 10th, 2004 02:05 am (UTC)
>> (as opposed to that Murder of Angels / Swift Boat Veterans for Truth bundle they’re hawking at bn.com).

> What? Yow


Okay. That might have been a lie. Or a hallucination.
( 12 comments — Have your say! )