Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss

Going Grey – update

Yes, the book's going to be out this year. But please read this if you've pre-ordered.
I've ventured into the strange realms of book-selling systems this week to get a novel on sale early. It was a bit drastic, the writing equivalent of transferring between moving ships (which I've actually done a few times without getting smeared along the hull) but I felt that the priority was to get GOING GREY out to readers sooner rather than later.

Early is a relative term. GOING GREY was supposed to be out a long time ago, but if you've been following the updates on my web site, you'll be aware that there have been delays that have frayed me somewhat, and that eventually put me on the wrong side of events in the real world. It happens. The closer you write to the current day and topical issues, the more critical the schedules become. Well, the Snowden revelations put another dent in GOING GREY – I know other writers were pre-empted by that event too – and I had to do another future-proofing rewrite. Then I found out last week that the earliest publication date I could get was 2015. Readers had been patiently ordering the book and waiting, and I really didn't feel I could make them hang around another year or more. And, of course, the longer you leave books like that, the more likely it becomes that another real world scandal or crisis will happen and make your novel look old hat and clueless again by the time it comes out. Once bitten – twice not very keen to get bitten again, thank you.

So I took an emergency decision to withdraw GOING GREY and its sequel from the publisher and move it somewhere that could get it on sale sooner. I don't personally know anyone else who's done that, but I'm sure I'm not the only writer who's been in that position. On the surface it's relatively easy; but there's a considerable risk because initially you lose a lot of money, you lose a lot of bricks-and-mortar outlets for the book, and you also lose promotion for the novel. On the other hand, you get the book on sale and get it read, even if it reaches fewer people initially than it might have done. (Books do catch up in the end, even if it takes years, provided they're still in print of course.) I took the view that it was a price worth paying because the alternative might prove much, much worse.

Pulling a book before it goes into production is straightforward, at least process-wise. Putting it back on sale is the more complicated bit. I'm now in the maze of ISBNs and formats and all kinds of stuff that I never actually had to deal with personally before. But like all things that don't kill you, it makes you stronger, and it also makes you smarter. It teaches you very useful skills that you'll need again one day.

If you've pre-ordered GOING GREY, you might get a cancellation notice from your retailer. That doesn't mean the book's not coming out. It just means that it's got to go back into the system again and (I think) get a new ISBN before it appears again under the same title and author but a new publisher. I'm sorry, but that will mean you have to order again, depending on how your fave retailer operates. GOING GREY will be out this summer. The details of what formats will be available and when will follow soon -- like I said, I only pulled the plug two days ago, so it's going to take a little longer to re-plug the whole thing. When it reappears, I'll obviously splash the news here, but it'll also pop up on Amazon. Just look for the title and the author.

I'll be blogging later on the stuff I've learned in the process, and how much the publishing world has changed since my debut novel came out ten years ago. March 2004 -- ah, if I'd known then what I know now. But I didn't. And I'm not sure I'd have wanted to. I'm an obsessive planner, but if you really do know what's coming down the track, you'll never do anything. Ignorance might not be bliss, but it also doesn't put you off trying, either.