Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss

Like facing a fast bowler

I'm way behind the curve on this. The trade paperback edition of GOING GREY is already up on Amazon UK. It's not up on Amazon US yet (I may well blink and miss it) and it can take up to eight weeks to appear in other catalogues, but I really hadn't allowed for the fact that direct publishing is largely served by companies who do things faster than they promise they will. I wasn't expecting to see the paperback on sale anywhere until Friday: I'd expected the iTunes edition to take about the same time. But, like the Kindle edition, it's all beating the estimate dates by a long way. There's a lesson in there about managing expectation.

If you've been used to a culture where "next week" actually means "maybe in a couple of months, if ever," then this seriously messes with your concept of space and time. In fact, the whole calendar that's shaped my life for ten years no longer applies. There's no street date (a set date for a book to go on sale) that has to be hit because you've got just a few weeks to sell a lot or else the title vanishes into the back of the store and gets returned for pulping. Nothing has to be coordinated; no opportunities get missed. It is, in PR speak, a soft launch. I don't have to think about the NYT bestseller list because if you choose not to have an ISBN on an edition – there isn't one on the Kindle or iTunes editions – no trade organisation can track your sales, not that they all get tracked anyway. I wouldn't have bothered with one on the paperback of GOING GREY but it's the only way a reader can place an order if they don't shop at Amazon.

So this business is all between the writer, the reader, and the retailer. And you just log in to your reports dashboard and see what's selling. It's disorienting and liberating at the same time. It's like a parallel universe.

Eventually, the various editions available via Amazon will be accessible from the same page. That's quite a system they've got there. I'm impressed to see it working from this side of the fence instead of the one that buys 12-packs of Diet Kinnie.

Which reminds me: I'm down to my last six bottles.

UPDATE, 1817, June 17: y'know, I can't keep up with this. No sooner were the pixels dry on this blog than the Amazon US page for the paperback appeared, and it was already rolled up with the KIndle edition on the same page. I need to sit down and do something slower, like Formula One or something.